Three ways analytics can improve diversity

Written by
Brad Warga
Heidrick & Struggles

13 Nov 2017

13 Nov 2017 • by Brad Warga

How can you wield automation, predictive intelligence, and internal social media to attract and retain diverse candidates?


Ready or not, a technological revolution is coming to human resources that could help level the playing field for millions of diverse job candidates and employees. It’s taking shape on three fronts: automation, predictive intelligence and internal social media.

1. Automation: removing unconscious bias

Automation is enabling companies to evaluate applicants through a broader, more meritocratic set of filters than the usual mix of job experience and educational credentials - all while reducing or removing the effect of unconscious biases.

Harnessing advances in computer power and analytics, progressive companies can now create candidate profiles that incorporate thousands of data points: résumé data as well as unstructured data, including publicly available online information about a candidate’s interests, work products, connections, “likes” on social media, and much more.

What emerges from the algorithms is a more broadly comprehensive profile of the candidate, including strengths that traditional criteria might miss.

For example, through the quality of her work and favorable peer reaction to it online, a computer engineer might emerge as the best candidate for a particular job, even if she didn’t graduate from Stanford or put in time at Google.

We’ve all known people who didn’t attend a great school or work for a prestigious company yet produced stellar results. Now, instead of being overlooked or potentially excluded by unconscious human biases, they can be automatically included by these new techniques.

2. Predictive intelligence: identifying inclusive talent

Predictive intelligence can help profile your proven top performers, distinguish them from mediocre and poor ones, and then be used to develop a powerful, analytically derived picture of an ideal candidate to fill a position internally or join your company.

That profile can then be proactively applied to hundreds of thousands of people who might conceivably qualify - say, all of the recent graduates in a discipline that is central to your company - thus casting the widest and most inclusive possible net for talent.

The candidate information can also be used as a platform from which to launch “candidate relationship management” systems, just as marketing departments maintain customer relationship management systems.

And once the return on investment in the form of cost, quality, and speed of this approach can be calculated, these potentially more inclusive recruiting practices will be become an established fact of life, benefitting companies and diverse candidates alike.

3. Internal social media: promoting transparency across the business

Internal social media platforms can help ensure that after candidates win jobs, they will be treated fairly in performance reviews, on which pay and promotions depend.

Tools such as Workplace by Facebook, Yammer, and Chatter enable the entire organisation to recognise, comment on, and “like” various activities and projects in real time, lightening the burden on bosses who may struggle to recall the influence and impact someone had throughout the year on multiple projects.

The result is a performance record that accrues almost automatically and encompasses a far wider range of opinion than the traditional 360-degree review. And the transparency of these platforms can let the light shine on role models throughout the organisation, regardless of their title or place in the corporate hierarchy.

Achieving greater equity in employment 

None of these developments is without potential pitfalls. Algorithms don’t write themselves, and their authors will have to take care not to embed biases in them.

Similarly, it's important to watch out for unintended consequences: for example, ideal candidate profiles run the risk of reproducing the “company type” and foreclosing opportunity for those who don’t fit the mould.

And social media could tempt some employees to try to game the system. But none of those dangers should deter us from pressing ahead. Used in tandem with traditional recruiting approaches, practices, and tools (including the old-fashioned but still reliable face-to-face interview), these technologies hold real promise for greater equity in employment.

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About the authors

brad warga

Brad Warga is a principal in the San Francisco office, Krishnan Rajagopalan is president and CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, and Zachary Shen is an analyst.

Heidrick & Struggles