Job descriptions written by robots, and two other quick wins that attract both genders to a role
This is how Coventry Building Society used robots to produce job adverts that appeal to both gendersGuest blogger Lucy Becque
We all bring unconscious bias into the workplace. These deeply subconscious attitudes span race, gender, appearance, age, wealth, and much, much more. Bias can influence everything from products you buy to critically for us, the employees you recruit. This bias is something we have begun to address through our approach to recruitment and development – through training, careers fairs – and also, robots.
We needed to increase diversity in the workplace. Our approach began with education. We reviewed our own data and benchmarked the results against the wider market. This helped us to create the case for change as it showed that positive intentions don’t guarantee positive outcomes. Our drive to do more was flagged by our deputy chair Peter Ayliffe at the CMI Gender Pay Gap Debate.
INCREASE DIVERSITY WITH UNCONSCIOUS BIAS TRAINING
Last year, our board, executives and top 250 leaders undertook unconscious bias training. And we’ve now incorporated the learnings from these sessions into the training we give to all those who undertake recruitment, and into all of our management and leadership development programmes too.
Read more: How to beat your unconscious bias
We recognised that education within HR was as important as in wider society. Again, we started with the data and this gave us some really interesting insights. We found that women performed extremely well in our selection processes, so our challenge was to attract a diverse range of candidates to apply in the first place. This is where consideration of our advertising came in.
INCREASE DIVERSITY BY USING ROBOTS
There are a number of mostly free online tools available that allow you to assess your job adverts to determine whether they have a male or female bias based on the language used. These tools helped us to think differently about job descriptions and the requirements of each role too. Changing the language used in advertising was one of the factors that led to applications from females increasing from 32% in 2016 to 45% in 2017. We no longer describe, for example, one of the streams of our graduate programme as “Leadership”, preferring the less gender specific term of “Management Development” instead.
The first draft of one leadership advert originally said: “Do you have the potential to be a leader? Are you passionate about customer service? As a graduate on our Leadership programme, you’ll be on the front line ensuring the best possible outcome for our members by working in different roles within our Branch Network, Savings Contact Centre or Lending teams. You’ll develop an understanding of how our teams work by experiencing being in one yourself, before leading one later.”
However, after adopting the new stance to adverts, the revised copy said: “A place on our Management Development programme will provide you with a platform to develop your skills to successfully inspire and empower a team of customer service professionals to achieve excellent outcomes for our members. You’ll have the opportunity to work in different roles within our Branch Network, Savings Operations or Mortgage Contact Centre teams where you’ll be at the forefront of serving our members. By working within these teams you’ll develop an understanding of how important each role is before being given the opportunity to use this experience to support a team.”
What we’re looking for is essentially the same but we’ve reduced the risk of candidates potentially not applying.
It was also important to consider what imagery we used in our advertising. IT adverts using the image of a man were never going to help us to attract more female technologists. And with a need to fill 80 IT roles due to the expansion of the IT department, ‘business as usual’ advertising was not an option.
INCREASE DIVERSITY BY STAGING INTERNAL CAREERS FAIRS
As well as external recruitment, internal mobility has been a priority. All roles are advertised internally but we found that this didn’t mean we’d receive application for all parts of the business. Our experience has shown that changes such as hosting internal careers fairs allowed for more informal discussions about the skills and experience required, and resulted in more applications from women. These small, sometimes incremental changes have resulted in tangible difference in outcomes.
THE PROOF IT WORKS
So where are we now? We started with the data so let’s end there too. The majority of our internal movers are women. The proportion of employees with a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background has increased from 11% to 16% over the past two years and the percentage of managers with a BAME background has doubled. Women account for the majority of our IT apprentices and our graduate intake. We’ve made some great progress but there’s still much to do to ensure that all levels of society are truly representative of the communities we serve.
Lucy Becque is director of HR at Coventry Building Society. For more information about careers at Coventry Building Society visit www.coventrybuildingsociety.co.uk