How to Immunize Your Workplace From Sexual Harassment

If your workplace is anything like mine, conversation about the flood of sexual harassment incidents has become a daily mainstay. My team’s ears are constantly perked for the next breaking story and there’s a shared sensation of not being able to look away. Our country and our workplaces are witnessing a sea change in how we understand the experiences of women at work; we’re learning a language for a new reality about the ills of a male-dominated environment.

As a female CEO with a half-female executive team, I take some solace in knowing my company has an environment drastically less likely to allow sexual harassment to spawn. Still I remain vigilant about—and urge my peer executives to be vigilant about—taking measures to immunize organizations against sexual harassment and conditions in which women do not feel in control of their economic lives and physical bodies.

The good news is there are proven strategies for safeguarding environments from sexual harassment—I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but at least we know what we need to do.

Trainings and grievance reporting mechanisms are not the solution.

First, we have to acknowledge trainings and grievance reporting systems as purely cosmetic fixes that let executives off easy and do nothing to change the status quo. Our post-Anita Hill court system has institutionalized trainings and reporting systems as the go-to technique for mitigating harassment even though, as EEOC and labor experts Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev explain in their recent Harvard Business Review  article,  “such programs have never been proven effective. [Executives] are satisfied as long as the courts are. They don’t bother to ask themselves whether the programs work.”

The fact is audits of such programs have found no evidence that they move the needle. Researchers have found however, that those most likely to be the worst offenders emerge from trainings with more deplorable attitudes toward women than those they entered with! And it gets worse. Dobbin and Kalev write in another HBR.org article that when companies implement grievance procedures, the numbers of women of color in management and non-management roles goes significantly down. And the most dismaying fact about grievance procedures is that they put the responsibility for solving the problem on the harassed employee.

So—what is proven to work?

The solution is to hire and promote more women.

Research consistently shows that harassment flourishes in workplaces where men dominate and women have little power. The tech industry offers stark example of this power imbalance. Promoting women to leadership at greater rates is the only way to rectify the imbalance of pay and power that gives men unchecked control over female workers.

Secondly, having a gender balance in “core” or non-management roles is equally crucial. Harassment occurs significantly less often in industries and workplaces where women are well represented.

Hiring more women takes work, but the good news is we know how to do it. First, make sure you’re attracting women at equal rates as men with job advertisements that use inclusive language and illustrate a collaborative, supportive work environment. Then, make sure that qualified women make it through the resume screen by having managers look at resumes with the names anonymized and without cues of gender. Lastly, set your interviewers up for success by putting in place structured, consistent interview practices which have been shown to be twice as effective at selecting the right candidate as ad hoc interviews.

 

If you’re serious about ending workplace sexual harassment, you have to get serious about workplace diversity. It’s that simple.

 

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Men at work: Growing awareness of sexual harassment has turned the focus of our conversation about women on the men in the room

In my line of work I frequently find myself in conversation about the role of women in the workplace. These conversations often gloss over the role of men in our workplace experience—but in our “Weinstein moment” it’s clear that we are in a sea change. Thought leaders are increasingly reframing the corporate feminist discussion to highlight that the systems that characterize our work experiences are still primarily defined by the way men operate within them.

I see specific examples of this in two recent threads of conversation: Talk about men’s role as allies who will call out harassment, and talk about how men have molded environments in which it is twice as hard for women to get ahead.

In her first post for her new LinkedIn series on diversity, Melinda Gates highlights what she sees as the central detractor from women’s economic advancement: our culture of overwork. Gates characterizes the norm of overwork as a definitively male contribution to workplace culture.  

The blog’s title is “We’re sending our daughters into a workplace designed for our dads”. She sets up her argument with an image from a 1949 advertisement in Fortune magazine depicting jobs held by its quintessential readership: the Office Manager, the Vice President, the President—all male with female assistants taking notes in the background.

She goes on to unpack all the ways that office culture was shaped and formed by the fact that men had full time home managers for partners, as well as female assistants to do the administration work.

The Fortune ad’s inclusion of “Office Manager” as an archetype of male leader and Fortune reader is worth noting. Today the office manager is an emblem of occupational segregation—and perhaps what happens to a role that gets relegated the administrative and “housework” functions of an office: it becomes more female-dominated and less well paid. (GlassDoor says the average salary of a Bay Area office manager is $50K.)

The role our office managers play today is also a clear example of our tech industry’s reliance on overwork. Ten years ago an office would have separate roles for receptionist, office operations manager, executive assistant. Today I see more and more small businesses loading all these tasks onto one person; and despite consolidating a number of roles into one we still expect to pay them less.

Gates does a great service to call out the ways our offices send “you don’t belong here” signals to women—and it is refreshing to hear a critique not on ways we need to repair the pipeline, or admonish women to lean in a little harder, but instead narrows its focus on ways the leaders already in these jobs need to change the status quo.

This topic is close to my heart and mission at Talent Sonar, and if you’re interested in it as well you should join our webinar discussion on it tomorrow 11/14 with AnitaB.org.

Now that women make up 47% of the workforce, they should also exert half of the influence over what our workplaces look like and how they function. Gates argues that will require curbing and correcting the number of hours we expect of workers. It also will require more men in power to act as allies to women.  In an Oct. 13 Harvard Business Review article “Lots of Men Are Gender-Equality Allies in Private. Why Not in Public?”, David Smith and Brad Johnson set guideposts and examples men who want to be allies should follow.

The professors argue that the rate of sexual harassment is so high in workplaces for the same reason we lack equal pay, parental leave and equitable hiring and promotion practices: “Women lack genuine male allies in the workplace”.

They explain that even men who deeply value gender equality may be hesitant to speak up when they see inappropriate behavior because of our tendency to conform to whatever the group is doing. Men will often look for the woman in the room’s reaction as the cue for how or when to intervene. A woman often doesn’t interject because they are more likely to be penalized or face backlash for doing so.

For this reason Smith and Johnson say we must reframe gender equality as a leadership issue rather than a “women’s issue.” Its executives’ jobs to create a safe work environment that allows workers to flourish. When leaders allow harassment, bias and bullying to seep into a workplace, employees exhibit reduced psychological safety, take more sick leave, have lower morale and less productivity, and they are less engaged and more likely to leave the company or not have positive bottom-line impact.

In other words, a male leader of integrity is not only expected to advocate for women and champion diversity, but they also must act to correct and stop sexist and racist behavior.  

How are companies maximizing 2018’s hiring budget? I asked the expert, Elaine Orler

To celebrate our recent announcement that Talent Sonar and Talent Function have joined forces, I picked Elaine Orler’s brain on ways she’s advising clients to get ahead of this tight talent market in 2018.

Laura Mather [LM]: I was struck by this new report that contradicts the old wisdom “slow to hire, fast to fire.” How does Talent Sonar help hiring managers move quickly but focus on the right criteria for the new hire?

Elaine Orler [EO]: The “slow to hire” mantra is meant to convey to hiring teams how important hiring is for the success of their business. We don’t want people filling the ranks with bad hires just to keep time-to-fill down. But no one should be advocating slow hiring for its own sake! In a competitive job market, that’s simply horrible advice.

Instead, hire better. Use evidence-based best practices—and here I mean best practices confirmed by research, not just the “fact” that your competitor is doing it. Talent Sonar is pretty exceptional because it makes it easy for hiring teams to truly focus on what is needed for each role and then act quickly to fill it. First, hiring teams select the right skills and values; then, they prioritize those. Next, Talent Sonar makes it possible to focus on what matters in the resume instead of being distracted by someone’s gender or alma mater. Finally, your hiring teams can set up and conduct professional, structured interviews in record time. The bottom line is that when you focus on best practices, you will hire faster and better.

LM: Skilled women and minorities are available. The key is to attract them to your company, but how?

EO: They are available! Anyone concerned about the so-called “skills gap” at their company needs to know this fact. Next, develop a plan to attract skilled women and minorities. There are several approaches that have been shown to work: for example, starting a hiring task force with a cross-section of people from your company and targeted college recruitment programs.

One very scalable approach that has shown excellent results is improving your job descriptions. Research finds that really subtle language can turn women and minorities off from applying to a job because they don’t think they’ll fit into the culture. That’s an easy fix thanks to technology. Talent Sonar will highlight those problematic words in real-time and suggest alternatives. A five minute effort results in a 25% increase in female applicants, on average. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

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LM: What are some examples you’ve seen of companies addressing the skills shortage today in the right way/wrong way?

EO: The wrong way to address the skills shortage is just to throw more money at traditional candidate sourcing efforts or try to lure people in with higher salaries.  With those tactics, you’re just overpaying to reach the same exact type of candidates.

Instead, companies that have broadened their outreach to untapped talent pools are seeing the best results. Does the position you want to fill really require a Bachelor’s degree, for example? Or will several years of experience in the industry work just as well? Hiring teams need to be clear about the skills and values that are really required for a role.

You also need to ask: Are you reaching all possible talent pools? Tech is one of those industries where people complain about a skills gap all the time. But Tech companies are only attracting 16% of Black computer science graduates, compared to 40% of Asian graduates, for example. Are your job descriptions inadvertently turning qualified applicants away? If they are, you can fix that.

LM: Hiring teams that use inclusive job descriptions report an average decrease in time to hire of 16 days. To what do you attribute that incredible return on efficiency?

EO: At first it sounds almost unbelievable, right? But when you think about it, if you improve job descriptions to be more appealing to a wide range of candidates, you’re 1) going to get more candidates applying and 2) you’re going to get the right candidates applying. Job descriptions that are inclusive tend to be free of silly jargon and corporate cliches. They are better at explaining both what the role requires and what the company’s values are. In fact, the Talent Board’s 2017 Candidate Experience Survey found that the #1 type of marketing content candidate’s find useful before applying is learning about a company’s values. So when you have the right ingredients in a job description, you’re going to decrease time-to-hire.

LM: After a job posting is made using an inclusive job description, what should happen when the resumes begin to come in?

EO: I think resume review is where so many hiring teams fall down. It’s understandable: technology makes it easy to apply to a job these days, so hiring teams are under enormous pressure to whittle down the candidate pool quickly. That often leads to “pattern-matching”–looking for the exact same candidates that were successful before, or thinking that everyone from Stanford is going to be great.

What works much better in the long-run is developing a structure to your resume review process. First, decide what is actually important for the role: is it a certain kind of experience or skill set? Then actually rate each resume on the categories you selected. Compare the scores and select the best candidates to move forward. You could do this in Excel. Or you could use Talent Sonar, which makes it really quick to do and has the added bonus of removing unnecessary information from resumes, like a candidate’s name. The important thing is to be able to really compare resumes quickly but systematically. Otherwise, your team is just guessing.

LM: How is Talent Sonar different from other systems out there that do something similar? Better? Why would our potential customer welcome process change and invest in using the software?

EO: Talent Sonar is the only system I’ve ever seen that improves every part of the hiring process. And I’ve seen a lot of systems over the years! There are tools that do one thing well: maybe just job descriptions or just candidate assessments. But to truly improve hiring in a longterm way, you can’t just keep trying one-off solutions. That’s time consuming and expensive. You have to commit to a real strategic change in the way that you hire. Better hiring will impact your recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers so, yes, it will require process change investment. But can you afford to be missing out on major talent pools? Can you afford to keep having un-trained interviewers going into important interviews with no preparation? Can you afford to keep making bad hires? I know companies that are serious about hiring as a competitive advantage will see that the upfront investment is well worth it.

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LM: Can a company afford not to address the skills shortage in 2018 and make hiring best practices part of their hiring process?

EO: No! The job market is getting tighter and tighter. Competition for talent will continue to get intense. What company is going to succeed in this environment? The company that keeps doing the same old thing or the company that wows candidates with job descriptions that speak to them and provides a relevant, seamless interview experience? The answer is clear. It’s just a matter of leadership and will to change.

AI is all the rage, but is it dangerous?

AI is all the rage, but is it dangerous?

AI on the digital map

Artificial Intelligence continues to be a major trend in HR as companies look to improve hiring decisions and efficiency. As a computer scientist and expert on hiring research, I can attest that there are definitely components of hiring that can be improved with AI. One example is using algorithms to automatically remove identifying information from resumes to make identity-blind resume review more efficient. We can also use AI to help companies write better and more inclusive job descriptions that attract a broader pool of qualified applicants. A company concerned with employee turnover could use AI to identify employees who may be likely to leave based on variables like how many managers they’ve had, pay equity, and length of tenure. These are all exciting applications of AI that could make a real difference to a company’s hiring success.

AI and Recruiting

The main place people seem to be interested in using AI in recruiting is in reducing the number of resumes recruiters have to review to get to the best candidate. This makes perfect sense: given how easy it is to apply to a job with one-click these days, recruiters are understandably overwhelmed with the number of resumes they receive.

Unfortunately, there is a huge risk that using AI in the recruiting process is going to increase bias and not reduce it. Why do I sound so pessimistic? Because AI is completely dependent on the training set that is used to generate its predictive results. We’ve already seen how this can go horribly wrong in trying to identify images and create Twitter posts. When it comes to hiring, a critically important function for companies, AI can perpetuate biased patterns and teams that are very similar to existing ones.

Here’s an example where AI does not serve a company well. Let’s say a corporate hiring manager always looks for candidates who went to Ivy League schools. When an algorithm looks for patterns of the employees at the company, it will notice that there are certain schools that are more common among current employees, and it will seek candidates from those schools. However, research has shown that where someone went to school is not predictive of how well they will perform in a job. So, the algorithm has now found a “signal” in the data that is not predictive of how well a potential candidate will actually do the job. In this case, AI is simply feeding recruiters “more of the same,” which may not be what your company needs to achieve future goals.

Using AI in this way won’t be help organizations predict what they need to achieve future goals. AI is essentially “driving in the rearview mirror” – it is based on what has been done in the past. That’s why AI can’t replace recruiters, who have specific knowledge on the best types of people to hire to meet certain skillsets that will move a company forward.

How to spot potential bias in AI

The possibility of bias in AI training sets won’t occur to many algorithms designers, so it is up to the organizations that are deploying these algorithms to ask the right questions about what testing has been done to ensure bias was not trained into the algorithm itself. For example, if you’re considering video software that analyzes nonverbal communication to predict candidate quality or a pre-assessment that claims to predict job performance, ask whether there were observed group differences in the training data. If they can’t tell you, think twice about using it.

You’re still smarter than AI

Use AI to augment your hiring wisely. No amount of AI can replace following best practices in hiring, like identifying key skills and values before sourcing candidates and using structured interviewing. Some AI can help improve these best practices and get you closer to your goals, faster. Just make sure you have your eyes open for potential biases along the way.

Quality Over Quantity: It’s Time to Hire Better | Featured Image

Quality Over Quantity: It’s Time to Hire Better

Quality Over Quantity: It’s Time to Hire Better | Main Image

These days, there is rarely a technology that can’t be mimicked, a service that can’t be purchased, or a system that isn’t for rent. Big organizations mostly use essentially the same services from Microsoft Office to ATS databases. With so much homogeny, what separates successful companies from the rest? The people are the secret sauce. Even with proprietary software or patent-protected techniques, no company can truly thrive without one extremely important element: effective and creative teams.

Despite all our technological advancements, it’s humans who truly make the difference at an organization. In our 21s t century reality – where technology is ubiquitous – talent acquisition professionals become one of the most important departments at a company, because they are responsible for the most important competitive asset: new hires.

Unfortunately, we don’t always realize how important our talent acquisition processes are. In fact, many companies remain focused on the wrong metrics, concentrating on hiring quickly, rather than zeroing in on finding the right candidate.

Some organizations are already making the shift. Where most recruiters are encouraged to fill roles as quickly as possible, forward-thinking organizations are focused on quality, tasking their recruiters to fill the roles with the best possible candidate.

What caused this shift? That’s easy – organizations are realizing that emphasizing speed in hiring sacrifices quality. And filling a role quickly with the wrong person is extremely costly to an organization.

For the organizations not yet making the shift and slower to realize they are doing it wrong, it’s not all bad news. The fact is, best practices around making hiring decisions have been understood by academics for years. And they are not that difficult to implement. There are new and exciting talent-acquisition tools that are enabling companies to reform their practices and overhaul processes to create something much better.

With artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, technology can play an important role from the get go . For example, it can help someone write a better job description. This first step in the hiring process would then invite a diverse pool of candidates with capabilities that match companies’ needs. Cloud and mobile computing solutions facilitate better communication between recruiters and hiring managers. Nudge technology and access to data allows decision-makers to move away from hiring based purely on gut-decisions and shift to data-driven choices.

Research has identified five hiring best practices that span the talent acquisition process – from writing targeted job descriptions that invite the best candidates to blind resume reviews to conducting structured interviews. These best practices make hiring more effective and yield stronger teams, happier employees, and improve the candidate experience, which reflects on the company at every step. The talent acquisition industry has technology that can facilitate all of these strategies and transform hiring systems to be both more effective and more equitable. What we need now is a change of mindset.

As an industry, let’s forget the incomplete idea that talent acquisition is only about filling an open position. It’s about strategically finding creative and effective team members that fit the company culture and will drive the business forward. As new markets emerge, and old sectors are rapidly transformed, it’s the employees, the human element, who contribute to a company’s success and it’s competitive differentiation.

Instead of pressuring talent acquisition professionals to be faster, or to collect more resumes, true improvement will come from creating processes that prioritize hiring best practices and finding the right hire. This change in focus from the fast hire to the right hire will succeed only if it is organization-wide and reinforced at every level, from senior leadership team and executive suite to the hiring manager and recruiters.

The data is there: the hiring process is broken. We have the tools and the strategies to change. It’s time to start changing our priorities and focusing on the metrics that really matter. It’s time to hire better.

About the Author:

Laura Mather, Founder and CEO, Talent Sonar

Laura Mather, CEO and Founder of Talent Sonar, is an expert on hiring, AI, and the future of work. Her innovative technology, Talent Sonar, is the only comprehensive hiring platform to improve hiring at every step from incorporating values into the hiring process to conducting blind resume review and structured interviewing. She was honored as one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business and as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. She is a featured speaker at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation Summit, HR West, and Ad Week, among others.


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Leveraging the Best of AI for Outstanding Hiring Results

Leveraging the Best of AI for Outstanding Hiring Results

Written by Laura Mather, Founder and CEO at Unitive, Inc. (Talent Sonar).

Laura Mather, Founder and CEO at Unitive, Inc. (Talent Sonar)

Every hiring team is asking the same question: is this candidate the right person for the job? This should be a fairly simple question to answer, but after the resume review and the interview are over, it’s become pretty clear that humans don’t always have the best intuition. Although we sometimes do get it right, sometimes just isn’t enough. Bad hires are hugely expensive for any organization of any size. Tony Hsieh, the CEO Zappos has estimated that bad hires cost the company “well over $1 million.” The US Department of Labor has estimated that a bad hire can cost a company at least 30 percent of that employee’s first-year earnings.

While many companies are feeling pressure to scale and expand quickly, no company can afford to absorb these losses, especially when you factor in the time and energy your current employees will expend hiring and training them.

Ineffective hiring techniques hurt your chances of finding great hires in numerous ways. Not only will you miss great applicants, or let qualified candidates get lost in the shuffle, bad hiring techniques can also translate into bad candidate experiences, meaning that you may be losing great candidates to competitors just because your hiring process was tedious or confusing.

LinkedIn Talent Solutions found that a shocking 83 percent of applicants said a negative interview experience changed their opinion about a role or a company they had once thought of positively. Not only can a bad experience influence a candidate but a good experience can have an even stronger reaction: 87 percent of respondents to LinkedIn said that a good interview experience improved their opinion of a company they had previously doubted.

When an unstructured and unreliable hiring process leaves candidates feeling confused, frustrated, or even disappointed, this can damage both our hiring outcomes and your company’s reputation. One study found that 72 percent of candidates who had a poor hiring experience shared that experience publicly on sites like Glassdoor.

So how can you leverage the best in people analytics to create a hiring system that consistently yields great hires while also maintaining a positive candidate experience? The answer lies in the careful calibration of human intuition and machine learning. While our “gut instincts” are often wrong, good HR teams are able to combine those human reactions with great data and software that guide hiring decisions but don’t dictate them.

For companies of any size, in any sector, the key to consistently successful hiring isn’t automation alone: it’s structure throughout the process and alignment at every level of the team from executives to managers and recruiters. Software can help combine these crucial components, ensuring teams are guided by the same principles and priorities so that candidates have uniform, positive experiences. Software can also stitch machine learning and AI tools into every step so they become an intuitive part of the process, instead of a cumbersome addition.

Although AI has mostly been used during resume review, this technology can and should be expanded to rest of the process, guiding how managers draft job descriptions so that they are accurate, communicate the most important aspects of the position, and will appeal to a wide range of candidates, ensuring your applicants represent the full pool of potential talent that can succeed in this role.

AI can also help continually guide HR teams back to the qualities and capacities that matter most to this position. That can mean helping interviewers create questions that are relevant, behavior-based, and consistent with other interviewers so that every candidate has a consistent experience. It can also mean scoring candidates so that HR teams can see, without a doubt, which applicants are qualified and why.

Whether you are a Fortune 100 powerhouse or a nimble and growing startup, whether you are looking for a C-Suite executive or a daring creative, your needs remain the same: find great candidates with proven abilities to succeed and convince them to work for you and not your competitor. While the objectives are clear, the task is herculean. With the structure, support, and guidance of AI hiring technologies, HR professionals are finally fully empowered to create meaningful interviews, build positive relationships with candidates, and make great decisions and find the perfect hire every time.


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