With the relentless media focus on the subject of diversity, you may think that bias in the hiring process is a well-controlled issue.
In fact, one of the biggest challenges and most frequent missteps of recruiters, hiring manager and companies is overlooking fair and impartial hiring practices, at every level of employment and for every type of position.
Overcoming these inclinations starts at the top, with a change of corporate culture. Once leadership recognizing that unconscious biases affect all decisions making, they can begin to improve their hiring practices with these three vital steps .
STEP ONE: BUILD AWARENESS
It’s human nature to make unconscious judgments based on personal values and predispositions. That’s why every staff member must acknowledge that bias in the workplace is real. After all, it is an offensive and risky practice, and in most cases, it is unintentionally carried out by good people.
Why does this unfairness exist in the workplace? For a number of reasons.
One cause is insecurity. Often, those in a position to carry out the hiring function feel threatened by a job candidate–perhaps concerned that he/she is smarter, better looking or even more well-connected.
Another possible motive for bias is perceived fit: the decision maker sometimes subconsciously select employees of a similar color, age, gender or background.
Sometimes, previous experiences lead to biased hiring decisions. For example, the belief that extroverts always make the best sales representatives or that long commutes breed excessive absenteeism are not factual, just anecdotal. (In fact, many people benefit from their long commute, using the time to relax, read or meditate.)
Finally, there may be cultural stereotypes that drive hiring decisions; deep seated negativity regarding numerous factors, including race, religion, sexual preference, and physical appearance.
Thankfully, there are tools to measures attitudes that team members may be unwilling or unable to recognize. One popular test is called The IAT (Implicit Association Test.) This online tool, developed by Harvard University, has been used to assess unconscious bias in the military health, education, law enforcement, fortune 500s and the media. Recognizing these inclinations (which are not only company-wide but society-wide) is necessary to establish organization-wide “buy-in” before developing fair hiring solutions.
STEP TWO: FORMALIZE TRAINING
Every company needs a formal process to address unfair hiring practices (not to mention overall bias in the workplace.) Many firms develop their own framework for educating their employees. Others prefer to sign on with one of the many vendors who offer subscription-based programs, online modules or in-person training programs to help companies lower their risk of hiring bias.
Most importantly, an effective training must provide a thoughtful strategic approach to hiring people in underrepresented groups. The most robust systems appraise and address every aspect of hiring, from the job posting, to the evaluation of resumes, to interviewing and even the negotiation/onboarding process.
Another important subject to be covered in a training program is comprehensive federal and local employment law, especially as it relates to biased hiring practices.
Moving past individual training, a training program should provide team-based hiring strategies complete with checks and balances that protect the organization from litigation. Structured criteria should include a resume screening process, pre-approved interview questions and a panel approach to assessing candidates in a fair, unbiased way.
STEP THREE: EVALUATE AND EVOLVE
Like other functions in the workplace, hiring should be audited and improved continuously– not a once-and-done initiative, but an ongoing mission. By reviewing hiring metrics, HR can continually evaluate and raise their standards to ensure ongoing fairness and in the hiring process. Overlooking this vital step will eventually lead to the hiring of less qualified candidates. And this can mean trouble to the bottom line. After all, in an increasingly competitive marketplace, where talent breeds profit, drawing from a balanced workforce is vital to success!
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