Avoiding bias in recruitment and promotion

Cornerstone OnDemand's Christine Chenneour outlines how to eliminate bias in recruitment and promotions to create equal opportunities for their workforce.

Avoiding bias in recruitment

Today is International Women’s Day, and there continues to be plenty of discussion in the media about how we can improve workplace equality. Many moves are being made in the right direction, like the UK introducing mandatory gender pay gap reporting from April 2017, but there’s still plenty to be done. While big, legislation changes are good, companies also need to look at the little changes that can be made to help the bigger goal of equality.

Unconscious bias is one such thing that needs to be resolved, particularly in the hiring and management of people. Conscious bias is when people discriminate on purpose, and of course, people that discriminate on purpose should be condemned by law. But with unconscious bias, it can be that people in HR, recruiting, or another department do not consciously try to discriminate. When you tell them what they’re doing is wrong, they probably didn’t even realise it was happening and might be ready to change.

Educating anyone involved with recruiting, selecting, managing and evaluating people about discrimination has to be a pre-requisite.  HR will always try to avoid discrimination, but analytics from HR software can also help you understand where issues are occurring. This is particularly relevant for companies who might have quotas to meet for women or minorities.

For instance, a business might look at data on salary differences between men and women in its company and find that a particular department has a low percentage of women in managerial positions. The snap reaction may be to promote more women to manager in that department to fix it, but a deeper look at the data may show that the proportion of women in the department is also lower compared to the rest of the company. They actually need to hire more women in that area. If promoting, it’s a matter of finding the best profiles within the pool of talent you want to promote, but in reality, it’s the recruiting process that has to change. Utilising more intelligence and precise data will find where the problem truly lies and bring about the better solution.

In terms of resolving bias in recruiting, recruiters should first sort through a mass amount of CVs by using HR software to apply filters for qualifications and be left with those that match. Then this can be followed up with something like behavioural assessments. If the recruiter is manually going through a pile of printed CVs, there is a chance they may see someone’s name, gender and so on and dismiss them too quickly due to unconscious bias, so a filtering process through software can prevent this by stripping away the demographic details. From there, it’s a matter of getting more people involved in the hiring process – the more people who review the CVs and candidate interviews the smaller the possibility of unconscious bias.

When managing and promoting, managers need to know who is doing a good job. Bias could occur here if only one person is evaluating an employee’s work, so again you need to lower the risk of unfair evaluation. There’s been a lot of talk in the past year about annual appraisals being a thing of the past. They do have their place still – but if you want accurate information on an area like work quality, you need different and more frequent ways to assess this.  If you have proper HR software tools that aid with succession planning, performance, and more, the software system will also give suggestions on who may be ready for a promotion, who could be trained to be a manager, and more. The software does not discriminate by gender or any other personal demographic data, which is why gathering the correct information on people is so important.

To achieve true equality at work, companies need to take initiative and ensure they’re making the necessary small steps to achieve the bigger goal. Legislation change like gender pay gap reporting will expose things like the proportion of men and women receiving bonuses, the proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure, and the pay gaps themselves. However, while a company with big gender pay gaps might lose potential candidates, it won’t necessarily make them change behaviours. The companies that act to help stop discrimination through steps like using HR software to prevent unconscious bias will be those who come out stronger and with happier, more productive staff in the long run.

Christine Chenneour is the HR and talent director at Cornerstone OnDemand.

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