7 Ways to Overcome Bias With HR Tech

May 12th, 2017
Jon-Mark Sabel

Every week we scour the internet for the greatest and most pertinent HR news, articles, and insights, compiling them here in a weekly roundup. In this week's roundup, we look at two different approaches to recruiting a diverse workforce and the efficacy of chatbots in the application process. We'll also examine methods for building an authentic employer brand, as well as some things HR can learn from Japanese business.

Seven Powerful Ways to Use Tech to Overcome Recruiting Bias

Meghan Biro, TalentCulture

There are several HR tech tools that can help recruiters tackle bias in hiring. But do they really work? According to Meghan Biro, “The answer is a qualified yes—if the companies that use them are serious about achieving diversity.” She analyzes seven ways tech can help motivated organizations overcome hiring bias.

  1. Eliminate subconscious bias. “Blind” auditions famously increased female representation in orchestras to a non-gender-biased percentage of 50%. Tech tools evaluate raw skills without making the connection to each applicant’s gender or race.
  2. Use testing to boost objectivity. Unstructured interviews are far less reliable when it comes to predicting performance than validate ability and aptitude tests.
  3. Write better job descriptions. Using gender-biased words and phrases when outlining a job description can influence job seekers’ intention to apply. Tools like Textio can analyze a job description and recommend more gender-neutral phrasing.
  4. Avoid bias in resume perusal. “White-sounding” names traditionally receive more callbacks than their “ethnic-sounding” counterparts. Consider using software that turns each resume into a “blind audition.”
  5. Prioritize ability over cultural fit. An overt focus on “cultural fit” can lead to homogenous organizations. Again, use tech to evaluate raw skills.
  6. Don’t stereotype by gender. “Managers chose male candidates over female candidates by a two-to-one margin for a job that required simple mathematical skills,” Biro explains. “Both male and female managers more frequently chose the male candidate, even when testing revealed the female candidate to have equivalent or better skills.”
  7. Assess your diversity efforts. Leverage HR analytics to evaluate your diversity efforts. Analyze the raw data to gain insight and adjust your recruitment efforts accordingly.

HireVue Analysis:

The focus on ability over cultural fit is one that’s sure to be controversial - after all, shouldn’t fitting into an organization’s culture increase performance anyway? An issue that commonly arises when talking about organizational culture and cultural fit is that everyone has their own definition of it. Since everyone defines it differently, it’s easy for advocates (and detractors) to skate around any critique in “no true Scotsman” fashion. For example, those that hold cultural fit sacrosanct would dispute the notion that it is inherently exclusionary - pointing to a set of shared values as its source (not shared skin tone). I think we can find a happy medium by simplifying the conversation: hire on skill, get results. No one can argue with results.

Strategies to Hire Diverse Candidates & Go Beyond OFCCP Compliance

Jessica Miller-Merrell, Workology

“Diversity is a mix of compliance, responsibility and good business sense,” Jessica Miller-Merrell begins. “According to a recent article by McKensey, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform industry medians and yet so many companies struggle with this.” When building an innovative organization, diversity is a must. Different backgrounds, experiences, and expectations are the building blocks of organizational change. “You need to hire diverse candidates to stay competitive just as you need to push your people to learn and think differently,” Miller-Merrell explains. She outlines five strategies to attract diverse candidates:

  1. Build Candidate Networks. Move beyond standard e-newsletter campaigns. Build groups for candidates to network and mingle with your recruiters and with each other.
  2. Focus on Diversity Verticals. Create content specifically for the groups you are targeting.
  3. Provide Resources. “Help candidates understand why you not only accept diversity but desire it,” Miller-Merrell says. “I’d like to see more companies focus on creating digital media properties that empowered protected job seeker communities.”
  4. Get Engaged. Build relationships at diversity-focused events and conferences. Work with diversity groups to create events and get involved on the front lines.
  5. Ask Questions. Create a better experience for employees and candidates by building off their feedback. Your diverse employees offer a unique and valid perspective of the hiring process and employee experience: use it.

HV Analysis:

Are recruiters marketers or salespeople? With the focus on verticals and creation of diversity nurture campaigns, the points above lean heavily towards the “marketing” side of the spectrum. Creating unique content for different candidate personas is a nice elaboration on the more generic “create content for candidates.” The stories of diverse employees’ success and focusing on fair advancement opportunities will be key to creating content that converts.

Survey Says Job Seekers Are Mostly OK Engaging With Chatbots

Joel Cheesman, ERE Media

According to a recent survey by Allegis Global Solutions, a majority of job seekers indicated they were comfortable engaging with a chatbot during the application process. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 22% were extremely comfortable
  • 37% were fairly comfortable
  • 23% were uneasy
  • 19% were extremely uneasy

“Although this fails to represent a resounding vote of confidence for chatbots, it does reveal that a majority of job seekers do show a significant level of comfort dealing with an automated system,” Cheesman says. According to Craig Fisher, AGS’ head of marketing, it signifies that the candidate experience still requires a human element. Olivia and GoBe are a two of these chatbots making an impact on the candidate experience. By guiding candidates through the process and performing initial screening, they offer the ability to make up for deficits caused by tedious job applications and employers’ seeming apathy towards candidates that don’t make the cut.

HV Analysis:

From a tech perspective, it’s pretty cool to see a majority of people express their comfort with interacting with a chatbot. These sorts of interactions are shaping up to be the future - and if a majority of people are comfortable interacting with them, it bodes well for the adoption of new and better technology. On the other hand, chatbots in the application process look symptomatic of a poor candidate experience. If organizations didn’t have lengthy, repetitive applications and poorly defined screening requirements, there would be no need for AI-driven chatbots (as cool as they are). If the candidate experience was pleasant and straightforward, organizations wouldn’t need chatbot apologists.

Building an employer brand worth bragging about

Ryan Golden, HRDive

2017 marked the first year of the human resources conference “HR Uncubed.” At the fore of the discussion was employer brand - a topic that promises to be white-hot this year. Ryan Golden summarizes the two key employer branding takeaways made by panelists:

  1. Make a storybook, not an instruction manual. “Despite our cultural focus on visual communication in the form of video, social media and other forms, recruiters still rely heavily on plain black-and-white job boards to launch job descriptions,” Golden relates. “Uncubed has developed a way to advertise jobs through customized videos which feature a detailed assessment of the requirements by a manager.”
  2. Craft an authentic image. Contrary to popular belief, most employees don’t put “ping pong tables” at the top of their must-have list. Instead, they prioritize career development. “Focus on the opportunity to let new employees handle big projects and assignments - and of course, giving them an opportunity to make that all-important phrase, “impact,”” says Golden.

HV Analysis:

We’ve talked about the job description as an exercise in employer branding before, and I think it finds perfect applicability here. Think about what happens if we combine the two points, and make job descriptions a showcase of the impact a new hire can expect to have. Framing it this way takes advantage of the fact that job descriptions are often the first interaction candidates have with your brand: it’s the perfect place to tell you story and display an authentic image.

5 HR Tips Every Company Can Learn from Japanese Business

Kevin Faber, Recruiting Blogs

“The Japanese industry is a major competitor, a customer, and a supplier to European and American companies,” Kevin Faber begins. “What American HR managers don't know is that there is a lot to learn from their Japanese counterparts in terms of the development of young professional managers, balancing employment security with other factors such as acceptance of change, flexibility in labour costs, and productivity within a company.” Faber outlines five Japanese HR strategies that American HR teams should consider:

  1. Use Different Approaches to Solve Issues. The Japanese approach to problem-solving has a basis in Japanese art, religion, and politics. Japanese firms invest a huge amount of time in new hire development: ramp times of six to twelve months are the norm. By ensuring each employee is fully acquainted with every aspect of the business, it is easier to drive results and build consensus.
  2. Consensual Decision-Making. “A decision can only be made after it's debated throughout the organization and there is agreement on it,” Faber explains.
  3. Principle-Based Leadership. There are unique principles that underlie Japanese business practice. If you’re sending employees to Japan, organize a visit to a Japanese firm to get a better grasp on what your international competitors are doing.
  4. Effective HR Decisions. The Japanese divide the decision-making process into three stages: they define the question, they discuss the need for the decision, then they make a final actionable decision.
  5. Focus On Understanding the Problem. “The Japanese decision-making process focusses on understanding the problem,” Faber says. “The time they take to reach a consensus is compensated at the final stages of the process since they don't have to sell the decision, it has already been presold at the initial stages.”

HV Analysis:

While interesting, Faber expresses skepticism that Japanese business practice can find full applicability in American corporate culture. Consider the three-pronged decision making process that focuses heavily on the “why”. Such a long, drawn-out process is sure to be considered slow and lumbering by an American corporate culture that is increasingly focusing on speed and digital innovation. Of course, diversity is the lifeblood of progress - maybe we could gain by taking a more introspective approach to decision-making.

Overcoming unconscious bias in hiring is tough.

Start tackling bias at its source with these three approaches to increasing diverse representation in the workforce.