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Diversity and Inclusion remains a top challenge for companies in 2021, despite 81% conducting unconscious bias training

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  • New survey from Arctic Shores reveals organisational goals and challenges for talent acquisition in 2021
  • 3 in 4 companies are reviewing diversity hiring practices
  • 1 in 4 rank unconscious bias as number one challenge to solve in the recruitment process

London, UK, 2nd March 2021: A recent survey by Arctic Shores, which investigated the talent acquisition landscape for the year ahead, revealed that 3 in 4 companies plan to review their diversity hiring practices for 2021. These findings are surprising, considering 81% of companies already run unconscious bias training. This would suggest diminishing confidence amongst talent leaders that unconscious bias training alone is enough to ensure fair, consistent and effective processes.

Companies were asked to rank their top three desired improvements to the talent acquisition (TA) process in 2021. After a year that saw the Black Lives Matter movement catapult to the front of the news and social agenda, it is positive to see businesses naming ‘removing unconscious bias’ as the most-selected priority (25%) to improve the TA process. This was followed by ‘making hiring manager interviews less prone to ‘gut feel’ (24%), with the third most popular answer ‘making the delivery of the talent acquisition process consistent across the business’ (18%).

These desired improvements also align with the overall top challenges for talent in 2021, which are ‘access to top talent’ (19%) and ‘diversity and inclusion’ (18%).

Robert Newry, CEO of Arctic Shores, commented: “The BLM movement has amplified a long overdue awareness of bias and driven the need for action, so it’s encouraging to see companies saying they want to address issues of ‘gut feel’ and unconscious bias. The steps are promising, but recent examples, notably comments from the ex-Chair of KPMG UK, show that there is still a lot of work to do. Companies and their employees are pushing for a change in culture and mindset, and 2021 is an opportunity to take a leap forward in the right direction.”

Newry continued: “The survey also highlights that there is a problem between company training and actual delivery of diversity objectives. Companies need to ask themselves why they are hiring for diversity? Because it’s a box to tick? No, of course not. People should want to celebrate and be part of diverse teams – and we should all feel a duty to provide fairness and opportunity. This, in turn, will create stronger teams and have a bigger impact on success.”

Sean Mileusnic, Director of Organisational Development from fast-growing tech company Avast, who participated in the research, said: “We want to create a process where there are no barriers whatsoever. Be it gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or social class, we’re creating a naturally inclusive experience. And, as a consequence, we’ll naturally be more diverse.”

Alongside a CV and interview to assess candidate potential, 9 out of 10 respondents say they use at least one or more extra tools (e.g. an application form, behaviour-based assessment, realistic job preview, situational judgement test), with just under half (48%) using a ‘technical skills test’.

Newry added: “It’s encouraging to see that businesses are using a range of tools to get a wider picture of a candidate’s suitability. But many of these tools and technology solutions are designed to use skills and experience as a form of assessment. The important question is, how do you measure someone’s alignment to culture, or values? Currently, there’s a reliance on ad hoc – and sometimes borderline ridiculous – questions over objective data and real behavioural insight. When behaviour is being measured, it is often in curated environments that are still open to bias and ‘gut feel’ decisions.

At a time when there is more available talent than ever, we need to sharpen our focus on measuring what actually matters and challenge the old school ways of hiring.”

He concluded: “Technology is only part of the answer. Organisations need to re-think people, process and technology together. Only then can we address problems of diversity and inclusion, improve candidate experiences, and make the hiring process fairer for all.”

About the survey:

The survey was conducted with 250 business leaders, heads of talent acquisition and HR directors from six industries: Technology/IT, finance, consultancy, engineering, insurance and accountancy. The report which also included insights from the interviews with 20 people leaders in tech can be requested here:

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