Promoting equal opportunities in recruiting, selecting and developing employees

May 8, 2017

The gender pay gap has been in the news recently, highlighting the fact that even though equal pay between the sexes has been part of UK law for 40 years, there are still significant differences between the pay for men and women doing the same or equivalent jobs.

Obligatory reporting of the gap in pay between male and female workers has just been introduced for organisations larger than 250 people. While it is hoped that this will encourage organisations to take action on their gender pay gaps, there is no requirement to do so. It’s also important to recognise that many factors lead to the difference in pay that we still see between the sexes; it is not just direct discrimination on behalf of organisations. Actually, aspects such as more women being in part time roles, in general having more child care and elder care responsibilities limiting the hours they can work and availability for overtime etc., which can in turn impact their reputation within the organisation, and their chances of a promotion or a pay rise. There are also historical cultural factors to consider, such as men being the traditional “bread winner” and roles requiring more traditionally “masculine” type qualities being considered to have intrinsically more worth than those requiring qualities considered traditionally “female”.

As such, making real and lasting change within organisations will be complicated, as any mixture of factors could be involved. The equal opportunities commission is encouraging organisations to undertake an equal pay audit, in order to understand and address their own specific reasons for unequal gender pay.

Broader issues relating to the gender pay gap are likely to impact all organisations to some degree or another. Some of these aspects, such as encouraging girls to continue their education in science, maths, technology and engineering, or enforcing well-paid paternity leave, are bigger than what individual organisations can impact directly. However, there are actions that organisations can take. For example, in recruitment, organisations who provide information about the number of individuals who have applied for a role and those who use less overtly masculine language in their advertisements see more applications from females, especially for roles in typically male-dominated areas (Croson and Gneezy 2009; Gaucher et al, 2011; Gee 2015). It’s also important to do as much as possible to reduce the impact of implicit biases throughout the recruitment process. “Blind” initial screening (e.g. reviewing CV’s with names covered) has been shown to increase the number of females selected. Further into the recruitment process, it’s essential to use valid and reliable selection methods, such as quality ability tests, well designed and delivered assessment centres, and to ensure all recruitment staff are properly trained.

The journey continues once individuals are on-boarded, as organisational culture, training and development opportunities can have a big impact on many factors which influence equal pay. One such factor is the number of women in senior roles in the organisation. This is important as equal representation of the sexes in senior ranks demonstrates an expectation of equality at more junior levels. Even within organisations where there is an imbalance, senior leaders can work to change internal culture to promote flexible working and inclusion. Another method seen to improve the situation is coaching and mentoring for high potential females. This can help to boost confidence and assertiveness, as well as broader leadership skills. Finally, equal development opportunities for both sexes is key to ensuring equal representation at higher organisational levels.span>The use of technology in assessment (particularly high-volume) is becoming more and more commonplace.  Psychometric tests of cognitive ability and situational judgement have been a staple of sifting processes for many organisations, for many years.  Nowadays, games-based assessment has become a popular route for recruiters wanting to provide an attractive experience for candidates.

In addition to immersion and accuracy, assessment technologies can also bring incredible time/cost-saving benefits.  For example, in 2015 we reduced the amount of days spent by the Fire & Rescue Services in Wales by implementing sifting technology and automating the marking processes.  Commercially speaking, their time in processing applications went down from 224 days (costing them £18,147.09 to process 2,096 applications) to 21 days (costing just £2,106.58 to process 5,912 applications).

In my conversations with clients, it doesn’t surprise me that most stakeholders are very familiar with the benefits of assessment technologies available to them.  However, many are very conscious of fairness in their use.  Diversity and inclusion is a core goal for organisations in the modern world, especially in light of research suggesting that more diverse workforces statistically outperform their competitors.  How can you be certain the technology you choose to use in assessing talent is giving all your candidates the same opportunity, while maintaining accuracy in decision-making?

Use the following 5 guidelines to give you greatest certainty that you are using your assessment technologies fairly:

1. Make Assessments Mobile/Tablet Compatible

At the time of writing, 63% of internet usage worldwide is on mobiles and tablets.  According to research, 80.28% of job searches for blue collar work is made on phones, as is the case for 57.46% of white collar roles.  You’re missing out on a lot of potential talent if your assessments can’t be accessed properly on mobile technology.  In the words of my colleague Ali Shalfrooshan, “it’s a form of digital discrimination!”

2. Test for Disability Access

In the UK, 10 million people are living with a disability.  That’s approximately 15% of the population.  Testing your online platform is essential to ensure it is accessible (in general usability terms) to your entire population of talent; if you don’t, you may be missing out.  For example, we introduced a video-based judgement test to the Civil Service which had been rigorously tested by people with a range of disabilities to ensure that it would give suitably wide access to all applicants.

3. Design Fair Content

Candidates have opinions about what they are experiencing.  For example, someone taking a numerical reasoning tests for a role that doesn’t require numerical reasoning may get the wrong impression about the nature of the role and get turned off the process.  The importance of content goes beyond face validity.  If you present virtual scenarios or simulations that give internal applicants an advantage because they introduce technical or procedural concepts, you are pre-requisitioning internal knowledge, and that’s not fair.

4. Validate your Assessments

How confident do you feel that your assessment measures what it is supposed to measure?  Are you guessing that it predicts which candidates would be the best performers on gut instinct, or do you know that from data analysis?  To give yourself proof to show your industry that your assessments are accurate, candidates are more likely to feel a sense of justice when they go through your process (regardless whether they are successful or not).  Trial the assessment first with your existing staff, collect job performance data on your trial subjects and get an analyst to correlate the two data sets.  If the results show your test predicts performance, it is more likely to be fair.

5. Monitor the Impact of your Assessments

Once you’ve implemented your assessment, you can begin collecting results from candidates.  If you monitor that data, you will see if any trends arise.  For example, what should you do if a question appears to be too easy or difficult for applicants from a minority group?  Logic dictates you should get rid of that item, because it is discriminating against or in favour of certain groups.  If you don’t monitor your test content at least every 6 months, you are potentially missing something important.