How technology can help diversity

When you hear the words “tech” and “diversity” these days, you think of Pinterest, Google, Apple, or Intel. These companies have committed over half a billion dollars between them to diversity hiring, and the importance of finding diverse candidates only grows stronger (see my article here for an analysis of where diversity hiring is today).

However, the lesser-spoken about issue (but just as big a challenge) is how technology can facilitate diversity in the working world beyond the tech industry. Professional services firms, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, and financial services firms (among other industries and government) are all pushing towards a more diverse workforce, and for good reason – there is a huge body of research suggesting diverse workforces lead to more profitable companies through a variety of channels.

So how exactly does technology facilitate diversity in the workforce?

Moving beyond identity: It may seem counterintuitive, but technology facilitates diversity in the workforce specifically because it focuses more on ability than the identity of a candidate or gut feel of the recruiter, which can be subconsciously biased to favour those who look or act like the recruiter (I talked about this phenomenon – homophily – in my latest article). Technology, taking a hint from social science, looks beyond identity to create blind “auditions”, where skill sets are assessed more thoroughly before identity ever enters the equation. This has been shown to increase diversity in the hiring pool dramatically by removing potential bias.

Virality: When a company did something awesome in the past, it took a long time for the information to spread. Now, technology can get the word out in milliseconds – sometimes even before a company has done anything because someone picks up on the signals that something is going to happen. Leverage this in your business by being active on niche sites that target minority communities, as good viral messaging can do much of your employer branding for you so the best candidates come knocking (just watch out for bad press, which can have a similar effect in the opposite direction).

Human connection: It seems like an oxymoron – human tech. However, technology is shifting back towards facilitating human connections. Ten Thousand Coffees is one such startup – its tech platform is entirely focused on getting people off the website and into real-life meetings. In a world where getting to know someone is another way to destroy bias (first you blind yourself to initially screen based on merit, then you engage with them as a person to lean more – it’s a weird process sometimes), using technology to facilitate a human connection can lead to more diversity in your hiring pool.

Filtering: Technology can not only find you a significantly larger pool of candidates, it can also help you make a decision as to which ones are more likely to succeed. Using tools like pipeline creators, pre-employment assessments, and other job testing options, technology can become an advisor in the hiring process, helping you find a wider pool of candidates then narrow that pool down to the ones that are most likely going to succeed in your firm – all regardless of identity. While it doesn’t replace the human decisions that go into hiring, it helps them become more efficient and effective.

Using technology, not only can you get more people in your hiring pool immediately, you can multiply your employer branding efforts to keep that pipeline strong. All of this enables your interview and screening process to find the best person; and this time, you’ve searched a much larger initial pool so know they are the best, period.