Diversity and Inclusion is a prominent topic in the talent acquisition industry. With that in mind, I spoke to Lynn In Ok Schaefer, the Head of People and Culture at homee & stromee, about how business can create an equitable recruitment process on Episode 139 of Talent & Growth. Lynn has a background in HR and recruitment, having previously worked at McKinsey and a number of other leading firms in a talent or advisory capacity. Read on for her advice on how to build an equitable recruitment process. 

From your research, how can companies promote D&I in their workforce?

One of the biggest projects we did was a comparative case study analysis of gender inclusion in talent management. We investigated the peculiarities of talent management and gender inclusion in two companies. This was when companies in Germany started to heavily invest in diversity and female initiatives because of new legislation. The companies we talked to were interested in finding out if those initiatives were paying off, because they invested millions in female mentoring and talent management programmes, but they thought nothing really changed. They still had problems with female quotas in higher management positions. The percentage of women in senior leadership was still very low. 

We identified five elements, which are talent definition, career orientation, talent development program content, the talent management approach and the talent selection process. These criteria determine the degree of gender bias and the discriminatory risk of talent management in that specific company. We looked at whether the overall organisational talent definition was equally associated with the typically feminine or masculine traits in these five places. 

One has to be very aware of certain biases when defining who and what is talent. Does that apply to vertical and horizontal career progression as well? What about diverse supervisors and nominators or when it comes to talent nominations and talent reviews? Companies need to be aware of that and have transparent criteria and processes. What we also found is that the companies investing in talent management programmes often had female networking and mentoring programmes for different age groups. One company found that they had a 50% quota of women at the entry level, but only 15 to 20% at the top level, so they investigated the level they were losing talent and how they could promote them more effectively. 

There are so many gender gaps in terms of pay, time, knowledge and health. It’s up to companies to even the playing field. There’s still so much room for improvement and so many things we have to look at.

How can companies ensure that their recruitment processes are unbiased and equitable for all candidates?

There’s a quote saying, “If you have a brain, you’re biassed.” That’s true for everyone, but in recruitment it’s important to be able to put that aside. When thinking about biases in general, there’s a short visualisation exercise I use. Imagine the following scenario: 

You are late to catch a flight. You rush to the airport, make it through security, run to the gates and get on the plane just as they close the door behind you. The pilot steps out of the cockpit and says Hi as you sit down. When you get to your destination, you go to the local restaurant and at the table next to you is a couple happily celebrating their anniversary. The next morning, you go to the biggest tech conference in the world, and the CEO of this year’s hottest tech startup just took the stage to speak. 

In your mental image, was the pilot black? Was the married couple two men? Was the tech CEO a woman? These are just a couple of questions that help you examine your own behaviour. They’re a powerful way to reveal how your unconscious bias works and the way you see things. 

Some pragmatic recommendations for companies start with the job posting. Try to improve them through your language by appealing to a diverse range of potential candidates. Have a balanced pipeline in your sourcing stage. Conduct blind screenings. There were a couple of experiments in Germany where they tried to screen candidates without names, pictures, demographic, age, nationality, etc. to try and remove these biases from their interview. 

Use standardised questions. Train your recruiters on unconscious biases and cognitive ability testing. Have diverse interview panels and a clear competence-based evaluation criteria. Collect, monitor and analyse data for disparities in your hiring process. 

To learn more about equitable talent strategies, tune into Episode 139 of Talent & Growth here