Data - The Key To Unlocking Your Diversity

4 months ago Kirsten Tolfree-Dart & Jon Jacobs

Harry Quan G1i Y Ce Cw2 Ei Unsplash

​At Caraffi, one of our (unofficial) mantras is: what doesn’t get measured, can’t be improved. Without data and insights, organisations will struggle to implement change and transformation programmes – and that is no different when it comes to the much discussed topic of diversity and inclusion.

D&I is on everyone’s agenda. How could it not be? As changing social and political attitudes continue to shine a spotlight on organisations’ diversity and inclusion efforts, it is D&I data that will allow organisations to have the difficult conversations they need to have in order to create change.

We talked to Kirsten Tolfree-Dart, Caraffi’s Head of Operational Excellence and Jon Jacobs – a founder of the newly launched startup CandidateX, which is currently developing a talent intelligence platform – to understand how businesses can really harness D&I data to overhaul not just their recruitment process, but the talent experience as a whole.

“We’re putting into place an equality first process which is a completely unbiased, anonymised hiring process until the point of interview,” Jon Jacobs tells us. By anonymising the hiring process the founders of CandidateX believe that this platform will help organisations widen their candidate pool and encourage a much more diverse shortlist of candidates.

The hiring process as it currently stands sees talent acquisition professionals receive vast numbers of applications for every one vacancy – especially now that unemployment has grown since the start of the pandemic. Jon continues, “if you’ve got to try and get through 200 or so CVs you’re going to create shortcuts in order to minimise the amount of conversations you need to have.” It’s these shortcuts that create implicit bias in the hiring process that can systematically screen out diverse applicants.

But it’s not just the anonymisation of hiring data that brings value to organisations. It is, of course, the analysis and insights that you get from diversity data that not only adds value to an organisation’s strategy behind their hiring process, but to their entire people experience within their business.

Kirsten Tolfree-Dart tells us, “I think sometimes organisations fall foul of putting jobs on D&I boards or trying to use loads of different tools which everybody talks about doing without the data to prove that it’s working.” Thinking back to our Caraffi mantra – without the necessary reporting functionalities in place, organisations will never be able to create incremental changes because they won’t be able to understand the exact places in their process that form barriers to diverse talent.

“But it’s important to remember”, Kirsten adds, “that if the person who gets the job happens to be white male that’s also okay! It’s not like that’s a bad thing! But you have to be able to demonstrate that you have validated, considered and fairly screened candidates and their suitability… but you do need data to tell that story.”

One of the big problems at the moment, both Kirsten and Jon agree, is there is a level of mistrust from applicants when it comes to diversity data. Jon says, “Candidates might think: ‘why are you asking me this information?’ almost like it might get used to rule them out rather than to rule them in and I think that’s a problem we [CandidateX] can hope to address by being a very transparent third party that is asking for this data.” Once candidates feel as though they have a safe and transparent environment in which to give data, then the data you collect can broaden the conversation past diversity data to data that can help foster inclusion. Kirsten mentions that the data organisations collect “shouldn’t just be: ‘I’m female and I’m white and I’m in this age bracket’ - because there’s more to me than that so we need to give candidates the opportunity to give us that data but also give them a safe environment to do so.”

Kirsten continues, “if we’re going to ask them to say, ‘I am white and I’m female’ they need to be able to trust that they’re talking to a human who is going to treat them with respect during the interview process. So, I think the data is wonderful if it’s harnessed in the right way and if recruiters and talent acquisition individuals understand how to make candidates feel trusted - that they are going to be treated with respect and not be discounted or viewed as a token hire.”

But just like in the consumer space, when individuals give up their data they expect a more personalised process. The personalisation of the candidate experience, just like D&I is a hot topic on the talent agenda, but whilst they are often seen as two separate projects, they are inextricably linked. If someone needed reasonable adjustments for an interview, you would want to understand why and then make all the necessary adjustments to ensure that the individual is given every opportunity to perform well. Harnessing inclusion data about applicants will allow organisations to personalise their talent experience based on in-depth insights about their candidate’s wants and needs.

But before organisations can even think of harnessing the data and insights from inclusive tech platforms, they first have to engage in a moment of introspection, Kirsten warns. “It sounds a bit corny, but first organisations have to get their house in order”.

“If you don’t offer flexible working for parents and if you don’t have a flexible environment for people to work in, if they need any adjustments and you don’t have the right working arrangements for individuals they may well come and join your business but they’re going to quickly leave because they may not feel comfortable or able to feel successful.”

So, how do you start to ‘get your house in order’? Kirsten elaborates, “start with taking a huge amount of employee and candidate feedback, then really identify the problems and challenges you’re trying to solve and then get the right solution in place. I’d love to see organisations changing the dial on their typical engagement surveys. Asking questions on how comfortable they feel at work, how inclusive is the organisation, how inclusive is their team? Imagine an organisation being brave enough to share openly not just their hiring targets for D&I but to share how their employees really feel about working there. That isn’t just Glassdoor recommendations, that’s true emotional real life facts coming through from employees.”

“If you’re really going to tackle diversity and inclusion,” Jon continues, “and you’re absolutely committed to achieving a more diverse workforce and a more inclusive culture, you have to uncover every stone and you need to understand exactly what is going on within your business before you can start to drive those initiatives forward. That requires some uncomfortable conversations but once these things are out in the open, you will find you have a better perspective to start these projects.”

If you want to know more about CandidateX then head to their website for updates of their development of this exciting new platform - FIND OUT MORE

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