Can technology help recruit a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Some organisations are still struggling to embrace D&I, and the problems usually start with the first step: the hiring process. How can enterprises use technology to employ a more diverse workforce?


Arctic Shores’ report highlights how despite the fact that 81% of organisations are conducting unconscious bias training–and rising to 92% for the tech sector–businesses are still struggling with Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).

D&I are two important areas of focus, and although businesses are increasing both time and investment into developing an inclusive workplace culture, they should be focusing on the first step - the hiring process.

The trouble with the way many businesses currently hire employees is that it doesn't address unconscious bias - for example when recruiters follow their gut instincts with candidates, or they make decisions based on data from application forms and CVs. While this can lead to a culture fit for the organisation, it can also leave out potential hires who may not ‘click’ with recruiters.

Robert Newry, CEO at Artic Shores, says, “Traditional approaches to recruitment – like CV screening or skills tests – are an imperfect snapshot of a candidate’s suitability. To really see a person’s potential, employers need to look more deeply and start with the perspective of ‘seeing more’ in their talent discovery process. This is why leveraging the right technology is so vital.”

The challenges of embracing D&I

Stacey Kane, Business Development Lead at EasyMerchant, explains that the reason some companies are slow to embrace D&I is because they don't see the commercial value. “When a company is already doing well, leaders frequently lack commercial incentives to change the status quo and invest in D&I. D&I initiatives take a significant amount of time and effort to put into motion because redefining company culture and employee attitudes cannot be accomplished instantly, so most companies that are already doing well see no commercial benefit to it.”

A harsh reality, but one that’s not uncommon.

However, research does show that companies who actively incorporate D&I initiatives have higher employee satisfaction and enjoy higher financial returns. Clearly, there’s a strong business case for supporting D&I.

Long before the pandemic, many organisations struggled to employ a diverse workforce, often due to a disconnect between the D&I and recruitment goals of a business and the systems and tools being used to reach them.

When it comes to recruiting a new talent and building a diverse workforce, organisations and HR teams need to put greater effort in understanding the role of unconscious bias and how they can use technology to focus more on skills, potential and capabilities.

In the hiring process, bias can be the inclination or prejudice for or against a candidate. Recruiters can be influenced by subjective data about a candidate, for example their name, age, ethnic background or even disabilities. It can also be a candidate attending the same university or living in similar areas. This subjective data can sway a hiring manager’s decision just as much as actual qualifications.

One way to bypass this bias is to focus on the ‘talent’ aspect of the candidate.  Objective data is an effective way of capturing the potential of a candidate and their ability to perform within roles.

Technology can improve the recruitment process

Newry explains the benefits of behaviour-based assessments, “A series of engaging and intuitive tasks which give an authentic view of someone’s personality strengths and reveals their potential. These tasks, rooted in decades of neuroscientific research, measure important work-related traits such as learning agility, creativity, and resilience. This way, employers’ get a rich, objective, unbiased picture of how every candidate could suit their role, culture, or both.”

These tests are a powerful way of looking beyond a CV. It can be a helpful tool in helping candidates transition from one sector to another, as long as they can solve the right problems or use the right soft skills. Candidates can use these assessments to demonstrate their strengths and showcase how they can fulfil the requirements of a role.

And while not every candidate is suitable for the role, it is still important they receive feedback. It is essential that hiring managers share feedback to candidates on why their application wasn’t successful, yet, research suggests that only seven percent of employers do so. Automated technology can help relieve this burden from HR teams and hiring managers.

“If an employer can use technology to give insightful feedback to every candidate, instantly, without it costing them even a second of their day, then they’ve got a great chance to elevate their employer brand and ensure no candidate gets left in the cold. This is why we’ve made automated feedback a key part of our assessment experience,” says Newry.

AI recruitment and the importance of data

The most significant answer to improving the hiring process is through AI technology. AI models can be trained to overlook personal candidate information and focus on specific data points like experience, skills, or a candidate’s familiarly with specific programs. And since the pandemic has increased popularity of flexible working and remote hiring, there’s been an unprecedented level of qualified professionals applying for jobs, who no longer have to worry about commuting to a physical office. AI solutions can be used to shift through a high volume of applications and recommend a narrowed down list of candidates, ultimately saving recruiters a good deal of time and energy.

However, AI software is not a perfect solution. HR teams and recruiters must make sure that the AI algorithm they implement is performing correctly. We’ve already seen what can go wrong with AI recruitment- in October 2018, Amazon had to suspend the AI tool they were using for their hiring process after discovering they AI model held a bias towards male candidates. The data used for the model was based on the disproportionate number of men that already make up today’s tech workforce. So, the platform only continued this cycle, further diminishing the chances of female hires.

Even more recently, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned about the potential dangers of using AI algorithms at work. If the data that is used to train the AI models is skewed or influenced by unconscious human bias, then the AI platform will only repeat the same mistakes.  

So how can businesses make sure they’re using the right data? Kane stresses the importance of using data that is “highly relevant” to the job and its requirement instead of commonly used data. Organisations need to ensure the AI models they’re using are trained with diverse datasets, as that is what will help them diversify their workforce.  

Tips for a more successful recruitment process

Organisations have an opportunity to change and improve their acquisition process, especially as they embrace D&I as a priority. Here are some top tips to help businesses facilitate a more successful recruitment process:

  • Reduce bias – The number one goal for recruiters should be to remove bias from the decision-making process. It starts from a well-written and inclusive job description with keywords that increase the likelihood of candidates applying for the role. Also consider using AI recruitment software that removes personal identifiers from candidate applications and CVs.
  • Focus on skills and potential – The pandemic has highlighted the importance of transferable skills as people switch careers and industries. Recruiters should focus on a candidate’s potential and their ability to bring unique strengths to a role. Utilising behaviour-based assessments can create greater opportunities for candidates and an organisation.
  • Choose the right software – A myriad of AI recruitment tools are currently available, from chatbots to video interviewing solutions, and organisations should choose a solution that meet their requirements or solve a specific problem. Do you need a chatbot that screens applications and sets up interviews according to the availability of the recruiter, or an AI recruitment software that analyses data about a candidate’s experience and skillset?
  • Adequate training – Allowing enough time and training for employers and recruiters to pick up a new software is an immense help. Whether the software is meant to reduce time or analyse data, having recruiters better understand how the technology works makes the process more seamless, and therefore efficient.
  • Introduce software to candidates – Employers can benefit from introducing their recruitment technology to candidates, especially if it is a video interview software or a behavioural test. This will not only allow candidates to familiarise themselves with the software, but it improves the candidate experience.

The pandemic has caused disruption for many businesses, however it’s fair to say that it’s also highlighted the need for a more fair and consistent recruitment process. Recruiters have to address and remove the bias and ‘gut feelings’ and pay closer attention to data and behavioural insight.