The adage that first impressions last should serve as a warning to employers seeking to improve diversity in their companies, an expert says.
"Potential employers too often still evaluate applicants based on their initial impressions, with the result that their unconscious biases continue to influence hiring decisions," says Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource ICT and IT Edge – the specialised recruitment agencies of ADvTECH Resourcing focusing on Finance, Accounting and IT.
"It is time for companies to consider the need for first impressions to literally be the last thing they consider, and to make hiring decisions based on attitude and skills to avoid discarding talent that doesn't fit preconceived notions.
"If we're going to achieve real workplace diversity, we need to focus on hiring skills that will keep pace with our changing environment and with the thinking required to both maintain 'business as usual' and to innovate and disrupt," she says.
Barrick says there are a number of new and exciting innovations in hiring that can assist in properly uncovering functional competence.
"Hiring managers continue to favour the more traditional, unstructured interviews despite multiple studies finding this style of interview to be among the worst predictor of actual and future job performance. Unfortunately, unstructured interviews allow unconscious or 'implicit' bias into the hiring process, which perpetuates homogeneity in organisations, because managers continue to appoint people based on feeling rather than fact," she says.
"It's human nature, and very tempting, to 'hire in your own image' because the familiar is comforting. We do business with people we like and who are like us. However research has unequivocally proven the benefits of diversity – including improved earnings, enhanced problem solving, increased growth and innovation, and improved quality of work."
It therefore makes sense for organisations to review their approach to shortlisting prospective candidates, and to ensure that the truly talented, qualified and experienced candidates aren't lost from the get go.
So what measures can organisations take to ensure they don't lose top talent based on first impressions?
Barrick says they should consider adding the following approaches to their hiring repertoire:
A blind audition allows all candidates to be adjudicated first – and primarily – on their functional competencies, including knowledge, skill and experience.
Using software such as, for instance, GapJumpers, companies get candidates to complete anonymous challenges that demonstrate their skills and test whether they are qualified to perform a job. The software then strips CVs of all identifying information, such as name (which could give clues to ethnicity), graduation year (age), school and address (socio-economic background).
Potential employers then evaluate applicants based on skills only, to avoid discarding talent for the shortlist that doesn't fit preconceived notions.
"It's important to remember that using software to anonymously screen candidates will get you only half way through the hiring process," notes Barrick, "and that those who pass should still be considered in terms of fit through other processes."
Collaborative – or team-based – hiring involves including members of the team in the interview process.
The benefits include reduction in bias (particularly if the team is diverse), higher levels of employee engagement, more diverse assessment of applicant skills and different approaches to selling the job to potential hires.
Structured interviews – where different interviewers pose the same set of questions in the same order – allow for clearer comparison and evaluation of candidates, and questions can straddle both behavioural and functional competencies, says Barrick.
In a process like this, it's important that the interviewer scores each answer immediately after it's provided, and that candidate responses are compared horizontally (in other words, all candidate responses to each of the questions are compared). Comparative evaluations help to calibrate across candidates to reduce bias and decrease reliance on stereotypes.
CONSIDERING THE LANGUAGE IN JOB ADVERTISEMENTS
Software like Textio or Gender Decoder for Job Ads helps employers to avoid bias in job advertising by avoiding coded words relating to gender, race, ethnicity, and so forth.
These products highlight words as 'negative', 'positive', 'repetitive', 'masculine' (active, adventurous, challenge) or 'feminine' (honest, cooperate, depend) and offer recommendations on how to improve job descriptions so as not to exclude a gender or ethnic group.
IMPLICIT ASSESSMENT TESTS
Developed at Harvard, the IAT uncovers thoughts that are being unconsciously hidden by testers and helps to measure attitudes and beliefs.
The purpose of the test is to make employers more aware – and to check – their biases when interviewing.
"Diversity – and ultimately, greater business success – can be achieved through a combination of hiring processes that are designed to truly uncover functional and behavioural fit," says Barrick.
"If greater diversity is one of the goals, as it should be, a good place to start the journey is by reviewing potentially outdated hiring practices."
DID YOU KNOW?
ADvTECH Resourcing is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa's largest private education provider and a continental leader in quality education, training, skills development and staffing services.
Through its 10 recruitment brands, ADvTECH places thousands of candidates annually, maintaining its focus on niche placements in the finance, IT, engineering, HR, logistics, freight and supply chain management sectors.
The demand for highly qualified big data analysts is outstripping supply to the point where it can take many months to fill vacancies, according to Georgina Barrick, divisional managing director of Insource ict – a division of ADvTECH Resourcing.
Barrick said there was a dire shortage of all specialised ICT skills.
PIC: GEORGINA BARRICK
“Highly skilled and experienced big data analysts, data science experts, data modellers, machine learning boffins as well as Artificial Intelligence professionals are becoming as hard to find “as hen’s teeth”.
“We all know that there is a dearth of skills in data analytics but there seems little that can be done about the situation in the short term because the majority of students entering universities don’t have the foundational skills in mathematics and science to enter this field.”
She said the primary reason for the shortage was that the big five banks, consulting firms and JSE listed companies were snapping them up as fast as they were graduating.
“Big data has become a panacea for many of the systemic ills that are besetting the South African economy because it is seen as a cure-all. Because – if correctly applied – big data can assist companies to maximise their resources more than any other discipline, these men and women are in huge demand not just in the business world but also in the scientific field which includes medical research and big pharma.
Click here to read the full article in Business Report.
ADvTECH is Africa's largest private higher education and private university provider, and parent company of The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest and most accredited private higher education provider. The IIE's highly respected educational brands include Vega, Varsity College, Rosebank College and The Business School at Varsity College.
It is no secret that the world of work is shifting, and that individuals need to prepare for this changing landscape if they want their skills to remain in demand. And the way to do so, is to become a SMART worker, an employment expert says.
"Within the next decade – and we are already seeing this happening to some degree – the traditional employer/employee relationship will be largely a thing of the past," says Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource ICT and IT Edge – the specialised recruitment agencies of ADvTECH Resourcing focusing on Finance, Accounting and IT.
She says that by 2030, historical workplace structures will overwhelmingly have been replaced by the concept of workers as consultants and their own bosses, who sell their services to client companies.
"As we move away from the idea of the employee working for one company, depending on that company for everything from their salary to the promise that they will in all likelihood be able to rely on that company for a safe and ongoing income, individuals need to understand how they can navigate the workplace market in the not-so-distant future," says Barrick.
And this is where being SMART comes in.
"SMART is an acronym for the profile of future-fit workers: Specialist, Mobile, Adaptable, Resilient and Talented. Being SMART will be the key to surviving and thriving in the new world of work," she says.
Barrick says the driving forces behind the changing work environment include rapid and ongoing technological innovation, which is responsible for the disruption of historic industries and old economic systems. This gives rise to new industries and jobs, but also means that an estimated 50% of all jobs currently in existence – including white collar roles – will become automated.
"Already, we are seeing evidence of so-called creative destruction in rising global unemployment, declining average length of service, increasing mid-career transitions and disruption across all industries," says Barrick.
"Over the next five years, the World Economic Forum estimates that we'll see the decline of job families like Office, Administration, Manufacturing and Production. Conversely, there should be a rise in the importance of Business and Financial Operations, Information Technology, Mathematical, Architectural and Engineering roles.
"While these are certainly scary times, they are also exciting, as we enter an age where the goal of a bigger return for less work may be achieved, but only if you have the right skills and are able to adapt to a rapidly changing work environment."
Barrick says global research have identified 4 major trends that will impact the world of work over the next 15 years:
"Globally, we are seeing a continuation of the growing trend towards short term work.
According to the International Labour Organisation's 'The Changing Nature of Jobs', 75% of the global workforce is currently employed on temporary or short-term contracts.
It is believed that by 2030, workers will work 'with', not 'for', companies and will work with multiple 'clients' simultaneously, joining skills guilds, rather than becoming employees.
The focus will be on knowledge workers, who can do their jobs anywhere and at any time.
This idea of workers as entrepreneurs will promote flexibility and autonomy – and will benefit high-skill workers."
2. LIFELONG LEARNINGAlready, the idea that you study and then use what you've learned to follow a career at one company throughout your life has become obsolete, notes Barrick."Lifelong learning, where workers constantly reskill or renew skills every 5 years, is becoming the norm," she says.
3. QUALITY VS QUANTITY"The emphasis is shifting away from chasing money at all costs to a focus on critical values, like work/life balance, happiness and fulfilment," says Barrick."In future, there will increasingly be a shift away from the culture of 'overwork' towards a system where work is enmeshed in life – and reward is based on expertise and results, and not on job title or length of service."
4. TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONTechnology already enables remote work and, as fibre becomes the norm in South Africa, internet speed is no longer the inhibitor it was 10 years ago. "Over the next 15 years, it's predicted that rapid technological innovation will promote 24/7 work performed by employees in different geographic locations and time zones. The traditional notion of a 'corner office' as we know it today will become obsolete as workers work remotely, hot desk and collaborate in ways we can't yet imagine."
"Ultimately what all of this means, is that individuals need to become more adaptable, and be able to manage their careers with greater resilience and flexibility," says Barrick.
"They also need to become adept at building their personal brands and selling themselves on a fluid job market. Reputation management, customer relations and negotiation will be key to the worker of the future. Additionally, they need to take responsibility for lifelong learning and regular upskilling, with a good dash of entrepreneurship thrown in."
Employers of the future also need to adapt, she warns.
"They will need to be able to manage complexity and ambiguity effectively, and quickly and efficiently identify skills gaps and tap into the freelance market. Additionally, employers should already start investigating how they can develop collaborative, global, and virtual working environments in order to attract the best talent."