On 27th June, WhiteHat hosted a number of HR, talent and recruitment professionals to discuss what initiatives companies can implement to build diverse and inclusive teams, the different recruitment strategies being developed to help level the playing field and how human bias is creeping into our AI.

It was a gorgeous summer’s evening yet a number of HR, talent and recruitment professionals from companies including KPMG, Museum of London, British Red Cross and Hootsuite gathered at the WhiteHat offices to discuss diversity and inclusion initiatives, and to learn more about the opportunities and risks associated with AI and effects of human bias.

After a brief welcome from Euan Blair, co-founder and CEO of WhiteHat, the first panel ‘Turning Traditional Recruitment Strategy on its Head’ kicked off. Sophie Adelman, co-founder and GM of WhiteHat, chaired the panel and was joined by Robert Newry, Managing Director of Arctic Shores, Libby Derbyshire, Senior Account Executive - Enterprise & Scaling companies at Hired and WhiteHat’s very own Anna Taylor, Senior Talent & Curation Manager.

To set the scene, Robert pulled a sorting hat (from the Harry Potter series) out from a bag. It generated a lot of laughter from the audience but the symbolism resonated. Authenticity.

The sorting hat reads people’s inner most thoughts and beliefs, their natural strengths and qualities, recognising their potential and using that information to place them in the correct house at Hogwarts. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way to read the potential of an individual and use that to place them in the right role.

Emphasis on how to bring potential to life is key to all of our panellists. Arctic Shores, Hired and WhiteHat are all, in their own ways, developing data driven, candidate friendly recruitment technology to match talent to roles and give everyone an opportunity.

The panel covered everything from diversity of opportunity and levelling the playing field to how organisations need to take responsibility, before ending the session with a powerful message: technology and AI will be key to removing bias during the recruitment process but it needs to be trained to be the best and to do this you need to have representative groups developing technologies.

Our second panel, chaired by Sophie Adelman, and with panellists Ryan Vincent, Member Engagement Executive at INvolve People, Graham Wilson-Perkin, VP Talent Development at Ascential and Jake Hobson, Group Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Hyperion Insurance Group, discussed building a diverse and inclusive team.

Drawing on the irony of having an all male panel discussing diversity, the conversation flowed naturally to the fact that a lot of diversity isn’t visible. And it’s a reality that if we focus on how a person looks then you will miss seeing their talent. “All of us are diverse in one way or another,” enthused Jake, someone who has grown up with dyspraxia, “and inclusion to me is about how we unlock potential in everyone and help them perform in the best way.”

The key takeaways from our panel about building a diverse and inclusive team:

1. Implement practical and tangible actions to help shift the culture to one of inclusion, for example run a ‘things you can do to be inclusive in 30 days’ campaign throughout the company. Whether it’s going for a coffee with someone you wouldn’t normally speak or attend an LGBT meeting, it helps create a more inclusive workplace.

2. There’s a huge awareness and attraction piece that needs to take place; people either don’t know jobs exist or are self-selecting out of open roles at certain companies as they don’t have the confidence to go for them.

3. You can’t train away unconscious bias so you need to mitigate it. One solution is to look at the hiring panel and who is screening candidates to make sure you have a representative group. The other solution is to recognise your own bias and learn how to step back, retraining your brain to new habits and confronting your bias.

4. Evaluate the funnel and interrogate data to work out where your issues are. If you hire 3 women but 5 end up leaving then there is a deeper issue you need to resolve.

5. Flexible working is key to retaining diverse talent, especially in leadership positions where people have different pulls on their lives, for example parental responsibility and caring commitments.

To end the event, the audience heard from our keynote Kriti Sharma who delved into bias is embedded in AI and how it seeps through in numerous areas.

Following the event, we asked some of our speakers for their top tips:

Jake Hobson, Group Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Hyperion Group

“Make it real, make it human. Inclusion is about unlocking the absolute maximum potential of the people around you and to get that, you’ve got to create a culture of vulnerability, trust and understanding about who they are and what makes them great.

Focus on strengths, be open to critique and always asking why will all help you know people better.”

Ryan Vincent, Member Engagement Executive, INvolve People

“Don’t look at diversity in silos - Inclusion involves everyone. We hear organisations say things like ‘oh, we’re only focusing on LGBT+ this year’ fairly frequently. Ask yourself – are the problems you’re identifying for one diverse group just a concern for them, or are they indicators of broader cultural issues which need to be solved for all?”

Graham Wilson-Perkin, VP Talent Development, Ascential

“The best type of Diversity is difference in Point of View. This comes from teams made up of people from different backgrounds and experiences. Curiosity and wilfully suspending judgement are your tools for this; along with thinking about: “What am I doing to boost awareness, access and opportunity for anyone and everyone to join my team”? And, “When they’re here, what am I doing to create a culture where people feel free to share their views, opinions and ideas, and are more than comfortable for teammates to add to them and debate them for phenomenal innovations and results”?

Robert Newry, MD, Arctic Shores

"Creating greater diversity in recruitment needs to be much more than marketing and attraction - in the 21st century it needs to be about identifying the potential to do the job in a way that is authentic, relevant and engaging, while at the same time combining the benefits of technology and human perception."

Anna Taylor, Senior Talent & Curation Manager, WhiteHat

“Diverse or underrepresented talent in your industry will be different so make sure you think about that when designing what success looks like in your assessment or interview process. I'd recommend thinking about looking for potential in your process rather than existing knowledge or experience. What skills are essential to succeed and what can you refine or teach in the role.”