New digital HR tools help employers deal with recruiting bias

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Mercer and SAP, among other HR systems vendors, are developing tools to help recruiters and hiring managers attract and hire a more diverse talent pool.

These tools are designed to help human resources professionals avoid gendered job descriptions and create requirements based on the skills of high-performing employees.

“Algorithms have the benefit of being able to level the playing field for diverse candidates and removing that unconscious bias,” says Barbara Marder, global innovation leader at Mercer. “As the job market gets tighter, employers are going to need to expand their talent pool. It’s almost going to be an imperative.”

Mercer partnered with AI startup Pymetrics to launch Mercer Match, a job-matching app that uses machine learning to pre-qualify candidates and pair them with open positions. The app uses gamification to determine cognitive and social-emotional traits of applicants and puts the results up against the behaviors of top performers. Meanwhile, recruiters have restricted access to the results and can only see an applicant’s fit score against the model, or high-performing employee. They don’t have access to names, gender or race, Marder says, so it’s a “first touchpoint” for companies to keep the talent pool open and eliminate initial biases on the recruiter side.

“We know based on demographics in our database that our trait model will recommend men and women and all ethnic groups,” she says. “We are able to check that before the model is released. A lot of [algorithms] are more opaque. How can you prove that those systems are being made in an unbiased way?”

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Likewise, SAP’s SuccessFactors’ job analyzer, which is in the testing phase with a closed beta group of 10 companies, will help hiring managers and recruiters write and amend job descriptions to eliminate gender bias. The cloud-based tool analyzes readability, length, aggregated average salaries and linguistics for gender biases, says Gabriela Burlacu, human capital management researcher at SAP Success Factors.

Implicit biases, such as using gendered words like “apply” and “assist” — which often deter men — and phrases like “crush the competition” — which often deter women — may not be erased in the person writing the job posts, but the technology will be able to flag them before applicants view the listing.

Global computer security software company McAfee says it will integrate SAP’s job analyzer function to complement its anti-bias recruiting strategy, which includes interview panels with a diverse interviewer and the option to enter equal employment opportunity information.

“Organizations are seeing that if they want an increase in their effectiveness when it comes to talent acquisition, they have to invest,” says Robin Erickson, vice president of talent acquisition, engagement and retention research at Deloitte Consulting. “Talent acquisition systems will put [employers] on top.”

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HR Technology Recruiting Employee engagement Employee communications Mercer SAP