At Spiff, transparency is baked into everything we do, from the software we build, to the way our team operates. That’s why we’ve committed to documenting and sharing our progress and intentions when it comes to cultivating a diverse and inclusive hiring process.
You may have seen us reference escape velocity in other blog posts. If not, escape velocity means breaking free from comparison in the marketplace and rising to a class of our own. We make no secret that this is our mission at Spiff and we believe pace of innovation is the most reliable way to get there.
We also believe that different opinions, thoughts, and perspectives are inherently good. In fact, we believe innovation isn’t possible without these things. As we continue to grow, we’re excited to see more diverse backgrounds, talents, and experiences reflected on our team.
Why You Need an Inclusive Hiring Process to Recruit Diverse Teams
You’ve likely seen these stats but we think they bear repeating:
- Racially and ethnically diverse organizations are 36% more likely to outperform their competitors (source)
- Gender diverse companies are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability (source)
- Companies with above-average diversity on their management teams report 19% higher innovation revenue from products launched within the past three years (source)
The thing is… diversity doesn’t actually work. Not without inclusion. And, as more leaders start to understand the benefits diverse teams bring to organizations, DEI programs are springing up left and right. But, shockingly, only 23% of HR professionals think DEI at their company is actually working (source).
So what gives? The truth is, without the right approach, DEI initiatives can fall flat— especially when the purpose is checking a box rather than cultivating an environment where everyone feels fully accepted, behaviors match words, all employees are celebrated, and uneven playing fields are leveled.
Creating this type of workplace requires executive buy-in and a laser focus on implementation. You can’t just decide to hire “more diverse employees” and expect results, especially if those same employees are forced to park their individual perspectives and talents once they’re on the job. Without inclusion, you’re just going through the motions.
This is equally true with hiring as it is with employee retention. There’s a big difference between legal compliance and proactively implementing inclusive hiring practices. It doesn’t matter how diverse your talent pipeline is— if underrepresented candidates still have to jump through the usual hoops to land in qualified roles, recruiting a diverse team will be an uphill battle. The remedy is real, concrete action items at every stage of the hiring process.
Up next we give you an inside look at how we’ve started doing this at Spiff, so that you too can adopt any of these habits or strategies for your own organization.
Strategically collect and analyze hiring data
As Peter Drucker once said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Recruitment is no exception— drilling down into the data is the best way to identify areas of improvement in your hiring process.
According to BCG, “Many companies don’t have clear data on the diversity of their talent pipeline or their workforce over time. As a result, they aren’t able to accurately identify problems or launch targeted interventions to solve them.” (source)
If you haven’t already, establish a framework for collecting and analyzing datasets across the recruiting funnel. Look to see which candidates are applying to different positions, participating in phone screenings, receiving interviews, advancing to the final rounds, and ultimately receiving an offer. Some good questions to ask yourself:
- What’s the ratio of women to men at each stage?
- How many underrepresented candidates are you reaching out to in comparison to majority talent?
- After submitting an application, what percentage of underrepresented candidates progress to a phone screen?
- What percentage of underrepresented candidates are making it to each round of interviews? What is their pass-through rate, compared to majority talent?
- How many job offers do you make to underrepresented candidates? What is their acceptance rate?
Also consider supplementing your quantitative data with applicant surveys. This can afford you a better understanding of how real candidates actually experience your recruiting process. Try asking the following questions to candidates during the post-interview process, regardless of whether the candidate is offered a position or not:
- How likely would you be to apply to our org again in the future?
- How likely would you be to encourage other people in your network to apply to our org?
- Which part of the application process was the most positive part of your experience?
- Which part of the application process was the most negative part of your experience?
- Was there any stage of the application process where you doubted yourself or your abilities? Why?
- Is there anything we could have done differently during the application process?
Extend surveys to all candidates and compare the results. Did underrepresented candidates have a lower satisfaction score at a particular stage than majority talent? Encourage honest feedback to help identify any potential barriers putting unrepresented candidates at a disadvantage at different stages of the recruitment process.
“There’s a lot of talent out there, but some people just don’t have the opportunity. They haven’t been given the chance,” says Chris Smith, Spiff sales manager and co-chair/executive sponsor of our BIDE Committee (Belonging, Inclusivity, Diversity & Equity).
Set realistic hiring goals
Once you’ve established your organization’s baseline metrics, you can focus on setting your hiring goals. You’re more likely to succeed if those goals are realistic, so do your homework and pull demographic data from different sources. In particular, look at:
- The available talent market for roles you plan to hire for. Industry benchmarks on LinkedIn Talent Insights or Gartner TalentNeuron are a good place to start.
- Geographic location. Tap local data wherever you’re planning to hire. Ideally, your organization’s workforce representation would reflect the total available market.
- Your customer base. Look to see if there are any disparities between the communities you serve and representation in your organization’s workforce.
Implement an inclusive hiring process
Diversity and inclusion efforts in hiring are often half-baked and reactive, like slapping a generic Equal Employer Opportunity statement on every job posting to comply with federal law.
As AIHR has said, inclusive hiring “actively recognizes diversity and embraces a wide range of qualities and perspectives that candidates bring to the organization. It’s not simply about recruiting people from underrepresented backgrounds or with disabilities in an effort to tick off a box. Instead, inclusive hiring practices aim to level the playing field for all applicants in order to fight against recruitment bias and any form of discrimination.” (source)
Implementing an inclusive hiring process requires numerous action items to mitigate the common barriers that negatively and disproportionately impact underrepresented candidates. These barriers include:
Did you know our brains make up to 35,000 decisions per day (source)? To help speed up the process, we’re hardwired to filter, categorize, and generalize the vast amounts of information we encounter— in other words, humans are inherently biased.
Our assumptions can be influenced by an infinite combination of variables, including our upbringing and socialization, the social groups we belong to, and our exposure to people from different backgrounds.
Split-second assumptions might have helped our prehistoric ancestors survive, but bias can be harmful in present day recruiting. On average, 60% of interviewers make a decision about a candidate’s suitability within 15 minutes of meeting them, and 25.5% decide within the first 5 minutes (source).
Often, “well-intentioned hiring managers end up inadvertently weeding out qualified candidates from underestimated backgrounds because of bias,” says Ruchika Tulshyan, an inclusion author and speaker (source).
An inclusive hiring process gives organizations a framework for relying more on objective data to predict job suitability, rather than selecting candidates based on a grab bag of internal assumptions.
Bias often rears its ugly head when assessing “cultural fit”—who will fit in and do well at the organization.
“It has shifted from systematic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with. In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not,” says Lauren A. Rivera, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management (source).
Inclusive hiring practices help managers focus more on identifying key traits and behaviors to predict a candidate’s on-the-job success, rather than being guided by the classic recruitment trope of “who would you rather be stuck in an airport with?”
Innately biased sourcing tactics
Recruiters rely on vast networks and talent pools to fuel growing organizations. Unfortunately, some of the most tried and true sources of talent in recruiting are innately biased. Let’s look at three of the most common offenders:
- Campus recruiting.
College campuses are a great place for recruiters to network and connect with potential candidates. But, if your organization only attends job fairs at the same handful of elite schools, your hiring process is no longer inclusive.Just as you might evaluate the demographic breakdown within a geographic location, you’ll want to evaluate the demographic breakdowns of the different colleges and universities you’re sourcing from.
Consider a range of schools from community colleges, to Ivy League, to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
- Inequitable referral programs.
Referral programs are often a great source of talent for many organizations. But, if you’re not careful and put too much stock in referrals, you may be creating a cycle that promotes unfair hiring practices. As we explained earlier in this article, human beings have built-in biases that lead us to gravitate toward the familiar– people who look, act, and think like us.
So, when existing employees refer new candidates there’s a good chance they look, act, and think like the employee who referred them. Worse still, we tend to give referrals the benefit of the doubt and fast track their applications or guarantee interviews for candidates we might not interview otherwise.
In a lot of ways, referral programs, when they’re not monitored give a leg up to the majority and not those who are underrepresented.
- Inaccessible application systems.
When we talk about diversity and creating an accessible hiring process, we don’t just mean across all demographics. We also mean creating a process that’s accessible and easy to navigate for individuals who have disabilities.
This means taking stock of your career website and tech stack to make sure you’re implementing technology that helps level the playing field. This might mean using dyslexia-friendly fonts, including closed captions on videos, and making sure you have alt text on your website images.
Innately biased screening criteria
In recruiting, we rely on a set of tools and tactics used to quickly disqualify candidates and weed through applicants efficiently. Just as there are innately biased sourcing tactics, there are also innately biased screening criteria that serve as a barrier to underrepresented minorities in the hiring process. Let’s look at a few:
- GPA requirements.
Although GPA might seem like a good measure of a candidate’s ability to work hard, it’s actually eliminating an important subset of applicants.
“By setting a minimum GPA for early-career candidates, companies are inadvertently creating an employment test that disproportionately hurts Black, Hispanic and Native American candidates,” Liz Wessel, CEO of WayUp reports.
“That’s because data suggest that since Black, Hispanic and Native American students are more likely to come from lower-income households and work longer hours in college, their GPA suffers,” she said. In the same article, Wessel also added that data shows GPA is rarely correlated to performance.
- Only interviewing employed candidates.
In hiring, there’s a widely accepted misconception that unemployed candidates are inferior to employed candidates. This often means that unemployed candidates are tossed out before interviews begin.
In reality, many candidates are unemployed through no fault of their own– pandemic related layoffs for example. Excluding this group of people means excluding women, older candidates, and minorities who are often disproportionately impacted by economic downturns (source).
- Using personality tests during the hiring process.
Although many organizations argue that the use of personality tests or psychological exams during the hiring process combats human bias, research shows that these tests often do the opposite.
In fact, data has shown that these tests weed out many of the exact candidates you’re attempting to hire (source). Many speculate that this is because standardized tests are often created without considering how cultural differences might impact how candidates interpret certain questions.
Inclusive hiring action items (What to do instead)
Now that we’ve covered what not to do when you’re trying to build an inclusive hiring process, let’s look at some things you should be doing.
Use inclusive language in your job descriptions
Job descriptions can be fraught with verbiage that deters underrepresented candidates from applying. “The language used can unconsciously tell people or groups that they are not the right fit,” says Becca Carnahan, a career coach at Harvard University (source).
Why does this happen? According to academic research, the language in job descriptions is often gender-coded, meaning different words have masculine or feminine associations (source).
If you’re feeling unsure, use a free tool like Gender Decoder to check your job descriptions for gender bias before posting.
Another way to make your job descriptions more inclusive is to limit the number of requirements. Determine which requirements are critical, and which are “nice-to-haves”— then remove the latter. Research has shown that women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100% of the requirements, while men will apply if they meet only 60% of the requirements (source).
Search outside your network
As we previously touched on, sourcing a more diverse talent pipeline will likely mean searching outside of your usual LinkedIn network for the right candidates.
“If you want to recruit people from diverse backgrounds, you may have to recruit in a different way. You can’t just go to the same places. To get somewhere you haven’t gone, you’ve got to do something you haven’t done. This is what we have to do, and we need to be intentional about it,” says Smith.
In addition to the tactics we’ve already mentioned (i.e. diversify campus recruiting, audit your referral program, and improve the accessibility of your hiring experience) we also recommend checking out networking events and job sites specifically geared towards diverse talent, like:
- National Association of Asian-American Professionals (NAAAP)
- Pink Jobs
One challenge underrepresented candidates often face is not having the same opportunity to share their experiences or showcase their value. This typically happens in the absence of a structured process, leaving more room for unconscious biases to slip in.
Instead of going into an interview and letting the conversation guide itself, make an effort to ask candidates the same questions, in the same order. This makes it easier to compare responses objectively to predict success in the role. You can also standardize the information provided to candidates and cadence of communication, to further ensure a consistent experience throughout the interview process.
Establish clear scoring metrics
Another way to make your hiring process more inclusive is to use the same scoring metrics for every candidate.
“Without a clear candidate evaluation scoring rubric and guidelines for application that underscore prioritized qualifications, evaluators will create their own criteria. The lack of intentional design for an equitable candidate evaluation process invites subjectivity, which reinforces hiring based on the status quo,” says Nathan Baptist, founder of EDI Mindfulness Consulting (source).
For each new role, establish an interview rubric with clear indicators for high, low, and average responses. This will make it easier to assess candidates fairly and objectively, rather than falling back on assumptions.
More to come…
This blog post was just the first in a series of multiple posts where we document the progress we make toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive place to work for and with. We started at the very beginning, hiring, but there’s so much left to talk about when it comes to this topic.
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Spiff is a new class of software that creates trust across the organization by delivering real-time automation of commission calculations and motivates teams to drive top-line growth. With a combination of an intuitive UI, real-time visibility, and seamless integrations into current systems, Spiff is the first choice among high-growth businesses. Spiff’s sales commission software enables finance and sales operations teams to self-manage complex incentive compensation plans and provides transparency for sales teams.