How Assessment Supports Organizations’ Increased Diversity

April 22, 2021 Sarah Kenehan

In order to widen the talent pool for their early careers programs, many high-profile corporate recruiters have removed specific academic qualifications as prerequisites for applicants. This includes firms such as Google, PwC, Hilton Hotels, BBC, Starbucks, Apple, EY and Penguin Random House. Furthermore, a number of globally-recognized brands (such as Facebook, Spotify and Twitter) are run by CEOs who either did not finish their degree course – or even start one.

This is not only about recognizing that academic qualifications may not be the strongest indicator of in-post performance – it also helps build a more level playing field for applicants. Importantly, it can support the creation of a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

However, simply removing specific attainment levels does not bring about greater diversity per se. Organizations need to consider their candidate attraction and hiring and selection processes at every touch point in order to understand how to appeal to a more varied applicant pool –removing bias and advantage/disadvantage along the way.

Read how one Aon client, Vodafone, is using talent assessment to support its own drive towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

A diversity commitment

Vodafone is committed to increasing its workforce and business diversity to build a better future for its employees, partners, customers and the communities in which it works. It has publicly pledged to be the best employer for women by 2025 and has a target to reach 45% senior female representation by 2030.

It knows that to reach and indeed exceed these targets, it must focus on gaining an equal male/female balance of new hires. In the past, it has found such a balance hard to achieve within its 12,000-plus early careers and youth programs applicants each year. Also, it has noticed a gender imbalance in the drop-out rates within the selection process as candidates progress.

The challenge of brand

Brands embody what an organization stands for, what a customer can expect and how the business is likely to operate. It can attract – or detract – applicants searching for employment.

Memoona Khan, Global Youth Programmes Lead, Vodafone, comments: “As with all well-known brands, people bring their own preconceptions about us as a firm, our business strategy and our purpose when looking at youth programs. We want to give every person starting out in their career the opportunity to learn about and explore career options with Vodafone. We knew we needed to become more attractive to a more diverse talent pool and, to do this, we wanted to better explain and showcase what we are about.”

To attract more females and to reach a wider applicant pool in general, Vodafone looked at each of the opportunities that possible candidates had for getting to know the company and its values. The company:

  • Rethought its university presence and built a more interactive web presence.
  • Engaged with potential applicants via a digital mentor with those who may otherwise have felt that a career at Vodafone was not for them.
  • Changed from a one-size-fits-all approach to assessment centers and to more function-specific assessments, tapping into the specific behaviors needed for the different functions (such as HR, finance, business and technology) to give candidates a greater insight into the firm.
  • Created a ‘day in the life’ experience to help demystify the company and enable candidates to explore what it looks and feels like to work at Vodafone.
  • Embedded diversity and inclusion into the supply chain, choosing suppliers and partners who would support them to reach diverse candidates.

The firm also made use of its recently-launched global culture framework – Spirit of Vodafone –making sure the four core values of Creating the Future, Experimenting and Learning Fast, Earning Customer Loyalty and Getting it Done Together were woven throughout its attraction and selection campaigns. The company knew the framework could showcase its values but also be used to benchmark applicants.

Removing bias to increase inclusion

Hiring and selection processes can have bias built in if they are not developed with due consideration and attention. Bias can creep into an interviewing process and some poorly-designed assessments may favor or disadvantage certain groups.

As a tech company committed to getting people connected, Vodafone was keen to make sure that it exploited the benefits that technology could play in its hiring process. The global pandemic forced the talent team’s hand as it accelerated the plans already in place at Vodafone to take advantage of a pathway that involved more digital recruitment.

Vodafone was keen to provide a level playing for all applicants. To do this, the company:

  • Removed timed assessments from its selection processes.
  • Introduced checks and balances to monitor any adverse impact on each of the hiring stages and to review how its recruitment processes were working.
  • Brought in AI to screen parts of the video applications to help minimize adverse impact.
  • Encouraged and engaged with candidates every step of the way so that they all felt at ease with the process and understood the next steps.

The results: More female applicants. Good candidate feedback. Greater efficiencies.

Vodafone’s commitment led to:

  • An increase in female applicants, demonstrating its ability to attract more women – from 30% to 43% within one year.
  • More female applications to tech opportunities – from 19% to 28% within one year.
  • Strong candidate feedback. 89% enjoyed the assessment center experience, 89% saw the process as fair and relevant and 88% would speak positively about the experience. Candidate NPS was 64% with an 8.8/10 positivity rating.
  • More engaging assessments that retain the interest of applicants. Drop-out rates have reduced from 56% to 30% for those completing an online assessment.
  • Greater efficiencies as the best talent is identified more quickly. Reduced the open dates of recruitment campaigns from nearly seven months to six weeks.

Vodafone has made significant progress in building a selection and assessment process that attracts a more diverse applicant pool, engages with them throughout the process, minimizes bias and hires those best aligned with the firm and its values.

Contact us to discuss how Aon could support your candidate selection process.

About the Author

Sarah Kenehan

Sarah is an Organisational Psychology Consultant and currently part of the commercial team at Aon's Assessment Solutions. She is responsible for bringing a psychological perspective to our high level propositions.

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