When you search ‘hire for values’ on Google, about 424m search results come up. HBR, and every other respectable HR journal has covered this topic at length.
But what does it mean and how do you do it at scale? And then how do you signal your values to incoming applicants?
For some organisations, ‘hiring for values’ could translate as including your values video on your careers page, showing the video at campus presentations or do as Atlassian does and hand out your values as temporary tattoos!
None of those PR stunts helps you hire for your values. What CHROs and their CEOs crave is the ability to embed their organisation’s values in their key people processes – in hiring and promotion decisions where values-driven decisions make the biggest impact on your culture. In graduate recruitment, that can be challenging given the hiring rates can be 2-5% of your applicant pool. This is where technology can help. Read on to see how easy it is to embed your values in recruitment using AI-led assessment technology.
Embedding your values in your hiring decisions typically means hiring for traits, based on the proposition that who you are as a person counts for as much as what you know at any point in time.
In graduate recruitment, this usually means looking for qualities like grit, curiosity, drive, emotional intelligence and the willingness to take accountability to make things happen.
See how AI can reveal these traits for every graduate applicant from analysing text responses to 5 open-ended questions. Contact us here
The value is greatest when companies harness the differences between employees from multiple demographic backgrounds to understand and appeal to a broad customer base. But true diversity relies on social mobility and therein lies the problem: the rate of social mobility in the UK is the worst in the developed world.
The root cause of the UK’s lack of social mobility can be found in the very place that it can bring the most value – the workplace. Employers’ recruiting processes often suffer from unconscious human bias that results in involuntary discrimination. As a result, the correlation between what an employee in the UK earns today and what his or her father earned is more apparent than in any other major economy.
This article explores the barriers to occupational mobility in the UK and the growing use of predictive analytics or algorithmic hiring to neutralise unintentional prejudice against age, academic background, class, ethnicity, colour, gender, disability, sexual orientation and religion.
The UK government has highlighted the fact that ‘patterns of inequality are imprinted from one generation to the next’ and has pledged to make their vision of a socially mobile country a reality. At the recent Conservative party conference in Manchester, David Cameron condemned the country’s lack of social mobility as unacceptable for ‘the party of aspiration’. Some of the eye-opening statistics quoted by Cameron include:
The OECD claims that income inequality cost the UK 9% in GDP growth between 1990 and 2010. Fewer educational opportunities for disadvantaged individuals had the effect of lowering social mobility and hampering skills development. Those from poor socio economic backgrounds may be just as talented as their privately educated contemporaries and perhaps the missing link in bridging the skills gap in the UK. Various industry sectors have hit out at the government’s immigration policy, claiming this widens the country’s skills gap still further.
Besides immigration, there are other barriers to social mobility within the UK that need to be lifted. Research by Deloitte has shown that 35% of jobs over the next 20 years will be automated. These are mainly unskilled roles that will impact people from low incomes. Rather than relying too heavily on skilled immigrants, the country needs to invest in training and development to upskill young people and provide home-grown talent to meet the future needs of the UK economy. Countries that promote equal opportunity for everyone from an early age are those that will grow and prosper.
The UK government’s proposal to tackle the issue of social mobility, both in education and in the workplace, has to be greatly welcomed. Cameron cited evidence that people with white-sounding names are more likely to get job interviews than equally qualified people with ethnic names, a trend that he described as ‘disgraceful’. He also referred to employers discriminating against gay people and the need to close the pay gap between men and women. Some major employers – including Deloitte, HSBC, the BBC and the NHS – are combatting this issue by introducing blind-name CVs, where the candidate’s name is blocked out on the CV and the initial screening process. UCAS has also adopted this approach in light of the fact that 36% of ethnic minority applicants from 2010-2012 received places at Russell Group universities, compared with 55% of white applicants.
Although blind-name CVs avoid initial discriminatory biases in an attempt to improve diversity in the workforce, recruiters may still be subject to similar or other biases later in the hiring process. Some law firms, for example, still insist on recruiting Oxbridge graduates, when in fact their skillset may not correlate positively with the job or company culture. While conscious human bias can only be changed through education, lobbying and a shift in attitude, a great deal can be done to eliminate unconscious human bias through predictive analytics or algorithmic hiring.
Bias in the hiring process not only thwarts social mobility but is detrimental to productivity, profitability and brand value. The best way to remove such bias is to shift reliance from humans to data science and algorithms. Human subjectivity relies on gut feel and is liable to passive bias or, at worst, active discrimination. If an employer genuinely wants to ignore a candidate’s schooling, racial background or social class, these variables can be hidden. Algorithms can have a non-discriminatory output as long as the data used to build them is also of a non-discriminatory nature.
Predictive analytics is an objective way of analysing relevant variables – such as biodata, pre-hire attitudes and personality traits – to determine which candidates are likely to perform best in their roles. By blocking out social background data, informed hiring decisions can be made that have a positive impact on company performance. The primary aim of predictive analytics is to improve organisational profitability, while a positive impact on social mobility is a healthy by-product.
A recent study in the USA revealed that the dropout rate at university will lead to a shortage of qualified graduates in the market (3 million deficit in the short term, rising to 16 million by 2025). Predictive analytics was trialled to anticipate early signs of struggle among students and to reach out with additional coaching and support. As a result, within the state of Georgia student retention rates increased by 5% and the time needed to earn a degree decreased by almost half a semester. The programme ascertained that students from high-income families were ten times more likely to complete their course than those from low-income households, enabling preventative measures to be put in place to help students from socially deprived backgrounds to succeed.
Bias and stereotyping are in-built physiological behaviours that help humans identify kinship and avoid dangerous circumstances. Such behaviours, however, cloud our judgement when it comes to recruitment decisions. More companies are shifting from a subjective recruitment process to a more objective process, which leads to decision making based on factual evidence. According to the CIPD, on average one-third of companies use assessment centres as a method to select an employee from their candidate pool. This no doubt helps to reduce subjectivity but does not eradicate it completely, as peer group bias can still be brought to bear on the outcome.
Two of the main biases which may be detrimental to hiring decisions are ‘Affinity bias’ and ‘Status Quo bias’. ‘Affinity bias’ leads to people recruiting those who are similar to themselves, while ‘Status Quo bias’ leads to recruitment decisions based on the likeness candidates have with previous hires. Recruiting on this basis may fail to match the selected person’s attributes with the requirements of the job.
Undoubtedly it is important to get along with those who will be joining the company. The key is to use data-driven modelling to narrow down the search in an objective manner before selecting based on compatibility. Predictive analytics can project how a person will fare by comparing candidate data with that of existing employees deemed to be h3 performers and relying on metrics that are devoid of the type of questioning that could lead to the discriminatory biases that inhibit social mobility.
“When it comes to making final decisions, the more data-driven recruiting managers can be, the better.”
‘Heuristic bias’ is another example of normal human behaviour that influences hiring decisions. Also known as ‘Confirmation bias’, it allows us to quickly make sense of a complex environment by drawing upon relevant known information to substantiate our reasoning. Since it is anchored on personal experience, it is by default arbitrary and can give rise to an incorrect assessment.
Other forms of bias include ‘Contrast bias’, when a candidate is compared with the previous one instead of comparing his or her individual skills and attributes to those required for the job. ‘Halo bias’ is when a recruiter sees one great thing about a candidate and allows that to sway opinion on everything else about that candidate. The opposite is ‘Horns bias’, where the recruiter sees one bad thing about a candidate and lets it cloud opinion on all their other attributes. Again, predictive analytics precludes all these forms of bias by sticking to the facts.
Age is firmly on the agenda in the world of recruitment, yet it has been reported that over 50% of recruiters who record age in the hiring process do not employ people older than themselves. Disabled candidates are often discriminated against because recruiters cannot see past the disability. Even these fundamental stereotypes and biases can be avoided through data-driven analytics that cut to the core in matching attitudes, skills and personality to job requirements.
Once objective decisions have been made, companies need to have the confidence not to overturn them and revert to reliance on one-to-one interviews, which have low predictive power. The CIPD cautions against this and advocates a pure, data-driven approach: ‘When it comes to making final decisions, the more data-driven recruiting managers can be, the better’.
The government’s strategy for social mobility states that ‘tackling the opportunity deficit – creating an open, socially mobile society – is our guiding purpose’ but that ‘by definition, this is a long-term undertaking. There is no magic wand we can wave to see immediate effects.’ Being aware of bias is just the first step in minimising its negative effect in the hiring process. Algorithmic hiring is not the only solution but, if supported by the government and key trade bodies, it can go a long way towards remedying the inherent weakness in current recruitment practice. Once the UK’s leading businesses begin to witness the benefits of a genuinely diverse workforce in terms of increased productivity and profitability, predictive hiring will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I work with a team building a product-driven by AI which is used to inform decisions about people. This means I am often approached on social media or in-person by people who have a point of view about that, often with fear or frustration about being picked (or rejected) by a machine.
This week I received an email from a commerce/law graduate who had recently applied for a role at one of the big ‘accounting’ professional services firms. This student, let’s call him Dan, had to complete an online game in order to qualify for the next step which was a video interview.
To give himself the maximum chance of ‘doing well’ in the game, Dan created a dummy profile ‘Jason’ to see what the experience was like and get an inside read of the questions so that when he did it for real he would really nail it. This first time round he fudged the test as it was a trial run and he left most answers blank. When Dan went and did this for real, he was conscientious of course and wrote thoughtful answers and tried to pick the right behaviour in the balloon popping game!
Jason, who scored 44% received a video interview. Jason does not exist.
Dan, who scored 75% did not progress to the next round.
The machine picked the wrong guy
Every business like ours that works in this space recognises that this is new technology, and so still very much in the early stages of development. Like humans, machines will make mistakes. In our business, we call them false positives (people recommended who just aren’t right) or false negatives (people who are missed by the machine who could be right for the role).
Dan’s questions are legitimate…
When you are rejected by humans, either you hear nothing or you may get an explanation like — ‘you aren’t a good culture fit’ when they reject you. Machines may give you a score.
For me what this reveals is that any business who uses AI and ML for candidate selection, it’s critical to have empathy for the person who is experiencing this, in this case, empathy for the candidate experience.
Machines can make better selection decisions about people because they have access to a larger more comprehensive set of data, can process data faster, and if built with the right objective data, they can be far less bias than humans.
When used in recruitment, they need to work for both parties — the organisation and the candidate. Building trust in these technologies is critical in our space. It can’t all be about the organisation getting their efficiency gains.
This means :
Recruitment wants to rise above being a process. So AI in recruitment should enable that if it’s to be trusted by candidates.
Last week, the jewel of Australia’s tech sector, Atlassian, was lauded for giving staff the privilege of working from home – forever.
After posting this on our team slack channel with a comment by me warning of the longer-term impact of ‘remote forever’, one of our senior team members said:
“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?”
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, in fact, would unleash productivity and improve engagement. COVID has brought forward the idea of WFH as an alternative arrangement for many that wouldn’t have otherwise considered it.
Whilst we may be revelling in the success of dismantling the long-held bias, that you need to see someone at work to trust that they are doing the work, it comes with its own set of challenges around organisational relevance.
Does it matter what company you work for if the only difference between one job is for whom you are completing a task, and perhaps the one or two people that you work with closely?
Work is a relationship, and relationships thrive on intimate and frequent connections. When we all worked in offices some of that intimacy was built by the serendipity of conversations that you had while going about your day’s work. There was always the potential to catch someone from outside of 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 all of us know have the chances of success stacked against them.
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 were carefully thought through to maximize connections and space to collaborate. With anyone. Not just 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 very real challenge of maintaining connection, building affiliation, and building cultures when people and teams are not spending time together – physically, in any shared space.
Ongoing remote work presents very practical challenges for organisations, particularly around company culture and organisational HR.
There is a real risk that our employment relationship becomes transactional, which then impacts engagement, which then impacts productivity etc.
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.
While we live in a world of hyper-personalization – our morning news feed is our feed, our Netflix profile is our personal profile based on our viewing history,
How can an organisation retain that diversity of perspective when it usually thinks of two binary ways of working – in an office, or at home? It can’t.
That’s why the future of work has to involve a new type of technology, a technology that can navigate the rich mix of types we work with, adapt to their communication style, their working style.
While I have championed for WFH in senior HR positions I’ve held, this experience has highlighted for me the many things I might have always taken for granted in an office environment.
It has nothing to do with fancy décor and an ergonomic chair. More those human moments of serendipitous connection. It all disappeared so quickly without almost any time to say good-bye.
I’m learning what my motivations are, and what connections I want in a day.
From the conversations I’ve had with friends and workmates, they’re also making similar self-discoveries. I’d like to think we all emerge from this situation with a mind to honour the things we’ve learned about our “work selves.”
And most importantly, to build company cultures that thrive by accommodating those diverse needs.
Barbara Hyman, 03/09/20
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