The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder has many of us asking, “What can I do better?” when it comes to ending racism. This is critical in that racial bias in hiring have changed little in 30 years. HR and I/O psychology play a unique role in that we create the processes that allow for equal employment.
None of the suggestions below require lowering of standards. Rather, it provides a framework for applying standards in an equitable way. Science and good sense points us in this direction with these actions:
Widen your recruitment net. If you recruit from the same places, your workforce will always look the same. There is talent everywhere—go find it. Whether from a high school in a different part of town or a historically black college/university.
Make Resumes Anonymous. The science is very clear that anonymous resumes reduce racial and gender bias. It is not an expensive process to implement and works for all kinds of business.
Examine minimum qualifications carefully. Whether based on job experience or education, these can serve as barriers to black job candidates. The ground breaking employment discrimination lawsuit, Griggs v. Duke Power, was based on an invalid requirement that supervisors needed a high school diploma. Don’t get me wrong—I want my surgeon to be an M.D. But, do your entry level positions really need a college degree? Do your managers really need to be MBAs? If you analyze the relationships between education/experience and job performance, you are likely to find that they are not as strong as you think.
Use validated pre-employment and promotional tests. As a rule, validated pre-employment tests do not adversely affect blacks and are certainly less biased than interviews (see below). This is particularly true for work sample tests (show me what you can do) and personality tests. However, cognitive ability tests, especially speeded ones, may lead to discrimination. If you use them, analyze your cutting score to ensure that it is not set so high that qualified candidates are being screened out.
Reduce reliance on interviews. Interviews can be biased by race and ethnicity. And, more often than not, they are far less valid than tests. We need to convince hiring managers that they are not good judges of talent—very few people are. Remember, interviewing someone to see if s/he is a “good fit” is another way of saying, “this person is like me.”
Make your interviews more structured. This can be achieved by asking candidates the same questions and using an objective scoring methodology. Adding structure to the interview process can reduce bias (and improve validity).
You may already be doing some of the above. I would encourage you to do all of them. The outcome is fairness AND better hires. What could be better than that?
have a bias about being around people who we perceive to be like
ourselves. Social psychologists refer to
this as our “ingroup,” which are people with a shared interest or identity. Being around our ingroup gives us a feeling
of belonging and comfort.
this affects business is in hiring and promotional practices. We want to be surrounded by our “ingroup”, so
we hire/promote people who remind us of us.
One of the places this really happens is when it comes to where a person
went to school. Besides having a shared
experience, we subconsciously (or maybe not so subconsciously) assume that
attending that school gives him/her/them the same positive attributes that we
give ourselves. What this does is limits
how big of a net we cast when recruiting.
least one company is taking a different
approach. Rather than hire M.B.A.’s
from a few schools, they’ve decided to recruit from 80
colleges/universities. To do this, and
manage costs, they have also decided to move from in-person interviews to video
interviews, which may be turning off some candidates. Given how much millenials and Gen Z like to
Facetime and video chat with friends, I find this a little hard to believe.
will be interesting to see if the quality of those hired is affected by the new
approach. I’m guessing not. The incremental gain of recruiting from the “top”
schools should be more than offset by the addition of new perspectives and
skills. And, who knows, maybe when big
companies start to care more about the quality of the students and less so
about hiring from their “ingoup”, MBA programs will become less expensive.
is a presumption that the US education system will provide employers with
workers that possess requisite job skills.
Companies are then responsible for providing more advanced ones through
apprenticeships, job training, and leadership development. But, what if job seekers do not possess the
skills for tech jobs?
article describes what lengths some employers are going to get people in their
talent pipeline. In many ways, there is
nothing new here. It comes down to searching
for talent where they previously hadn’t and providing training rather than
expecting people to come with skills. It’s
the latter that I find most interesting.
designing selection programs, particularly for entry level positions, we tend
to focus on what knowledge or skills the candidates needs on the first
day. Those expectations are higher if we
expect someone to come with experience than if we are going to be providing a
lot of training. This has important
impacts on how we select candidates, including:
Use of aptitude tests rather than knowledge tests. Aptitude tests are terrific measures of basic skills and are quite valid. However, speeded ones can lead to adverse impact, so they require good validation studies, meaningful passing scores, and adverse impact analyses.
Alter interview questions so that a wide variety of experiences can be used to answer them. If you are hiring people who don’t have experiences in your industry, you should be asking valid questions that people with little or no job experience can answer. For instance, instead of, “Tell me about a time when you led a team project at work and…” use “Tell me about a time when you had to influence a group of friends and…”
Focus on reducing turnover. Training is EXPENSIVE, so hiring mistakes in a boot camp environment are very costly. Take special care in developing realistic job previews and other ways that allow candidates to decide if they are not a good fit. Collect information (previous experiences, referral sources, school majors, etc.) that may be indicative of future turnover and validate them. These can be part of very useful pre-employment processes.
this approach really presents is a change in HR strategy from one that relies
on people to be able to start on day one to taking time to get them up to
speed. By having recruitment, selection,
and development leaders involved in the execution, organizations can adapt
their tactics for identifying and selecting talent and have a smoother
nature of work has always changed and will continue to do so. This report
from the World Economic Forum outlining trends and predictions came out a year
ago. I find its conclusions as true
today as they were when it was first published.
It is a bit of a long read, but does break things out by country which shortens
the time required a bit.
The net of the study is in the table below.
The Declining skills are instructive. Not surprising, the list contains skills which
are being automated (management of resources, quality control, manual dexterity,
etc.). Others are in response to a
change in workplace culture which places higher value autonomy (management of personnel). We can have a separate conversation as to what
it means that active listening is on the Declining
list. What that leaves us with (see the Trending column) are the skills that are
becoming more important in the near future.
Innovation and learning top the list with plenty of problem solving
skills. Seeing emotional intelligence on
the list made me throw up in my mouth a bit, but there is no surprise about
practical aspect of the report is to get us thinking about the skills that we
really need for jobs in the 2020’s. As
we automate more, how does that change our expectations of employees? At McDonald’s, automation means more
interaction between staff and guests.
With managers being freed from coordination and time management, what is
it that we will want them to do?
how to keep up:
You probably need to review your job descriptions more often than you think. And you should definitely do so after introducing new technology.
Updated job descriptions should feed into your recruitment process. Be sure that you are not advertising for yesterday’s jobs.
The Trending list throws down the gauntlet as to how we select candidates. Whether it be updating tests, interviews, or what we look for on resumes, knowing that we need more creativity and leadership, and less management, from those who direct the activities of others is a BIG difference. If our selection tools are to be valid, they need to keep up with changing jobs.
making these updates, we can drive the recruitment and selection of employees
with the right skill sets. It also
provides us with a framework of being ahead of futures skill changes.
want to believe that we are looking to recruit, select, and develop top
talent. We spend lots of time reading
and writing articles on the topic. But,
what if hiring managers are not interested?
article throws a bit of cold water on the topic. It documents a study where hiring managers were
shown to doubt the organizational commitment of those deemed the most
capable. It was almost as if they were
saying, “Why would someone really good want to work for us?”
are several issues at work here. But,
what they boil down to is a bias among hiring mangers that negatively affects
their selection processes. Sure, I can
imagine anecdotal evidence (“Yeah, we hired that one really bright person, but
she jumped ship as soon as she got a better offer.”), but I don’t think that
this is a data driven decision.
this also underlines is the importance of developing a culture that encourages
top talent to stay. There’s no question
that selecting the right people will drive business performance. And having a culture that acknowledges and rewards
high performance will do so as well.
When hiring managers feel that top talent will not stay, it is really an
indictment of the culture rather than an accurate prediction of management’s view. How can you fight this?
If managers do not think top talent would be committed to your organization, they should NOT be involved in hiring.
Those who are doing the hiring should be able to provide a realistic preview of the organization, but should also be able to succinctly describe why people stay. And I’m not just talking about a good cafeteria. They should be able to provide examples of people who have found challenging work over time in the organization.
If you are speaking with hiring managers who show an anti-talent bias, ask them what needs to be changed so they would believe that top talent would want to stay.
The best way to fight bias is with data. You should be able to study turnover rates by talent bands (contact me for tips on this). This way you can either show people that top talent does not leave any faster than other employee groups or demonstrate to executives that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Organizations should strive for selection processes that identify top talent and cultures that nurture them. Do not let bias against hiring top talent work against these two initiatives.
Each generation (as named by demographers) has their own marked stereotypes. Baby Boomers are optimistic consumers, Gen X are the disillusioned, and Millennials are the spoiled digital natives. Most of my management development workshops address how to best manage in a multi-generational workplace. One topic that typically comes up is how to align corporate values with those of job candidates.
This is a relatively new topic. I’m pretty sure that very few Baby Boomers asked their prospective employers about their charitable donations. But, large companies started aligning themselves with causes not related to the bottom line (United Way was the first, but not the last, organization to leverage this). Once they started wearing their values on their sleeves, they could then attract job candidates who shared the same values.
However, the real world is messy for some charities (including United Way). What were once seen as “mom and apple pie” non-profits for companies to be aligned with suddenly carried baggage that was as likely to repel as attract candidates (see the Boy Scouts of America, first for their stance on gay scouts and leaders and then their abuse scandal). To avoid being linked with organizations that can be fallible, other companies began professing their values to the world (see Patagonia and Hobby Lobby as two examples).
So, companies start making a big deal about their values. Millennials caught on to this, ran with their tech that exploits this transparency, and have made themselves more value conscious than previous generations in terms of what they purchase and where they want to work. This is now extending to trying to influence whom their employers do business. And I don’t believe that it is a liberal/conservative thing. If Hobby Lobby executives started making decisions that employees thought were against the values they signed up for, younger workers would definitely have their voices heard.
If a company believes that it should lead with its values in the marketplace, then it should be clear about them when recruiting and hiring. Not that you want to get into selecting people based on religious or political beliefs, but you do want to let candidates know the values and culture of the organization so they can make the best choice for themselves. Think of it as a real-life work life preview.
Of course there are risks to this approach, but your Millennial candidates are going to form an opinion about your values based on what’s on your website, your business partners, and the behavior of your executives. It is probably better that they hear what you are all about from you instead of the internet.
The current low unemployment rates and data mining have led to companies tossing out wider and wider nets to fill positions. But, is all of this confusing activity with productivity?
This article (thanks to Dennis Adsit for bringing it to my attention) brings up some great reminders about some very solid things that employers should be doing (valid testing, structured interviews, etc.) and avoiding others (tech is NOT a magic bullet for recruitment and selection). However, it also does a good job of challenging some basic assumptions about hiring, all of which can be evaluated. These include:
Unless you are adding positions, why are you looking for so many outside candidates? One reason people leave companies is because they do not feel they have promotional opportunities. One reason you are looking for so many outside candidates is that people quit. Chicken, meet egg.
Taken a step further, HR really needs to test the effectiveness of its processes on an ongoing basis. If there is data to support that, in general, outside candidates perform better than those promoted, then keep on searching for them. And you should probably revamp your entry level recruitment and hiring processes. If not, then career development and taking steps to increase internal mobility will be more effective actions than scouring the universe of passive candidates for new hires.
Develop measures to evaluate the success of what you are doing. Few things frustrate me more than a client saying, “We cannot measure someone’s individual performance.” Really? Does that mean the cost of turnover is the only reason you keep people in their jobs? Granted, it can take some time to measure output, but you can typically find ways of evaluating a person’s contribution to a team. If a manager says, “I like/don’t think this person is effective” she should be able to say why.
Related to the above, don’t assume that a good process will always have the same effectiveness. As your business changes, recruiting and selection systems need to adapt as well.
I do not think that HR has to constantly be reinvented. But, basic assumptions should occasionally be challenged. It is only by measuring and evaluating our processes that we can truly improve them.
Low unemployment is great for the economy (rising wages!), but challenging for employers (higher quit rates and a smaller available talent pool). This can lead to many creative recruiting strategies and looking at (relatively) untapped sources. I came across two not-so-new ideas around this recently.
One is the idea of returnship—these are programs designed for people (primarily women) with white collar education and skills to transition them back into the workforce after raising their families. These are initially short term job tryouts (like an internship). I do find the idea somewhat patronizing in that it seems like companies that use it are saying, “We’ll let you take baby-steps (pun intended) back into the workforce and we’ll see if you’re ready.” It seems exploitative of returning workers’ self-confidence and makes them compete (again) to get jobs that they have already shown they can do. Having said that, companies that use the program are providing opportunities for a very talented pool of candidates. The programs are VERY selective, so it is not surprising that more than half (but not always 100%) of those who are chosen to participate transition to full time positions.
The other is providing job training for older workers. I’ve written about ageism in recruitment and selection before and the problem is not getting any better. This article outlines the pros and cons around re-training older workers. Of course, part of the issue is that companies will force out older (more expensive) workers while they are still productive, and then the employer finds that they are missing important skills. Where the article misses the point is that if given a choice between hiring skilled people or retraining employees (of any age), hiring good talent is less expensive. With so many skilled older workers available, companies with talent shortages (and not just McDonalds) would be wise to recruit from this talent pool.
Creativity often comes when we are faced with a dwindling resource, no matter how temporary. Creating paths for working parents to come back to the workplace and retaining skilled older workers should always be part of HR’s recruitment and retention strategies. Now is as good of a time as any to implement them.
Finding examples of racial or gender bias in hiring or job evaluations is not hard. The latest comes from a survey of lawyers. My sense is that the results did not come from a random sample of attorneys, so I would not quote the group differences as gospel. The authors recommended some specific ways that law firms and companies that hire lawyers can correct the bias in their HR processes. There were two things I took from the study:
Many, but not all, of the recommendations came from a solid research base. It was good to see that their hiring suggestions included behaviorally based interviews, skills based assessments, and using behavioral definitions of culture. Each of these suggestions introduces objectively and structure into the hiring process.
Given that attorneys have either brought employment lawsuits or have had to defend companies against them since 1964, did it really take this long to come up with some hiring process recommendations?
My consulting experience tells me that people who hire for professional jobs seem to think there is more magic and intuition in selection than those who staff for other types of positions. This is especially true when hiring for a job they used to have. They could not be more wrong. Every job has a set of critical skills and abilities required to do it well. It is possible to objectively measure these in candidates. Doing so will likely reduce bias.
I wrote a couple of months ago about how McDonald’s is changing the cognitive requirements of some of its jobs by adding channels for customers to order food. I argued that such a development should get them thinking about who they hire and how they train new employees.
If you have recently wandered into one of their stores, you probably noticed that, if it is not too busy, a McDonald’s employee may bring you your order. OK, this is not particularly revolutionary. But, to quote a franchisee in an article, “We’re bringing the employees from behind the counter out front to engage, in a more personal way, with our customers.” Maybe I am making more out of this particular example than it warrants, but this strikes me a really upping the customer service requirements of a McDonald’s employee. And I am guessing that a fair amount of the employees are not going to meet it. It’s just not what they signed up for.
This is not about whether McDonald’s employees are capable of providing the additional service or whether their ability to do it well affects the customer experience and/or sales. Rather, it appears to be an example of company changing job requirements and then assuming that people hired using a process that does not account for the new skills will be able to carry out the new duties.
Changing skills requirements is a good thing. It shows adaptation to technology and customer needs and makes the work experience more interesting for people in repetitive jobs. But, companies cannot assume that the incumbents can magically adapt without training and revised performance expectations.
This change also requires updating validation selection processes. Whether it means increasing the weight given to certain aspects or validating a new test, we must adapt our workforce to new job requirements on the front end. As jobs change, hiring practices should as well.
Technology and customers are big drivers of change in the skills, abilities, and personality characteristics required of employees. Smart companies not only redesign work to account for this, but they also update how they train and hire to help their workforce adapt.
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