The experience for potential and new hires at the U is far from uniform. It can vary by role, department or even just the individual leading the search. And unfortunately, one of the results of a less uniform process can be an opportunity for bias—even though it may not be intentional or may rear its ugly head through things like microaggressions.
The discussion on creating more fair, equitable and inclusive recruitment, retention and exit standards was just one of the topics discussed for the U’s first Collective Day of Action. Held on March 22, 2022, it brought together students, staff, faculty and other community members to identify ways to address racism, bias, and discrimination—specifically experienced by members of the Black community.
Institutions often have been designed for one group or type of person to excel—and we’re all in a position to perpetuate or disrupt those systemic biases, one session facilitator noted. And while it can feel overwhelming to look at a large organization with tens of thousands of employees and try to make an impact, change can come through individual actions.
Below are key takeaways from the Day of Collection Action session titled, “Employee Pathway: Recruitment, Retention, Exit,” facilitated by Dani Baum, associate director, Human Resources at the University of Utah.
By its very nature, recruitment is a gatekeeping process. You may have one open position and 100 applicants, and sometimes the selection process begins by removing people from the pool. This removal process is rife with opportunities for bias, and a conscious effort needs to be made to combat even unintentional biases from slipping in. A few things to keep in mind as you begin recruiting and posting jobs include:
- Consider how you’re advertising the position. Are there other job boards you could post to? Other communities you could connect with that may provide a more diverse candidate pool?
- Review the language of the posting. Are you using gender-inclusive language—such as chairperson instead of chairman? Have you removed exclusionary words, such as “grandfathered plan”, and other phrases?
- Try using a free tool to identify neutral alternatives to gendered words in postings. Here are a few options:
- Are you relying too much on personal biases to evaluate interviews? Do you put too much weight into how firm a handshake was, or have specific dress and hairstyle standards you believe to be more indicative of a quality candidate? Rather than looking for sameness in your applicants and existing teams, consider the strength that diversity can bring.
- Is too much emphasis being placed on “cultural fit” for candidates? “Fit” can often imply sameness, which can be detrimental to teams.
How do we keep people engaged and wanting to continue their careers here at the U? Obviously, pay is an important part of that conversation—but not all of it. Some of the other items that can help employees feel satisfied and engaged include:
- Feeling valued
- Opportunities for growth
- Climate and culture
- Supervisor support
- Autonomy to make decisions within a role
- Being a part of the transformation students experience, or other missions at the U from health care, research, community impact, and more
- A sense of pride in work completed
- Mutual respect with colleagues and supervisors
When employees begin to feel a connection, they can start to find their community and are less likely to leave. However, finding that community can be particularly difficult for historically marginalized communities. Things that can be barriers to success include:
- Lack of recognition
- Expectations for 24/7 work
- Undercompensating or passing over for promotions staff of color and women/LGBTQ+ staff
- Lack of follow-through on commitment
When people leave the organization, there are two goals to keep in mind:
- Understand why the employee is leaving and address any issues that may have caused that person to exit.
- Make the exit process positive so they tell their friends and family the U is a great place to work, and they may even come back someday.
Employees moving on is an expected part of the process, and just because a person found a new job, that doesn’t necessarily indicate there are problems to be addressed. However, it can be an opportunity to learn more about any potential issues.