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How AI Helps Avoid Bias While Building Your Winning, Diverse Workforce

Christine Rochelle
May 1, 2020

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

These wise words are attributed to Albert Einstein.

Except Einstein never said them. The author was likely Rita Mae Brown, a best-selling writer and known activist for her time. And she had a much better hairstyle than Einstein.

Why the mix up? It seemed plausible. The rest of the world thought, “well that sounds like something he would say.” Cue millions of posters, mugs, and tote bags printed and sold around the globe.

This misattribution was repeated again and again, no thanks to poor fact checking and quite a bit of bias around who people thought was the more believable speaker. A newspaper editor recently fell into this trap and admitted, “it’s not surprising it has been attributed to Einstein…everything but the Book of Genesis has been attributed to him at some point.”

Bias gets in the way when it comes to sorting through facts and making decisions. Cognitive bias, specifically, derives from us using shortcuts and “rules of thumb” to make sense of the world. It allows for quick reactions but also distorts our perceptions. (Here’s an illustrated cognitive bias 101 resource).

What does this mean for the workplace?

Bias starts in the hiring process.

Teams are going to have some level of bias in the way they attract and engage talent. It’s human nature.

But it doesn’t end at the perspectives of your people. If the way you hire today looks like it did a decade ago, there is likely bias inherent in your process.

You know the famous, “we’ve always done it this way”? The more bias, the further you are from achieving true diversity.

How can you start to build a winning, diverse workforce?

Artificial intelligence. Yes, we have talked about AI for years. They’re replacing humans! They’re saving mankind! 

Our founder and chairman Colin Day recently wrote about the robots vs. humans’ debate in hiring. It sounds awfully big and unapproachable, but we forget that we live with AI every day.

Amazon and Netflix are the perfect examples of how AI helps us sort through thousands of options and narrow them down to a few. (“Recommended for you: gentle British reality television” is a very real and very accurate category on my Netflix account).

Just like the tech giants have used this technology to make our busy lives a little easier, AI has two big benefits for talent acquisition:

1. The ability to do more with less through advanced automation

2. Access to deeper insights for better decision-making

Amazon and Netflix are two consumer examples of AI in our daily lives. But let us dig deeper into what AI looks like in today’s talent acquisition world.

Building a Winning, Diverse Workforce with Unbiased AI Recruiting

Targeted recruiting

Say your team needs to hire a software engineer in Boston. Before the requisition is opened, AI can predict potential challenges and suggest ways to optimize.

How long did it take to fill this role previously? Which job boards are most effective? AI can offer suggestions for optimizing your job descriptions to align closer to similar roles in the industry.

Here’s how recruiters can fold AI into their larger targeted recruitment strategies.

Personalized candidate experiences

The job market is changing every day, but this doesn’t mean the candidate experience is no longer a priority. Your consumer brand and employer brand have never been as entwined as they are today.

AI transforms the application process and overall experience through automated communications that remain personal and human. Job seekers feel valued with easy applications, virtual hiring experiences, and tailored recommendations for best-fit jobs.

A mouth-watering example of this is RPM Pizza, the largest Domino’s franchisee in the U.S. Their recruiters use AI to communicate with job seekers through text and live chat. The AI-powered chatbot – nicknamed “Dottie” – answers job seeker questions and even initiates the screening process. Just like the restaurant’s beloved “pizza tracker,” Dottie offers candidates an application tracker to boost engagement and free up time from the hiring team.

You can dig into more about RPM Pizza’s results with Dottie here.

Powerful internal mobility

A culture of inclusivity is one where workers feel invested in. Treat your current workforce and potential candidates alike: AI supports your team in considering internal talent for open roles.

The American Heart Association offers professional development to their internal talent through their Talent Exchange Portal, where employees can request to participate in projects outside of their current role to hone their skills and build relationships. A dedicated, internal careers site like this can even intelligently match workers with adjacent roles in the business.

Looking to the Future: Ensemble Diversity AI

Leaders know that organizations thrive when backed by diverse talent. Yet, talent acquisition teams often find themselves sorting through thousands of resumes — there’s no time to wait for the perfect candidate pool.

Let’s again consider our Netflix example. Instead of using one AI engine to enhance search results, the tech giant decided to use a multitude of algorithms to beef up their offerings.

This is called Ensemble AI.

As HRE’s John Sumer explains, “three heads are better than one.” He writes about how the benefit of Ensemble AI is “knitting together three different AI-driven search tools with a voting methodology.” (Editor’s note: iCIMS has sought out a patent for its Ensemble AI technology).

How does that translate to building a diverse candidate pool? Virginia Backaitis of Digitizing Polaris described it best. Ensemble AI tech can “unearth the best candidates for a job – or jobs for a candidate – then serves those recommendations up in a single view.” Recruiters then have a manageable number to closely review.

“[The tech] not only helps eliminate bias,” Backaitis continues. “It is also constantly learning and updating itself in order to keep getting better at what it does.”

(You can read more from Backaitis’ article about hiring in the post-pandemic economy here.)

Technology Gets Us To a Better Tomorrow, But We Need to Be Here, Too

AI is a core building block of what we know is the new future of work. But it’s not the foundation – we are. If the technology isn’t led, supervised, and able to be overridden by humans, we will only train it to do the same error-prone work over and over.

And we’ll be expecting different results. Now that is insanity.

Recruiters who value diversity of thought and experience, and who also adopt AI, have the power to transform their companiesand perhaps even their industriesby pulling from a pool of talent that isn’t bound by bias or influenced by convention.

It is time to go beyond filling req’s with “top talent.” It’s time to talk about how we will define and build diverse, winning workforces that benefit us all.

Are you ready to further the conversation about AI-enabled tools for hiring?


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