April 19, 2021

2021 Best Practices in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) One Year on From the Pandemic

Written by:
Marc Witney
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There is refreshed optimism in the American workforce in 2021 after a long and tumultuous year in which everyone struggled, including millions of furloughs and firings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As 2020 came to a close, employers, employees and job seekers alike learned a lot; we witnessed seismic gaps in employment simmer to the surface, shedding light on untapped talent from individuals and whole communities, including those that have been arguably, routinely left behind.

In a justifiably heightened effort to combat social injustice, ensuring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace has become more than just an existential priority; finding equitable pathways to prosperity has become a focal point for the Biden Administration, and rightly so.

We are obviously not out of the pandemic’s throes just yet -  Although a hopeful jobs report was released in February of 2021, the New York Times recently noted that there are today approximately 9.5 million fewer jobs than roughly this time last year. March 2021 indicated an over 10% unemployment rate, 10 million Americans have documented themselves as unemployed, with many more remaining underemployed.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) of 2020, coupled with President Biden’s 2021 sweeping Coronavirus Relief Package should offer a slight reprieve, with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reporting to USA Today that the stimulus package “…could generate enough growth to restore full employment by next year.”

However, what will “full employment” look like? How will we look to remove bias in the recruitment process now and a year from now, addressing the social issues that should inherently accompany the current workforce recruitment system?

Equity is about ensuring fair treatment, access and equal opportunity. It’s also about realigning best practices to acknowledge that advantages and barriers have existed and then righting the ship and making the commitment to address those imbalances. The recruitment technology of today needs to reflect this mission.

There is a sea change taking place in the way talent is onboarded, one based on skills rather than resumes, past job titles, academic degrees or even candidate names and locations (where they come from), a change that could not come at a more pertinent juncture.

Before learning a person’s name, their education or ethnicity, the first thing a recruiter should see through today’s DEI-oriented technology should be whether or not an individual has the specific, prerequisite skills needed to ably fill a role. This change in the way we tackle HR removes many layers of initial (and often subconscious) bias, allowing employers to know their talent based on their talent and not on outdated variables that often delay the perfect hire.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also ensured that certain jobs are no more, meaning that of the nearly 10 million today unemployed, many will feel pigeonholed by their resume to a single industry and/or will struggle to establish themselves within a new job. Hiring on skills means that these individuals can be recognized, first and foremost, for their ‘transferrable talents’, making it more efficient for hiring managers to visualize the value that each employee or candidate would potentially bring to their organization.  

It’s the responsibility of recruitment technology providers to continue to elevate the game, accelerating this inevitable part-time and full-time transition to skills-based hiring. All from within a mobile application lies the potential to even upskill or retrain existing employees, managing talent rather than perpetually looking for outside hires to fill a void that a sitting employee could bridge if properly identified.

While many jobs have come and gone, it is interesting to note the new employment opportunities taking shape in 2021 – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion experts with the “cultural competence” and leadership skills to influence organizational change have become almost overnight in demand.

Hospitals, law firms, pharmaceutical companies and multinational retailers are examples of those companies with current postings for full-time specialists in the DEI arena.

It’s a step in the right direction - Boston Consulting Group found that 75% of employees who rated their organizations the most diverse felt that their organizations were also outperforming their competitors, nearly twice that of employees who rated their organizations as the least diverse.

The principles of DEI touch every facet of every organization, whether it’s the way employees interact or who is represented in upper management; and yet, the American Marketing Association suggests that the true work often begins with the hiring process.

Nonetheless, today’s Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are not designed for today’s labor market.

Why is this the case? Because they rely on resume databases (with that same inherent bias in the screening process) and antiquated keyword search technology. The problem is that this assumes that a job title on a resume equates to a qualified candidate, and that is where they fail. Employers or HR Recruiters potentially short-list candidates without the right skills to perform the job, or even worse, they filter out a company’s potentially best qualified candidate.

It’s critical for organizations to address their own weaknesses; to remain versatile in the adoption of recruitment technologies that offer a clear picture of where talent lies within an organization and if an outside hire is necessary; moreover, it is critical in ensuring that outside hire leaves no able candidate left behind.

There are strong workforce management tools readily available to solve the skills gap dilemma for hiring companies; those that do not take advantage of them will continue to struggle to react to the demands of their customers or remain resilient to change as an organization.

At tilr, we are more than a job board, more than an ATS and more than a hiring tool.  We are a fully-integrated, modular and entirely agnostic talent management system that automates and accelerates succession management and recruitment, on the job and remote learning and development, and external talent acquisition, all based on the currency of one’s skills and all from a mobile application.

We proudly believe that our Clients will find the best person (internal or external) to fill their next position and do so in a fraction of the time and at a lower cost than our competitors.

There is no time to waste in finding the right talent here in 2021 - We must bring the job market up-to-speed and inclusive in its approach to hiring in the process.

Marc Witney is VP of Technology at the tilr Corporation.