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Eliminating HR and Recruitment Bias with AI

Eliminating HR and Recruitment Bias with AI

Some of the biggest challenges in the field of recruitment stem from HR (Human Resources) bias, which impact the crucial aspects of diversity, inclusiveness and equality in the world of work. These issues can be hard to resolve since a lot of times certain prejudices or biases are so deep-seated and normalized, that one doesn’t even realize they are being biased. With a judicious use of AI in recruitment and HR, we can hope to create and sustain a more equal and diverse work space. And here is how.

  1. Using AI to root out bias during recruitment

    This by far is one of the best uses of AI. While AI learns the patterns of recruitment by analyzing the past history, it is possible to mould the algorithms in a way so that while playing the necessary filters of finding probable candidates, it doesn’t stick to the past biases in recruitment. In this case, the result is having a much greater chance at a diverse work force, and at a fair recruitment process which keeps in mind only the necessary qualifications which defines the successful candidate. Thus, keeping at bay any and all biases related to gender, caste, class, religion, et al.

  2. Using AI to identify gender biased job descriptions

    Here is something Amanda Bell, Director of Recruiting at Lever, has to say about Gender biased job descriptions:

    “Luckily, this can be pretty easy. Review your job descriptions with the lens of “Who is the audience here?” If your answer is “any qualified candidate, regardless of gender,” you’ve done a good job! It’s not just about the presence of gender-specific pronouns – it’s also about using language that is inclusive of all genders. Stay away from phrases like “kick ass,” “ninja,” and, believe it or not, “brah.” You can also ask a few employees of various genders to read the descriptions and solicit feedback.”

    In fact, this problem is deeper and more pervasive than we think. Even seemingly harmless words have an impact on how gender inclusive the descriptions are. With the help of AI, we can move a step closer to creating gender inclusive job descriptions. This is often the very first step of recruitment. And getting the beginning right, helps ensure the standards of fairness all through the process.

  3. Using AI to see the “invisible bias”

    While bias in recruitment, and the way job descriptions are crafted can be identified to a certain extent, there are multiple other forms of biases which aren’t visible. These are often the more insidious ones. And are also often the mound of biases leading up to the formation of the glass ceiling.

    Turns out, it is very much possible to sniff these biases out with the help of AI. For example, Joonko, a new application powered by AI, acts as a diversity coach. Based on experiential learning of CEO and Co-founder of the product, Ilit Raz, she designed it after becoming aware of the several forms of unconscious biases she as a woman faced in her everyday work life. In contrast to the available AI tools which mostly look at recruitment biases, this tool aims at illuminating unconscious bias in workplace situations where very few people even think or feel it exists.  “We try to catch these ‘micro-events and point them out to managers and workers immediately.”, says the co-founder on what the product aims at.

    This is a beautiful way of blending technology and human understanding to create a truly inclusive and fair workplace.

  4. Using AI to eliminate biases from Performance Management Systems

    It is no secret that performance assessments are often shrouded by conscious and unconscious biases of the individual entrusted with the task. An unfair assessment of an individual’s contribution to the organization definitely impacts the overall work space environment, making it a less happy place for people to thrive and work in. A way of dealing with these biases is by using AI in performance management systems. It can take care of two main things that are often said to influence a manager’s decision making with respect to performance assessment:

    – Regency Effect: i.e., when a manager bases the performance of an individual on a recent event, rather than looking at his/her performance over a period of time, cumulatively.
    – Contrast Effect: i.e., when a manager compares or contrasts an individual’s performance against someone else’s, instead of comparing it to the pre-set standards for the given task role.

While the role of humans in the world of work can never be completely over taken by AI, there are things that AI can help humans do better. With the right balance, and insights, AI powered technology can help us move towards fairer, equal, diverse and happy work spaces.

5 Small Investments you Can Make to Boost Employee Engagement

5 Small Investments you Can Make to Boost Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is not just another buzzword or a metric that your organization needs to keep track of. It is all about creating a work space, where your employees can get up in the mornings and say, “Great, I’m going to work. I know what I’m going to do today. I’ve got some great ideas about how to do it really well. I’m looking forward to seeing the team and helping them work well today”. (source)

The best definition we could find on what employee engagement really means is this, “Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being” (source: engageforsuccess.org).

The process of employee engagement is a continuous one which begins during the on-boarding process – right at the outset, and carries on. And to really make employee engagement a continuous process, one of the best ways to go about it is through making small investments, which make a big difference.

Here are five proven ways of increasing employee engagement, without having to spend any money (or atleast not much).

  1. Creating a culture of Mentoring

    Bringing about changes to the organizational culture is often hard, but without a doubt, one of the best ways to bring about the change you want to see in your organization. Having a culture of mentorship or mentoring, within your organization is a great way to boost employee engagement. When your employees know they can reach out to trusted mentors within the work place to help them address issues they are facing at work, or help them be more productive with valuable guidance, it provides a definite boost to the levels of their engagement.

  2. Recognizing the value of Mental Health

    Making investments in caring for your employees’ mental health should not be an exception anymore, but a rule. While countries in the West have started taking mental health awareness and interventions with more seriousness than before, India though picking up pace, still has a long way to go. To let your employees know that their mental health comes before anything else, is an indispensable way of you showing that you care. And a place where employees feel cared for, will be a place they will devote their 100% to. Have you read our previous blogs on metal health yet? And do you believe that mental health should be your number one resolution for 2018? If you don’t, maybe you should have a look at this.

  3. Recognizing the value of Feedback

    Without a system of regular and consistent feedback, there can be no way for employees to know how they are faring. Their growth may be stunted, and despite possessing talent and skills to mature within the organization, they might begin to slack. This is the very reverse of what employee engagement aims for. Creating a system of feedback goes a long way in ensuring employee and employer satisfaction. Issuing constructive and timely feedback helps employees to stay focused and confident to do their best.

  4. Recognizing the value of Flexibility

    By giving your employees the gift of “choices”, you move towards creating a workplace with significantly higher levels of employee engagement. Making space for flexible conditions for work is a powerful way of boosting productivity. For example, many organizations still associate the option of working from home as one that triggers lower levels of productivity. Research though, has shown results quite contrary to this assumption.  Allowing your employees flexible schedules, and the option of working from home could actually be a win-win situation for both parties!

  5. Implanting Trust

    Trust perhaps, is the single most important investment you can make in your employees. Think back to the process of recruitment you may have, and you will realize how most of the process was in fact a scrutiny of whether you can trust the job you want to give out, at the hands of the person you are looking to hire. It is the same trust that must be preserved and nurtured after you complete the process of hiring and the recruit glides into his/ her role. Matters like choosing to delegate (and then letting go until the completion of the task!), being open to new ideas, being open to flexibility and feedback, are some small yet significant ways that help you show that you trust your employees. Could there be a better way of keeping them engaged, and happy? We think not!

Still wondering what employee engagement is all about?

Your employees can said to be truly “engaged”, when they are committed and motivated towards what they have been entrusted to do. And it leads to happier workplaces and happier bottom-lines.

The Work from Home Woes and Dealing with Them

The Work from Home Woes and Dealing with Them

If you are someone who works from home, chances are you are constantly struggling to balance your expectation of productivity versus the reality. Working from home affords you a number of comforts such as flexibility over your schedule, time saved due to lack of commute and not to mention comfy clothes! To every situation however, there is a flip-side. In this post we explore what we call Work from Home Woes, and explore ways of tackling them.

Work From Home Woes #1: Procrastination

The very first obstacle that every professional who works from home encounters is procrastination. When you work from home, you begin the day with the illusion that you have the entire day to get a task done. This thought enables you to put off your work until the very last-minute and then you realize that the day is almost over! It is only then that you rush to finish the tasks, often working into late hours which has an adverse impact on your work life balance.

Procrastination is a vice that most of us face, whether we are working from a formal environment or from home. To tackle this, make your mind up to follow the “eat the frog” method, first thing in the morning. No, we are not suggesting you eat harmless froggies for breakfast, but what it means is, get the most difficult task out-of-the-way, the first thing in the morning. Once that is done, your productivity gets boosted automatically.

Work From Home Woes #2: Distractions

When in a formal work set up, distractions are comparatively fewer because work spaces are designed keeping this aspect in mind. You are less likely to spend time on the phone, or on Facebook when you know your supervisor may pop up unannounced. Besides, watching colleagues working spurs you into action, and you are less vulnerable to getting carried away by distractions. However, when you work from home you are prone to a zillion distractions, and even end up creating them for yourself. The television, noisy neighbors or family members, Netflix – the list would really never end if we started.

The solution here is to create a distraction free work zone, even if you are working from home. There are a few simple ways you can do that. Take care of the physical aspects such as letting your family know that you are working and to call upon you only when absolutely necessary. Remove the clutter from your work space, so it helps you retain your focus on work. Put your phone on silent, and disable notifications for your desktop. One effective way of dealing with distractions which may be internal or external is to divide up your day and tasks into 60 or 90 minute slots.

Simply focus on the one task for the allotted time, completely tuning out from everything else that may pose as a distraction. Another way of making this sustainable, and feeling good about yourself is setting simple rewards at the end of the day – if you feel satisfied with your productivity. A piece of cake, or an extra hour of Netflix – simple, yet effective. Like Tony Robbins once said, “feed your focus, starve your distractions”, and soon there will be no distractions.

Work from Home Woes #3: Isolation

It may get a bit lonely when you work from home. If you are an entrepreneur or a part of a team which functions from remote locations, the odds are you don’t get to have a lot of human interaction on a day-to-day basis. This can get to even the most introverted people. When you work from a formal set up, you meet colleagues and have a chance at engaging in conversation. Whereas, working from home minimally limits that option.

In which case, you have to make up for face time by consciously increasing your interaction with your team and peers through intensive communication and collaboration. Pick up the phone and talk to people more, take every opportunity to collaborate, create mailing groups to inform and be informed – just because you are not physically present in the office doesn’t mean you can’t be a present and active member of your team. If you are an entrepreneur, make it a point to be a part of groups of similar people who meet up once in a while and exchange ideas. A healthy dose of interaction is absolutely crucial to your productivity.

Work from Home Woes #4: Lack of Routine

Working from home comes along with that amazing feeling of being your own boss. There is however, a slight (not) problem attached. This knowledge of being your own boss can often induce a lack of discipline in your routine. Which means, you end up feeling unproductive – one of the worst feelings ever.

Even if you work from home, especially if you work from home, create a strict routine for yourself. Have a morning routine where you wake up at a fixed time every day. How you start your day has a definite impact on the progress of your day. Exercising and getting some fresh air, and a good breakfast is an imperative to having a fulfilling and productive day, or so we believe. Even if you do not have to go out to get to your workplace, make sure that you set strict working hours for yourself. Get to your desk by 9 AM, or a time you feel suits you, and go through your day in a time bound manner – just like you would if you were working in a formal environment.

Work from Home Woes #5: Getting bogged with Domestic Drudgery

Another peril of working from home is getting bogged down with domestic drudgery. There are ample things that we allow ourselves to procrastinate with – cleaning, organizing, doing our laundry, the list goes on. Being present at home while working does not help take your mind off from the dishes or the laundry or the cooking that needs to be done. This can retard your productivity to a greater extent than you can imagine. Domestic chores take up a lot of time. If we allow ourselves to get distracted by them, they won’t ever stop snatching our attention away from tasks that really need it.

So we’re saying…

Let go of things that do not need your immediate attention. Prioritize and see if a certain domestic task is a priority. While this may be an exception, do not make it a rule. It is worthwhile seeking help with the chores, so you are not constantly struggling to maintain balance. Speak with your family and divide up the chores. You could also hire a help if you are in a place to afford it. Delegating these tasks go a long way in fueling your productivity.

Being able to work from home can be the best thing that ever happened to you. Only, you need to be able to tackle the woes we just spoke about. And like you just read, it may not be all that difficult to put those woes away. All it takes is a strong mind, and a healthy body. With that combination, there will be no mountain you cannot scale – we mean it in a literal and metaphorical sense. Working from home can feel like a blessing – you get the gift of time because you end up saving so much time. Which means, you have a chance to get more done, and also a chance for more ‘me – time’. Win – win, then? We’d say yes!

What Makes a Dream Team?

What Makes a Dream Team?

Dream teams are what come together to create magic. It always seems like a great team fits together like perfect pieces of jigsaw made to fit together. However, that is seldom the case. There is no magic unless you create it. Likewise, a dream team is the result of careful, effective and applied leadership and thought. To make a dream team takes a certain amount of acumen. But making what you call, ‘a dream team’, what do you look for? Here are the five most important (magic) ingredients, that come together to make the secret (not so secret anymore) magic sauce of a dream team! Read on to know.

What to look for, to make a ‘dream team’

Look for, Emotional Intelligence

One of the most important characteristics of a great team is for team members to have not just the needed technical skills, but more importantly to possess emotional intelligence. Being aware of what is happening around them, and having the capacity to respond accordingly is a very important quality to seek, while looking to build a team. Social sensitivity and awareness goes a longer way than technical skills. And we are not just saying that, research says so too.

A study carried by Anita Woolley from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and her colleagues, measured group intelligence and how each individual influences it. Woolley placed 699 people in teams of two to five and got them to carry out a series of tasks, such as solving puzzles, brainstorming, typing and negotiating. The groups were then evaluated on their performance, and given a group intelligence score.As it turns out, neither the intelligence of the smartest member, nor the average intelligence of the group, influenced the overall group intelligence. Instead, social sensitivity—the ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others—was the most important factor that influenced the overall group intelligence.” [source]

Look for, Diversity

Very often one tends to think that like-minded people coming together make for a great team. Frankly, it is diversity in thought and personality that make for a great team. Quirks are important and quirks of different people are important. It is this difference that outlines the overall personality of your team as a whole. A healthy diversity also means paying attention to being inclusive. It is the diversity of a team that makes way for great stimulating discussions, which are the genesis of amazing ideas. Besides, with a diverse team, things never get boring and you always have each other to learn from and grow with!

Look for, Proactive Communicators

Before you begin your hunt for proactive communicators, it is first essential to understand what proactive communication is. Communicating proactively means to think a step ahead. To anticipate and to act on it. A proactive communicator will go the extra mile, and very often it is not even out-of-the-way, but only a sensitive gesture. Emotional intelligence and proactive communication are in a way interdependent.

Examples of proactive communication?

  • “Team members provide information before being asked.
  • Provide support and assistance before being asked.
  • They take team initiative by providing guidance and making suggestions to other team members.
  • They provide updates, creating situational awareness for other team members. [source]

Look for, a Leader

At the center of a great team, is a good leader. But who is a good leader? Someone who can guide, motivate and just ‘be there’ for the team. A good leader is like-able, and at the same time formidable – a weird combination? But its true.  Like John C.Maxwell once very rightly said, “You know you are a good leader when your team does not hesitate to approach you, but never wants to let you down. If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.”

Most importantly, a leader recognizes the value of leadership skills in every member of the team. And that is what makes a great team.

Look for, Fun!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, yes sir. A team that has fun together, stays together. When looking to create a dream team, never miss out on looking for fun. It is indeed one of the most important secret ingredients for an indivisible team. To have a team which knows how to have fun, and work hard makes the journey so much more enjoyable. You live your work – and that is a blessed feeling. To have a team which knows how to have fun, is one of the finest ways to be happy in the now!

Like everything else, building a team is a process which requires patience and skill. It does not happen over night, but when it does, it is indeed the stuff of dreams!

What is your notion of a “dream team”?

Entrepreneurship is not Easy – Five lessons from my journey so far

Entrepreneurship is not Easy – Five lessons from my journey so far

No, I am not complaining. To live a life of my choosing and to do work that I love is a blessing indeed and I thank my stars every day for this. An adventure it is, but it is not all fun and games. And the next time one of my ex-colleagues from the corporate world tells me that I am living THE life and I have it all easy and set – be warned, I might just punch you. I was prepared for the hard work, the dedication and the perseverance that is needed to build something valuable from scratch – that’s the easy part. The hard part has been some of the experiences in the past two years since I moved from being an employee to a  micropreneur to an entrepreneur – some known, some forgotten, some unique, some learnt – but all experiences that have taught me some tough lessons. Lessons that I hope will help me grow and become more successful as an entrepreneur.

Today’s post is a summary of some of the jottings in my diary in the past year since I launched a full-fledged business – jottings that helped me understand, clarify internally and get clarity to take decisions. As I look back, some of the jottings assume special significance and I believe are worth sharing. So here are the big five lessons from my diary on entrepreneurship in the past year:

Entrepreneurship Lesson #1: A “NO” is not Personal – and I can’t move ahead if I don’t learn to recognise and accept all the nos quickly. I have reached out far and wide in my contacts to get more business. And of course, there are more nos than yeses.  And while I am really thankful for the yeses that got me started, it took me some time to accept that a no from my circle of contacts is not a personal rejection. Given all the nos, now I have this background track of a door opening and closing (with various levels of sound effects) playing in my mind whenever I make the pitch. There is the direct “bang” NO – brutal but efficient in the long run. There is the “creaking” half-hearted no – I will see what I can do (no), Call me next month (no), let’s wait for my budgets to be clear (no). And there is the deadly “total silence” no – no response at all to emails, calls, etc. I am a great believer in the power of sales funnel conversion stats – my belief in myself can be shaken but not my belief in the infallibility of numbers and metrics. It took me some time but now I have learnt to be happy with a no. The quicker I finish my quota of nos, the faster I can reach the yeses in wait for me.

Entrepreneurship Lesson #2: Every Hire is not a Great hire – With all my experience in hiring and managing people, this is one mistake that hit me hard. I have been very careful in building my initial team – this is the team that after all will determine what the company culture will be. The team that will walk the talk of the mission, vision and values and set examples for the rest to follow. It hurt when I realised that even after careful screening, I had hired someone who did not fit in with the core culture of my company. It hurt more when “sitting down” and having a discussion with the team member did not work. I had to take rapid action to let the person go. And that is the lesson – that even after being very careful, there will still be people who may be great performers but are not “right” for the organization. Hire slow and fire fast – strong words but very important ones for a startup.

Entrepreneurship Lesson #3: Every Customer is not a Great customer – And there will be times when I need to let a customer go. I have to let go of the temptation to add customers indiscriminately (and especially at the time when I can count all my customers on fingers of my hands). Being small and starting up, I needed to be careful about where I am directing efforts towards. And my fingers were burnt badly when I spent a lot of time and money working to satisfy a customer who though was known to me in my earlier life, I was not very comfortable taking on. There was a conflict in values when I initially assessed the opportunity and I should have listened to my gut feel/instincts that this conflict cannot be ignored and things will not work out. After a lot of back and forth and heartburn – it didn’t. Lesson learnt – I would rather stay small than compromise on what I need my business to stand for.

Entrepreneurship Lesson #4: Cash on Invoice is not Cash in the Bank – Can’t believe it even now, that I with all my revenue and cash flow management experience was sliding into this trap of false security. But I was – serves me right for building castles in the air and nearly building a few on the ground based on all the $$$ that I had raised invoices for. One big bill paid and my castles fell apart. And common sense came back. I now plan my costs and investments only based on the cash in the bank. Being self-funded, this is quite tricky but absolutely necessary for my peace of mind and my company’s financial well-being. That’s another thing about entrepreneurship – money balance in bank is the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep every night. Money was never a priority for me when I was in a job – never thought I would see this day or night 🙂

Entrepreneurship Lesson #5: Expect the Unexpected – I made an excellent business plan in December and had to throw out more than 50% of the planning on customers, revenue streams and sources by February end. Solid depression for a week (how could my planning have been so flawed? Who was I kidding? Is it time to wind up even before it starts properly?)  And then another revenue stream opened up. A customer was served up to me on a plate by a connection who I did not expect it from (thank you so much A). And I was back in the running :). Lesson learnt – things change. And things change rapidly. Have a Plan B (and C) in place. Be flexible and go with the flow. A plan is great but if the real world throws up some opportunities or challenges, be ready to grab them or fight them. And to prepare for change I now expect it and experiment with change by shaking things up and around a little bit more often in my business.

I have a long way to go yet and a lot to do. But if success is measured in terms of personal growth and experiences gathered, my first year as an entrepreneur has been quite successful. I am happy in the now and my team is happy in the now too 🙂 – what else could I ask for? Right – more money in the bank would be a good ask too, but I will get there.

Intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-in-the-making – what do you think? Any advice for me – anything I should know now before I burn my fingers? Help me by sharing your thoughts and wisdom with me.

Pic courtesy – Flying_Solo_by_Chocoreaper