Over­com­ing Bias And Meet­ing The Chal­lenges Of Ta­lent Ac­qui­si­tion And Re­ten­tion

Work­place di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion is more of a ne­ces­sity than a choice be­cause global work­force de­mo­graph­ics are chang­ing

Dataquest - - CONTENTS - (The au­thor is VP, HR, Sun Life Fi­nan­cial Asia Ser­vice Cen­tre)

Select­ing and re­tain­ing the best ta­lent re­quires that HR man­agers con­sciously shed prej­u­dices and prac­tice be­ing ob­jec­tive and ra­tio­nal in their day to day lives. There is a very sound eco­nomic ar­gu­ment against job dis­crim­i­na­tion. Com­mon ob­ser­va­tion teaches us that many in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sions by both em­ploy­ers and work­ers de­ter­mine the fi­nally agreed upon wage rate or salary for a par­tic­u­lar line of work. Now, if an em­ployer de­cides to re­mu­ner­ate all em­ploy­ees based on the av­er­age ex­pec­ta­tion of pro- duc­tiv­ity of the work­force, there are no in­cen­tives for the more ca­pa­ble em­ploy­ees to excel and im­prove.

HIGH COST OF DIS­CRIM­I­NA­TION IN THE WORK­PLACE On the other hand, if salaries are linked to per­for­mance then both the em­ployer and the em­ployee stand to gain from in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity that can trans­late into sales or an equiv­a­lent money earn­ing op­por­tu­nity. In prac­tice, a cer­tain com­po­nent of salary is kept fixed and an­other com­po­nent made vari­able, con­tin­gent upon the ben­e­fit

that in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity of the em­ployee brings to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Now if an em­ployer is bi­ased to­wards a cer­tain ad­van­taged com­mu­nity, such as a white male in early in­dus­trial Amer­ica, and re­stricts his se­lec­tion to this com­mu­nity then he com­presses his range of op­tions. Not only is he miss­ing out on la­tent ta­lent, he is fore­go­ing po­ten­tial ben­e­fits and sur­pluses his or­ga­ni­za­tion could have re­ceived had he not lim­ited his vi­sion. Fur­ther, as the work­force con­tracts, wage rates go up and in a com­pet­i­tive world this can be dis­ad­van­ta­geous.

This is why it makes sense to shun all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion – gen­der, race and caste – if you wish to re­cruit the most de­sir­able can­di­date for a job de­scrip­tion.


Work­place di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion is more of a ne­ces­sity than a choice be­cause global work­force de­mo­graph­ics are chang­ing. In fact, the change in de­mo­graph­ics shows a higher pro­por­tion of ed­u­cated and skilled man­power emerg­ing from de­vel­op­ing economies and de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ties, who will also be the con­sumers of to­mor­row. So, it is vi­tal that com­mu­ni­ties learn to in­te­grate in the work­place and al­low ev­ery­one to grad­u­ally climb up the so­cial and eco­nomic pyra­mid.


Bias doesn’t end at the level of the re­cruit­ing in­di­vid­ual. IQ and tra­di­tional ap­ti­tude tests have shown to be bi­ased to­ward higher in­come house­hold ur­ban males. It is im­por­tant that re­cruiters, to­day, con­tin­u­ously stay up­dated with mod­ern ap­ti­tude tests that leave no room for cheating, ad­van­tages and at­ti­tu­di­nal bias. To do this, your com­pany’s busi­ness goals must be very well de­fined. Tra­jec­to­ries be­tween mile­stones must be clearly en­vi­sioned, skills and pro­duc­tiv­i­ties clearly iden­ti­fied and a trace­able, tra­vers­a­ble path should be clearly enun­ci­ated.

Tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion has of­ten been men­tioned as one of the ma­jor chal­lenges of to­day’s hir­ing process. With au­to­ma­tion and heuris­tics, bias can be min­i­mized. The caveat is that the per­for­mance mon­i­tor­ing al­go­rithm is only as un­bi­ased as the pro­gram­mer. Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in HR does seem to have the ca­pac­ity to bridge the gaps of asym­met­ric in­for­ma­tion be­tween the em­ployer and the em­ployee.


Lastly, putting in place, an en­vi­ron­ment that fos­ters learn­ing by chal­lenge and time-bound growth has been shown to bear fruit when prac­ticed on the right kind of em­ployee. Work en­vi­ron­ment is no longer about perquisites and re­mu­ner­a­tion but about value propo­si­tions. Think about uni­ver­sally de­sir­able vi­sions and val­ues, ca­reer de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and ex­i­ble work­ing hours where pos­si­ble.

As a re­cruiter, one must learn to be gen­er­ous and be gen­uinely in­ter­ested in other peo­ple. Start a ne­go­ti­a­tion by build­ing on com­mon ground. Even when you have to re­ject a can­di­date, ex­plain things in a man­ner that the other per­son is able to un­der­stand and agree.


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