In April 2024, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a revealing paper titled “A Discrimination Report Card,” highlighting the prevalence of bias in hiring practices across the United States. Researchers sent 80,000 fake resumes between 2019 and 2021 to about a hundred companies in the United States, featuring candidates that had equal qualifications but different names that would imply a different race or gender. They found significant variations in the levels of discrimination among these organizations depending on factors like industry – but on average, companies reached out to presumed white candidates 9.5 percent more than Black candidates. 

The study provides an objective examination on how companies across the country are doing in terms of discrimination in hiring, and there are some major takeaways you can apply to your own organization’s HR processes. 

The prevalence of discrimination in hiring shown in this study demonstrates that even though your company may believe it’s a meritocracy, the reality is that you’re not actually hiring or promoting the most  effective people. Though it may not be great to hear that your company isn’t reaching its DEI goals, having an awareness that something is going wrong and wanting to improve is the first step toward actual change. After all, bias in the system is like a canary in the coal mine – when bias shows up the hiring of candidates, it’s a precursor indicator that tells you that you’ve actually got a problem that is rooted in your HR processes. That means you’ll need to reexamine how you’re managing your talent pipeline, which is how you’re hiring, promoting, and succession planning in your organization.

With the knowledge that there’s a fundamental issue hidden in your HR processes, you’ll be ready for the next step, which is pinpointing where that problem actually lies. At Orange Grove Consulting, we always say that getting long-term change in DEI is all about focusing on the process. To find where your ‘canaries’ are, or where in the process your biases are actually showing up, we use an assessment that examines different areas of your pipeline. It’s important to dive deep into your hiring processes and get down to the nitty gritty – such as where candidates are coming in and how they’re getting through various stages of the processes. With the internal tracking of processes, we can then ask questions about what’s going wrong at all stages of the process– for example, are candidates dropping out at the point of resume identification? Is there a particular demographic group that’s dropping out and why? 

The same examination can be done when looking at your promotion pipeline. We measure developmental assignments and see who’s getting them and who’s not, what kind of developmental assignments people are offered, how fast different demographic groups are being promoted versus others and why. We can also look at other processes in your organization such as succession planning through indicators like performance evaluation – all the different aspects of human resources can be evaluated using data to understand exactly what’s going on and how there’s differential treatment based on different demographic groups, and the analysis then shows you where improvements can be made.

The ultimate goal of our objective assessments is to help your organization manage your HR talent pipeline process in a more standardized way. Oftentimes we see that organizations will allow managers to set HR practices as they see fit, but by setting universal parameters and then tracking the results across the board, you’ll see not only a less biased pipeline management process but a more effective one.

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