Diversity and inclusion are now key priorities for many HR Leaders. While there are various legal requirements across global regions to prevent discrimination (intentional or otherwise) against protected groups, the smartest companies are actively pursuing diversity and inclusion agendas. Previously seen by some as “nice to have” or simply the right thing to do, research increasingly shows that diverse teams which foster a genuine sense of inclusion outperform less diverse teams (e.g. Mckinsey report).
Diversity is about the representation of individuals with various identities and differences and inclusion refers to enabling active participation of all individuals. While diversity efforts initially focused on legally protected groups and visible differences, such as gender, race and physical disabilities, there is progressively more focus on more nuanced aspects, such as neurodiversity (e.g. Deloitte report). In order to develop workforces which are representative of whole populations, and reap the associated organisational benefits, all aspects of diversity should be considered.
Equity is increasingly accepted as the third essential element to achieve fair and successful workplaces. Equity is about recognising that societal systems produce complex mixtures of privilege and disadvantage for everyone, dependent on multiple factors, and these are reflected within organisations (e.g. SHRM). Equity efforts can help to level the playing field and provide equal opportunity of outcome for all employees.
So, how can the way you use recruitment assessments boost or hamper your organisation’s diversity outcomes? Let’s take a look at some practical tips.
Being clear on the diversity factors you want to improve can really enhance outcomes. While you might want to increase all aspects of diversity within your organisation, the evidence suggests that having specific, measurable and achievable targets to focus on can make progress more likely. Also, consider how hiring fits into your organisation’s broader DE&I strategy to ensure that all policies and practices are aligned towards the same aims. For example, in order to see the benefits associated with hiring diverse teams, your onboarding practices must also actively foster inclusion.
Use relevant assessments: It can be tempting to assess for everything under the sun, but if we do this, we risk unfairly rejecting candidates with potential for the role and this can inadvertently reduce the diversity of our talent pool. So, it’s important to choose assessments that are explicitly related to the requirements of the role.
Use psychometrically robust assessments: The next step to enhancing diversity outcomes through assessments, is to use scientifically constructed and validated tools which accurately assess what they say they will in a non-biased way. An assessment might look shiny and exciting and be delivered on a slick mobile-enabled platform (which is great for candidate engagement), but when you’re focused on DE&I outcomes, the most critical factor is whether the chosen assessments will give an objective appraisal of each candidate, and accurately predict their success in a role. So, when selecting assessments, be sure to investigate the scientific basis and validation of the tools, which should be available through the provider.
Consider candidate accessibility: Another area to explore is how your chosen assessments enable candidate accessibility. For example, many providers will offer time adjustments for time-limited assessments so candidates who require extra time to complete assessment tasks will not be unfairly disadvantaged.
Another useful accessibility feature is unscored assessment questions or tutorials, which provide candidate feedback and do not impact the results of the assessment. This feature gives candidates the opportunity to get familiar with the assessment, and to feel comfortable and in control of their assessment experience. This can help to reduce test-taking anxiety and improve the candidate experience. Such features can also be especially helpful for candidates living with various individual needs such as physical, psychological, sensory and neurodiversity conditions.
Use combinations of assessments: Finally, a relevant assessment mix can boost diversity outcomes. For example, you can combine a cognitive aptitude assessment with an assessment which measures preferences for ways of behaving (personality) and provides insights into a candidate’s potential to perform in technical aspects of the role, as well as their likely ways of “showing up” on the job. By assessing both of these aspects we gain a more holistic picture of what candidates can do and will do in a role.
Once you’ve chosen scientifically robust assessments relevant to the role, the next step is to build a recruitment process which enables diversity, equity and inclusion of candidates (DE&I). Remember to check your process against local legal requirements.
Use assessments early: Utilising psychometric assessments early in the recruitment process can help highlight candidates who have great potential for the role, but who may be overlooked based on their resume, perhaps because of their experience, their name or the school they attended. Therefore, assessments provide an objective data point, unaffected by our natural human biases, to help diversify our talent pool at the top of the recruitment funnel. For more on biases and how to reduce them in hiring see Criteria’s Diversity at Work ebook.
Use assessments fairly: All things being equal, everyone who applies for the same role should complete identical assessments, so you have consistent information about each candidate on which to base decision-making. However, to enable equal opportunities for all, reasonable adjustments may need to be made to assessment processes. For example, if an online assessment is difficult for a visually impaired person to access, and no alternative assessment method is provided, that’s not a fair or equitable process.
So, if a candidate comes forward with accessibility needs which won’t impact their ability to do the job but would impact their performance on the assessment, it’s appropriate to adjust the assessment process to enable them to demonstrate their potential. It is recommended to discuss the needs of the candidate with them, to find the most appropriate adjustment to an assessment. Discussing the format of the assessment with the candidate can help to ascertain whether it is a task they are able to perform. Reputable assessment providers will offer guidance to help clients support candidate accessibility needs. Revelian clients have access to a Customer Success Manager and Consulting Psychologist to support them in achieving their DE&I goals.
Assess candidate performance against the requirements of role: Although it can be tempting to compare candidates to each other in recruitment process, when focusing on DE&I outcomes a successful alternative strategy is to evaluate each candidate’s potential against the requirements of the role. This helps to avoid biases creeping into our evaluation process and therefore improves diversity of outcomes.
Use multiple data points for decision-making: Assessments can provide us with invaluable, objective information about a candidate’s potential for a role; however, they are one piece of the puzzle when it comes to making selection decisions. It’s important to gather a range of information about the candidate’s experience, knowledge and likely performance in the role through various methods such as structured interviews, work samples and references, to help fully evaluate the candidate’s suitability. Each additional piece of information provides richer insights and not only leads to more confident decision-making, but also provides new perspectives which can improve diversity of hire.
Consider blind hiring: A specific way to reduce bias when using assessment results is to remove names from the results – so you don’t know who the results belong to. Many studies have shown that removing identifying information removes the impact of unconscious biases on evaluations of candidates’ suitability for roles. For more information review our blog on this topic.
This is an exciting time as the DE&I journey evolves. To continue using recruitment assessments effectively to meet your DE&I goals, it’s essential to evaluate the hiring process and monitor outcomes on an ongoing basis.
Evaluate the process: One practical way to do this could be an adverse impact analysis. This is a statistical process which can be used to look at the ratio of candidates from different demographic groups meeting assessment benchmarks or moving through each recruitment stage. The 4/5ths rule is often used as a guide to check whether a decision, practice or policy has a disproportionately negative effect on a particular group (which may be unintentional).
Monitor outcomes: It’s also useful to monitor diversity efforts holistically. For example, if your goal is to hire 30% more candidates from ethnically diverse backgrounds, you need to have a broad enough mix of candidates at the top of the recruitment funnel to bring the same ratio of candidates through to each round in the process. If ethnically diverse candidates are dropping out at a specific stage, you can investigate any systematic procedural or behavioural barriers which are leading to that.
Gather feedback: Another great way to monitor DE&I progress is to gather feedback from successful and unsuccessful candidates about the recruitment process and the assessments used. Some areas to explore could be: Did candidates feel they could demonstrate their strengths through the assessments? How did they feel about any feedback provided? Based on their experience, would they apply for another role at the organisation? Analysing the feedback provided based on the demographic characteristics of candidates can help to spot trends in the experiences of diverse candidates and highlight where alterations to the process may be required.
The most important thing is to go back to your initial diversity goals and evaluate how you are tracking towards them, then use this information to make tweaks to the recruitment process.
So, in order to use recruitment assessments to enhance your organisation’s diversity outcomes consider the following: