In an earlier blog, we talked about HR’s role in managing business risk. Today we turn our focus on one risk area that occupies CHRO’s, CEOs and Boards- the risk presented by bias and how to maximise fairness by removing bias.
Despite all the attention generated by International Women’s Day year a few months back and year on year, and myriad other initiatives, Boards, CEO’s and CHRO’s know that bias goes beyond gender and fixing it requires more than a training session or two.
Most of us would not even know when are being biased…
‘I just had a feeling he wasn’t going to be any good’
‘he just wasn’t a good culture fit’
‘she just doesn’t have the requisite experience’
‘we had such an awesome interview, we could have chatted forever we had so much in common ‘
It starts with having the data. The data revolution has been happening for decades in every other function but where is the data around recruitment?
More on bias measurement later…
Daniel Kahneman, Psychologist & Nobel Laureate, has this to say about managing bias in human decision-making.
“When making decisions, think of options as if they were candidates. Break them up into dimensions and evaluate each dimension separately. Then – delay forming an intuition too quickly. Instead, focus on the separate points, and when you have the full profile, then you can develop your intuition.”
Regarded as the father of behavioural economics, after 5 decades of research he has concluded that the research is unequivocal: When it comes to decision-making, algorithms are superior to people
To find out how to use Recruitment Automation to ‘hire with heart’, we also have a great eBook on recruitment automation with humanity.
Most people are very familiar with a performance review. It’s the annual anxiety fest when every employee has their performance assessed and rated, perhaps against benchmarks agreed at last year’s review or defined by their job description.
So is a talent review basically the same thing? Well yes and no. While a talent review will still see employees rated and ranked, the focus extends beyond current and recent performance to consider their potential as future leaders in senior or key roles within the business. It’s all about mapping an organisation’s business needs against the capabilities and potential of its people.
Talent review plays an essential role in business planning, pinpointing skill gaps and helping organisations to develop and retain their best talent.
Forward-thinking organisations believe that talent review is bigger than an annual event. Rather, it’s an essential part of an always-on process of talent management that fosters a high-performance culture from the very first engagement with employees.
Sapia’s Ai-enabled chat interview platform helps businesses to plan for future success by ensuring candidates with the very best potential are identified and engaged upfront. This approach provides talent momentum from the outset, ensuring every hire is building ‘bench strength’ and providing leaders with confidence that the next generation is ready to step-up and step-into key roles as needed.
It’s no secret that high performers and team leaders share certain personality traits and behaviours. In fact, it’s a science that organisations have long embraced in their pursuit of excellence and competitive advantage.
Since it was first published in 1962, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that classified 16 personality types has been at the heart of most personality assessments and recruitment science. Much of the appeal of Myers-Briggs was its simplicity in reducing complexity to concise descriptors. These descriptors may have sufficed when only human intelligence was doing the processing and decision-making.
But in an age of data, it’s a big compromise – a compromise in accuracy, nuance, and the real diversity of personality types that exist in our population. It’s also a compromise we no longer need to make.
Read: Hire for Values
Sapia is a leading innovator and advocate of leveraging data and technology to enhance the recruitment process. In developing our award-winning automated chat interview platform, our data science team looked at how we could move beyond the limits of Myers-Briggs personality testing.
Our data team fed text responses to interview questions from 85,000 job applicants into our personality classifier. Spread across two regions, the UK and Australia, 47% of applicants were identified as male, 53% as female.
Identifying 400 unique personality groupings and how they could be usefully applied to decision-making is beyond the ability of the human brain… but not beyond technology. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning, our artificial-intelligence enabled platform got to work with findings that were both surprising and not surprising at all.
What did we find?
The ‘not surprising’ part of our research is that even at 400 groupings, there are distinct differences in personality profiles. It’s not surprising when you consider that humans are not linear beings and that our personalities are highly complex and nuanced.
The most surprising thing we discovered was that personality types by role were distinct. The personality profiles attracted to sales roles, for example, were noticeably different from the profiles attached to a carer role. Even more surprising were the imperceptible differences in the personality distribution across the 400 types between men and women – a sign of how conscious or unconscious biases can play into our decision processes.
Differentiated by size, sector, structure and history, every organisation is unique. So every talent review will be unique too. Talent reviews need to be designed around the specific needs of the business but generally will bring performance management, learning and development and succession planning together.
When senior leaders meet for a talent review, their principle objective is to talk about the performance of individual employees in their teams and how those employees might take on more responsible roles in the future. Through this process, the critical positions in an organisation will be identified. Critical positions mean any role that business operations would stop or be seriously compromised if no one was able to step into the role immediately.
Keep in mind that these critical roles may not necessarily be management roles and will also depend on the nature of the business. In a manufacturing business, for example, the chief engineer might be solely responsible for keeping a production line in working order. Talent reviews need to consider every employee across an organisation.
An ongoing talent review process not only matches an organisation’s talent to existing roles, but it also helps identify new roles that will need to be created to achieve plans for future growth or expansion. It’s also possible that as a company moves forward, key roles may change or even become redundant. The most successful businesses are dynamic and flexible.
A structured review process reviews employees in terms of key strengths, career ambitions and readiness for promotion. Talent reviews provide a forum for a range of important conversations that every organisation interested in best practice needs to have:
There is a range of methods that organisations use to assess their employees for talent reviews. While some will arrive at a ranking or score, others may use a more nuanced approach to assessing their talent.
Talent reviews can often reveal glaring disparity and bias in team leaders’ expectations of employees and how they rate them. An agreed and standardised approach across the organisation is essential. By ensuring employee expectations are aligned among leaders and cultural values are socialised across the organisation, potential friction around accountability can be diffused.
Rank and yank – what not to do
Though their ranking process has long been dropped, Jack Welch, the celebrated or controversial (pick your own path!) CEO of General Electric once insisted on an evaluation that reduced every employee’s performance to a number. Following evaluations each year, the lowest ranking 10% were fired across the business. In contemporary business, this ‘rank and yank’ approach would not be considered best-practice HR.
The 9-box performance and potential matrix
A less controversial ranking for employees is the 9-box matrix. This commonly-used assessment tool assigns employees to one of nine boxes on a grid that on one axis rates their performance (underperformance, effective performance, outstanding performance) and on the other rates their potential (low, medium, high). Employees ranked in the box where outstanding performance and high potential meet are those assessed most likely to be future leaders.
Taking a step back from the talent review process, Sapia has worked to solve and improve the frontier problem of every recruiter and every employer – how to get the right talent on board sooner.
With policies and process to put the best candidates in place every time, ongoing talent management and talent reviews can be more streamlined and rewarding for employers and employees alike.
The first step to creating a step-change in the process is ensuring that everyone is assessing talent on the same criteria. These need to align with your organisation’s specific needs and values, which are ideally defined and documented as part of your business, brand and employer brand plans.
While Sapia’s early data breakthroughs were based on 85,000 interview responses, machine learning and artificial intelligence means that our platform never stops learning. Today, our Ai-powered platform has analysed more than 165 million words in text-based interviews from more than 700,000 candidates.
Continuous learning means that Sapia can help recruiters and employers make smarter, evidence-based employment decisions at the early career stage.
Within our science-based approach, behavioural interview questions are tailored around the agreed assessment criteria for the role. These questions are related to past behaviour to reliably assess personality traits. They can be customised to the specific role family – sales, retail, customer service etc– and aligned to the organisation’s agreed values and characteristics that will define their leaders of tomorrow.
Sapia’s bespoke Ai-platform analyses candidates’ responses across a range of criteria including readability, text structure, semantic alignment, sentiment and personality to identify candidates with the best future potential.
Making the wrong choices for future leaders can put your business at risk. At times of talent review, careers can be derailed and employees demotivated. A properly executed talent management process that begins with smarter recruitment choices is one of the best investments in the future of your business.
The insights delivered through a disciplined, standardised and ongoing process of talent assessment can be used at both organisational and managerial levels to drive your business forward. Creating a culture of high performance begins with best practice in early career candidate assessment. With Sapia’s platform as a key element, a robust talent review and management process will work to:
This article is presented by Sapia as part of our mission to promote best practice in contemporary recruiting and HR. Our Ai-enabled text chat interview platform can help any organisation identify future leaders while providing candidates with an efficient, empowering and enjoyable experience. The user satisfaction rate for our award-winning platform is 99%.
You can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now – here – or leave us your details to get a personalised demo
An AI hiring firm says it can predict job-hopping based on your interviews. The idea of “bias-free” hiring, already highly misleading, is being used by companies to shirk greater scrutiny for their tools’ labor issues beyond discrimination.
The most common systems involve using face-scanning algorithms, games or other evaluations to help determine which candidates to interview.
Activists and scholars warn that these screening tools can perpetuate discrimination. However, the makers themselves argue that algorithmic hiring helps correct for human biases.
In a December 2019 paper, researchers at Cornell reviewed the landscape of algorithmic screening companies to analyze their claims and practices. Of the 18 they identified with English-language websites, the majority marketed as a fairer alternative to human-based hiring. Thus suggesting that they were latching onto the heightened concern around these issues to tout their tools’ benefits and get more customers.
But discrimination isn’t the only concern with algorithmic hiring. Some scholars worry that marketing language that focuses on bias lets companies off the hook on other issues, such as workers’ rights. A new preprint from one of these firms serves as an important reminder. “We should not let the attention that people have begun to pay to bias/discrimination crowd other issues,” says Solon Barocas, an assistant professor at Cornell University and principal researcher at Microsoft Research, who studies algorithmic fairness and accountability.
The firm in question is Australia-based Sapia (Formerly PredictiveHire), founded in October 2013.
According to the firm’s CEO, Barbara Hyman, its clients are employers that must manage large numbers of applications, such as those in retail, sales, call centers, and health care.
As the Cornell study found, it also actively uses promises of fairer hiring in its marketing language. On its home page, it boldly advertises: “Meet Smart Interviewer – Your co-pilot in hiring. Making interviews super fast, inclusive and bias free.
As we’ve written before, the idea of “bias-free” algorithms is highly misleading. But Sapia’s latest research is troubling for a different reason. It is focused on building a new machine-learning model that seeks to predict a candidate’s likelihood of job-hopping. That is the practice of changing jobs more frequently than an employer desires. The work follows the company’s recent peer-reviewed research that looked at how open-ended interview questions correlate with personality.
Applicants had originally been asked five to seven open-ended questions and self-rating questions about their past experience and situational judgment.
These included questions meant to tease out traits that studies have previously shown to correlate strongly with job-hopping tendencies, such as being more open to experience, less practical, and less down to earth. The company researchers claim the model was able to predict job hopping with statistical significance. Sapia’s website is already advertising this work as a “flight risk” assessment that is “coming soon.” Sapia’s new work is a prime example of what Nathan Newman argues is one of the biggest adverse impacts of big data on labor.
Machine-learning-based personality tests, for example, are increasingly being used in hiring to screen. This is to out potential employees who have a higher likelihood of agitating for increased wages or supporting unionisation. Employers are increasingly monitoring employees’ emails, chats, and data to assess which might leave and calculate the minimum pay increase to make them stay.
None of these examples should be surprising, Newman argued. They are simply a modern manifestation of what employers have historically done to suppress wages by targeting and breaking up union activities. The use of personality assessments in hiring, which dates back to the 1930s in the US, in fact began as a mechanism to weed out people most likely to become labor organizers. The tests became particularly popular in the 1960s and ’70s once organizational psychologists had refined them to assess workers for their union sympathies.
In this context, Sapia’s fight-risk assessment is just another example of this trend. “Job hopping, or the threat of job hopping,” points out Barocas, “is one of the main ways that workers are able to increase their income.” The company even built its assessment on personality screenings designed by organizational psychologists.
Barocas doesn’t necessarily advocate tossing out the tools altogether. He believes the goal of making hiring work better for everyone is a noble one and could be achieved if regulators mandate greater transparency.
By Karen Haoa, July 24, 2020, MIT Technology Review | https://www.technologyreview.com/
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Finally, you can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now, or leave us your details here to get a personalised demo.
The jewel of Australia’s tech sector, Atlassian, has been lauded for giving staff the privilege of working from home forever. But when I posted the story on our team Slack channel, I added a comment warning of the longer-term impact of “remote forever”.
One of our senior team members replied: “Why do people travel in the morning to an office, in a packed tram/train carrying a laptop, then work on that laptop only to carry it back home in a packed train, wasting precious time? That looked comical to me for a long time.”
When I worked for another technology company, we spent a lot of energy trying to convince leadership that WFH did not mean a free ride and would, in fact, unleash productivity and improve engagement. COVID-19 has brought forward the idea of WFH as an alternative arrangement for many who would not have otherwise considered it.
While we may be revelling in the success of dismantling the long-held bias that you need to see someone at work to trust they are doing the work, it comes with its own challenges around organisational relevance.
Does it matter what company you work for if the only difference between one job and another is for whom you are completing a task, and perhaps the one or two people with whom you work closely?
When we all worked in ofﬁces, some of that intimacy was built by the serendipity of conversations you had while going about your day’s work.
There was always the potential to catch someone from outside your team and share an idea and solicit a different perspective. There was an ease of connections and interactions that can be hard to replicate in a remote work context.
Being remote is a little bit like trying to establish a long-distance relationship which, as many know, has the chances of success stacked against it.
Then there is the inﬂuence of place, and of space. At REA Group, where I worked for some years, the building fed the culture. Its design and redesign had been carefully thought through to maximise connections and space to collaborate – and not just with those in your immediate team.
Why do people go to church to pray, the pub to drink, and the footy to watch their team, when they have the Bible at home, beer in the fridge and a TV in the living room? Because they are looking for connection, community and inspiration.
Once the novelty of WFH wears off, and for many it already has, comes the challenge of maintaining connection, building afﬁliation and building cultures when people and teams are not physically spending time together in a shared space.
Is there a way to assess performance when you can’t see people at work? How do you look out for people, mentor them, develop them, when your interactions are all booked in, bounded within a strict working day? What way to acknowledge someone for something you heard they did well, as you might if you jump in a lift together?
There is a real risk our employment relationship becomes transactional, which affects engagement, which then affects productivity.
We know from our own work in this space, personality is not 16 types on a table. It is way more nuanced and diverse than that. In a population of 85,000, equal men and women, we ﬁnd at least 400 uniquely identiﬁable personality types.
We live in a world of hyper-personalisation, from our morning news feed to our Netﬂix proﬁle based on our viewing history. How can an organisation retain that diversity of perspective. That is when it usually thinks of two binary ways of working: in an ofﬁce or at home? It can’t. That is why the future of work has to involve a new type of technology. One that can navigate the rich mix of types we work with and adapt to their communication and working style.
I have championed for WFH when in senior HR positions. However, this experience highlighted the many things I might have taken for granted in an ofﬁce environment. It has nothing to do with fancy decor and an ergonomic chair. It’s more the human moments of serendipitous connection that disappeared so quickly, almost without time to say goodbye.
It would be great to think we all emerge from this situation with a mind to honour the things we have learnt about our “work selves” and, most importantly, to build company cultures that thrive by accommodating those diverse needs.
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You can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now, or leave us your details here to get a personalised demo.