Blog post

How dropping degrees can improve workforce diversity

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2 minutes

Spotted Zebra explains to HR website TLNT why skills-based hiring practices can foster more diverse teams.

Many brands are engaged in efforts to improve the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) of their workforces, and have been for some time. 

But the reality is that while progress has been made by the business world to create and sustain a diverse culture, where team members feel empowered to share different ideas, perspectives and experiences in a collaborative and creative work environment, there is still much work to be done

For instance, Deloitte reports that women still make up fewer than a fifth of all employees on company boards. Elsewhere, UK Government data reveals that while 76% of white people are employed, this compares to only 67% of people from all other ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate of disabled working age adults is around twice that of able-bodied working adults, according to UK Government statistics. And data from McKinsey & Company reveals that transgender adults are twice as likely to be unemployed in comparison to cisgender adults.

These statistics are damning and demonstrate that while there has been progress at a social and legislative level, the business world must still step up its game. 

One of the biggest obstacles, according to Erica Price Burns, Senior Vice President and Co-Director of Research at Whiteboard Advisors, is that while large employers are keen to foster a more diverse workforce - not least because they understand this equals a more talented workforce - they often struggle to identify candidates from diverse social and educational backgrounds. 

This is a challenge that was flagged almost a decade ago in a McKinsey report exploring workplace diversity, but the issue persists - partly because of an insistence on degree-level education. A study of educational levels in the US has concluded that adding a four-year degree requirement automatically screens out 76% of African Americans and 83% of LatinX workers.

At the same time, even when minority candidates are part of the recruitment process, unconscious bias can negatively influence their opportunities for success. For instance, research in the Journal of Leadership Studies found that HR managers looking to fill a position in a male-dominated industry tend to be more sceptical of female candidates, and sometimes do not even consider them at all. Elsewhere, studies in The Journal of Social Issues have demonstrated how people of colour are more likely to be perceived as less skilled or more inefficient

As Price Burns notes: “Even with the best intentions, human nature makes hiring based on resumes and interviews over-reliant on educational background, employment background or personal characteristics.”

So what needs to be done? 

There are a variety of steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of unconscious bias in the hiring process, such as blind hiring and raising employee awareness of hiring bias. But these efforts do not also solve the issue of employers struggling to identify candidates from more diverse backgrounds. 

However, skills-based hiring can offer a solution. 

How skills-based hiring drives workplace diversity

“Skills-based hiring enables businesses to identify and prioritise the skills that candidates require to be successful in specific roles, rather than focusing on credentials, previous job titles, academic achievements and so on,” says Nick Shaw, Co-Founder of skills-based workforce management platform vendor Spotted Zebra. “HR teams can then align applicants that possess appropriate skills (or demonstrate the capability to quickly learn these skills) with roles. The result of this is happier, more productive employees.”

Crucially, skills-based hiring also means that any preconceived ideas of what the perfect candidate looks like are disregarded to just focus on the skills. Furthermore, by removing any job history or education requirements (such as degrees), businesses can access a much broader pool of talent, including talent that is traditionally underrepresented. Research from LinkedIn has found that 88% of recruiters admit they are filtering out skilled candidates purely because they do not possess specific job titles or qualifications.

Read the rest of this article at TLNT.