“I never thought of that.”
“I should have thought of that.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?”
They are common phrases we hear often. They are said with frustration when that fantastic new product hits the shelves under a competitor’s brand. They are said with defeat as that seemingly innocent process costs the organization millions in settlements. They are said in despair in the aftermath of COVID when trying to keep a company going or getting it started again only to run into one unanticipated roadblock after another.
We are often asked, “Why, especially in times of crisis, does diversity and inclusion (D&I) matter?”
D&I does matter.
Beyond the increased profitability, innovation, ability to attract and retain talent and protection against mistakes, D&I avoids “I never thought of that.”
A diverse and inclusive team brings with it a rich background of experiences, needs, desires, and thoughts. It allows organizations to see and solve problems from every angle, predict outcomes of situations, and recognize a range of opportunities and pitfalls.
Now, as we begin emerging from lock-down and start re-staffing, is the perfect time to prioritize D&I.
The bias trap
Many treat Diversity and Inclusion as ‘icing on the cake’ initiatives that, unless required due to legal or market pressures, rarely go beyond periodic awareness training and poorly funded special projects. Not only do initiatives like these do little to impact behavior (and therefore do little to make a difference), but as soon as an organization goes into crisis mode, the activities are suspended.
With 14.7% unemployment, the market has shifted in favor of employers with some jobs attracting hundreds of candidates or more. It is no longer a necessity for employers to challenge their assumptions and expand their view of great candidates when they are being inundated with options. The influence of those biases and assumptions will be further exacerbated as organizations scramble for shortcuts under time and resource pressures of re-staffing with a reduced team. Faced with so many options and so much pressure, it is so tempting to follow the seemingly easier path of narrow, demanding requirements and familiar patterns when candidate screenings.
Don’t fall into this trap.
This is an opportunity to expand thinking on what your organization needs to be successful, to increase diversity, and protect against the “I didn’t think of that.”
Three tips to begin hiring more inclusively
Even when there is appetite to improve in times like this, when crisis has squeezed budgets and resources, any process shifts may seem insurmountable. They are not. The trick is to take small, incremental steps that have little to no impact on budget but a large impact on the journey toward better D&I.
Here are a few that are particularly impactful for staffing under the impact of COVID.
1. Challenge job requirements
The talent pool is full of candidates with transferable skills from more heavily hit industries that are seeking a fresh start. These candidates may have all the skills and experience you need but haven’t gotten the experience in your industry and don’t use the same terms to describe their skills. To make sure you aren’t missing out on this rich talent pool, look at your requirements and make sure they are truly required.
For example: must you have at least 3 years’ experience in your exact industry, or are there other acceptable industries or roles that will equip the person for success? What about that degree requirement, the specific technology knowledge, the skill that you train for anyway?
A simple trick is to ask yourself why for every requirement. If the answer is a little shaky, or the reason is because you actually want something else, then it’s not a requirement. For example. “I want a four-year degree because it shows they are intelligent and have follow-through” then drop the degree requirement and test for intelligence and follow-through.
2. Diversify job titles/ranks
Titles are not universal and often not distributed fairly. Therefore, using only one title or having a title requirement like “must have been a VP for a minimum of one year”, could be excluding a lot of great candidates. This is especially true with COVID-era candidate pools that are so heavily populated by specific industries.
Titles can also vary in a discipline. For example, sales engineer, pre-sales consultant, and solution architect, could all refer to the same role. Someone who’s a perfect fit, but has always been called a solution architect, may not think to look for your pre-sales consultant position.
Ranks are also not consistent. At a bank, VPs are plentiful. In high-tech, there are usually only a handful of VPs to run the different disciplines of an organization. And in all the government, there is only one VP. Even within an industry, rank can mean very different things to different organizations.
To make matters more complicated even when ranks are consistent, they are often not fair. Men get promoted more often than women for the same skills and experiences. White more often than people of color. Requiring ranks “must be a VP” could exclude amazing candidates simply because of discriminatory practices in previous organizations that unfairly excluded them from promotions.
When posting a job, clearly define what the title and rank mean. If possible, use different titles that align to other industries of interest to attract more talent. For example, post the job with both the VP and the Director rank or post the job as both “pre-sales consultant” and “solution architect”. And avoid using rank as requirements. Instead consider what value you want your candidates to get out of that year of experience as a VP and make that the requirement.
3. Predefine screening and interview questions
Optimizing for the COVID-era candidate pool by opening the door to a wider range of candidates is the first step. Those candidates also need to be fairly evaluated and compared to other candidates that may have more traditional backgrounds.
Predefining the questions and desired answers for a given position will set a standard for all candidates. It won’t matter if they have been in the industry for 10 years or are fresh from a different industry and full of transferable skills.
There are several methods to develop a set of questions – interviewing those who hold the job to identify common activities and challenges, using past examples to generate realistic (but not real) scenarios, asking for work samples to prove abilities, and using assessments to measure skills.
Whatever the method, keep it consistent for all candidates both in the question and what’s expected in an answer. If possible, remove any extraneous information such as demographics, work history, previous titles, etc., so it cannot inadvertently influence the evaluation of the responses.
Bringing it together
Promoting diversity and adopting inclusive hiring practices is not just icing on the cake when hiring. Diversity is what allows us to see and navigate the many facets of a challenge, recognize opportunity, and anticipate and react to crisis. It does not need to be expensive or insurmountable. We can all take steps to be more inclusive today. Small steps like challenging job requirements, diversifying titles/ranks, and standardizing questions can have a such a positive impact on hiring.
Avoid the “I should have thought of that” with more inclusive hiring practices. You can do it, we can help. Career.Place, an anonymous candidate screening tool that removes bias from hiring, is supporting our customers through COVID and beyond. We are providing free software and services through the crisis to ensure that all who need it have safe, remote screening technology while promoting inclusive hiring practices. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.