gradireland Breakfast Masterclass January 2019

On Wednesday January 23rd, gradireland held their latest Breakfast Masterclass at Dublin’s Alex Hotel, which focused on the issue of  ‘unconscious bias’. The topic was explored in the context of graduate recruitment in terms of what it is, why we’re all prone to it to some extent and how we can combat it in the workplace.
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gradireland Director Mark Mitchell addressing the gradireland Breakfast Masterclass at the Alex Hotel.
After an introduction by gradireland Director Mark Mitchell, the first to speak was Clodagh Bannigan, Managing Director with M3S, the Managed Services division of recruitment giant, Morgan McKinley. M3S also kindly sponsored the event. Clodagh spoke about the definition of unconscious bias, why it is hardwired into our brains in many cases and why understanding it and its various facets is the key to coming to a solution to eliminate it. She highlighted industry examples from companies such as Amazon, who used AI in their selection processes, only for the technology to discriminate against female candidates. On a practical level, Clodagh spoke about the importance of using neutral language in job descriptions, utilising tools such as Textio and matching technology, which appeal equally to both male and female applicants. Some takeaways from Clodagh’s presentation on unconscious bias included:

·        Slow down your thinking in terms of your recruitment processes and analyse how your current methods may make you vulnerable to unconscious bias.

·        Empathise with feelings of viewpoints of those vulnerable to unconscious bias.

·        Learn about different cultures and groups and what they expect in an application and selection process and what problems they frequently encounter.

·         Gain evidence and combat stereotypes at all levels of the process.

The next speaker on this subject was Tara Doyle, partner with Matheson, she talked about tackling unconscious bias in law firm graduate recruitment and what are her own experience of it was. Tara said that while Matheson, which has over 700 employees, had taken steps to combat unconscious bias, they were still very much ‘in the beginning’ in terms of addressing this complex issue. A traditional law firm, Matheson has evolved considerably over recent decades in terms of coming to terms with what its talent strategy was in terms of combating bias and avoiding selecting those who just conformed to expected legal industry norms. She said that significant progress had been made in Matheson in terms of unconscious bias in the context of gender particularly, but that it was a constantly evolving process to make sure that their recruitment process was as progressive as possible. Tara touched on affinity bias, the attraction of the familiar, and why it is a form of unconscious bias to simply attract a ‘fit’ for your organisation. Mark Mitchell asked the question as to how recruiters should adapt this as students are frequently told about how ‘fit’ is such an important element in terms of starting their careers. Tara said that ‘fit’ has been replaced to a certain extent by values. Internships have meant that someone’s ‘fit’ for a certain organisation has developed more organically, through experience of that company-but values, and how they are promoted, are so important now in terms of graduate recruitment messaging.
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Tara Doyle of Matheson discussing the law firm’s approach to unconscious bias at the gradireland Breakfast Masterclass.
Matheson’s roadmap to combating unconscious bias (PRIDE) Partnership Respect Innovation Diversity Entrepreneurship This was bolstered by their mission statement in this respect-‘Greater alignment of our people strategy and diversity and inclusion commitment and our values to our graduate recruitment strategy.’ The steps that Matheson have taken include:

·        Refined selection criteria to enhance objectivity when screening applications.

·        Contextual recruitment-‘blind’ CV policy etc. As recruitment is now application form based, this means that various fields (University, school for example) are not visible to recruiters so no preconceptions can be formed in that regard.

·        Unconscious bias training workshops for recruitment partners and senior management in general. Combating unconscious bias cannot just be a HR initiative, it needs ‘buy-in’ from throughout the company, particularly at executive level.

·         Extended timelines and more considered decision making in the recruitment process.

·         ‘Call each other out’ and ensure candidates are assessed by a pool of different partners who meet as a group to discuss each candidate.

·        Support initiatives to reduce barriers to third level education and entry into the legal profession.

·         Investing in future-reducing unconscious bias through taking time, investment and commitment to enhance awareness.

After Clodagh and Tara’s presentations there was an engaging Q&A session, with wide ranging questions from the floor including, combating ‘affinity’ hiring, or hiring the classic industry fit, within the telecoms sector and how good marketing, using neutral language is vital in employer messaging in this area. The discussion also touched on flexible working trends, such as the difficulties surrounding female staff on the issue of maternity leave, both in terms of departing for maternity leave and returning to the workplace. Maternity coaching, which involves both the mother and those she works with, was highlighted by Tara as being something which they have introduced in Matheson as problems frequently arise during the mother’s return to work, when they feel particularly vulnerable. Essentially it’s about reassuring a valued member of the company that they can make a successful, and balanced return to the workplace. Both Tara and Clodagh said that the issue of bias, and combating it, had not yet resulted in actual quotas in terms of gender hiring with most firms happy with general targets in this area. Following a networking break, Mark Mitchell, gradireland Director gave a summary of gradireland’s plans for 2019, which come on the back of a record-breaking year for gradireland.com The site had 2.17 million site visits in 2018 (up 23%) and 1.74 million Unique User visits (up 28 %). October 2018, saw the highest ever traffic to the website with 250,000 visits. The user journey is key to gradireland’s products for 2019, with elements such as behavioural targeting scheduled to be incorporated into the site. We are also using user experience tools such as HotJar, allied with other analytics tools, to build the most informed picture of a student’s journey through the site.
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gradireland Director Mark Mitchell showcasing product developments for 2019.
The major additions will be the gradireland App and Talent matching, which essentially will allow employer to student direct messaging-these are scheduled to be available at the end of Q1 2019. Both will be ‘soft’ launched with a view to analysing how they are used and how they can be developed. The App will allow for a streamlined user experience through the content on gradireland.com, while Talent Match has seen considerable work in terms of data, with 38 extra fields being added to student profiles so we can provide the most relevant information to the student at the right time, which is the core mission of gradireland. Mark added in some key dates for gradireland’s 2019 events, including gradireland LIVE on February 7th. 20190123_115149bm1 The event was rounded off by John Ryan, who heads up Great Places to Work Ireland. He spoke about a new initiative, Healthy Places to Work and the necessity for the workplace to become a place focused on wellness at all levels for those who work there. The Healthy Places to Work initiative, John explained, is about building ‘anti’ fragility amongst the workforce and true resilience, while contributing to a level of optimism about the future through continuous encouragement and learning. John’s engaging presentation delved into why most organisations are not meeting the needs of their employees in terms of their personal wellbeing and that by investing in this they will reap multiple benefits. Find out more about Healthy Places to Work here.

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