Over the past year, companies have continued to make ambitious pledges to address bias and systemic racism in the hiring process. But the track record of previous corporate diversity efforts is shaky at best. Will this be different this time?
It will all depend on how well companies can look within to see and eliminate the practices that keep talented workers out of work. Businesses often stand in the way of equity and inclusion when it comes down to hiring.
The problem is not with corporate leaders and hiring managers. Instead, HR and business leaders who are well-meaning invested over the last year in temporary, short-term solutions such as hosting events or donating money to charities. These are not necessarily bad ideas, but they’re good ones. They’re neither systemic nor sustainable. This is like planning your vacation but not building the roads to reach it.
To address the problems of tomorrow, today’s business leaders use yesterday’s strategies.
This dependence on proven-and-true methods is common in almost every sector of society. If companies do not adopt a strategic and data-driven approach, diversity will be a problem. We’ll look back in a year to see that, despite all the good intentions, there has been no progress.
How can we make our intentions a reality and bring about systemic changes? A few possible solutions are suggested by research and from our experience as corporate leaders.
The first is to stop considering a college degree the only way to measure skills. Research has shown that there is a weaker correlation between education and performance in the workplace. Furthermore, degree requirements are systematically discriminatory against Black and Hispanic applicants.
Screening based solely on bachelor’s degrees automatically excludes 60% of American workers. This includes the over 70 million Americans without four-year degree who are skilled through alternative routes and have the skill set to be successful in higher-paying jobs.
This challenge can be addressed immediately by companies. This could be new ways to measure skill directly. IBM has long been a pioneer in this space through its commitment to skills-based hiring, which enables the company to make hiring decisions based on what candidates can do, not the pedigrees they’ve earned.
It could also include following the lead of companies like Capital One, which hires based on aptitude — and provide internal learning and development and on-the-job training opportunities to help new hires learn the skills they need to succeed on the job. These are the obvious benefits of such approaches: Hiring on skill rather than degree basis opens up a wider talent pool and increases wages. It can also lead to higher retention rates and loyalty.
Second, remember that training can be just as crucial as hiring when you consider how to invest your money and time. As the pace of technological change accelerates and the need for digital talent grows, it’s become increasingly clear that talent poaching is an “expensive zero-sum game” that leaves companies scrambling — and paying a premium — for the same small pool of talent.
In the context of inclusion and diversity, this challenge becomes even more difficult. Does it really make a difference if Company X hires a minority candidate with a proven track record at Company Y? You’re playing with the labor market and not increasing the net workforce. This strategy may work for high-ranking leadership positions, but will not grow the bottom of the funnel when applied to lower-ranking or entry-level jobs.
It’s not enough to simply commit to increasing diversity in your company, which can often encourage lateral hires from other companies. The key is to offer job opportunities and advancement opportunities for those otherwise unemployed or underemployed. Training can help companies increase their talent and provide a higher return than traditional recruitment models.
Facilitate better collaboration within your enterprise. It is not the goal of anyone to create inequitable talent pools. Talent-acquisition professionals, like all professionals, have limited time and large responsibilities. There is an increasing disconnect, particularly in tech-oriented and data-oriented areas, between the HR departments who post job openings and the business units that use the talent.
It is understandable that HR departments don’t have direct connections to specific job workflows. This leads to job descriptions with a lot of requirements, and often results in people being turned away because they can’t fulfill every requirement.
Stronger connections between the hiring manager and other employees can lead to a better understanding of which skills are important. This will help businesses avoid screening qualified applicants before they have a chance at proving themselves.
It is not easy to implement systemic changes. It’s difficult to implement systemic change in an economy that is recovering and with a tight labor market where companies are more under pressure to fill vacant positions. Inflection points such as this offer opportunities for businesses to be innovative and think differently than settling for the status quo. The best time to turn aspirations into action is when there’s turmoil.
This is the American business challenge: To invest in equity and inclusion more holistically, so we can create a work environment that represents the ideals we all strive for.
Publited at Fri, 20 August 2021 21.07:33 +0000