Nick Miller

New Business Development Associate

About Nick

In the early 1980s, orchestras took a novel—and some might say extreme—step to root out unconscious bias in their hiring practices. At the time, the percentage of women in orchestras was less than 5%. Most of the leaders, conductors, and musicians involved in hiring were men, so they had an unconscious bias toward hiring other men. To combat this problem, orchestras began holding “blind” auditions in which auditioning musicians played behind a screen that masked their identity.

At CASE STM in New Orleans this past month, one of the hot topics was about mitigating bias in the advancement recruitment process. While it’s not feasible to take a page out of the orchestra’s book and insist that all applicants interview from behind a screen, here are some things I gleaned from several sessions that we can do to root out bias.

Design the seats, then hire

This idea was at the top of the diversity conversation at CASE. Attendees felt clearly outlining the roles, responsibilities, and skill sets that are needed for the position is a boon to the hiring process. Having a clear measuring stick to use in evaluating candidates will help you look past your unconscious biases to hire the best person.

Put together a diverse hiring panel

Another “must” that bubbled up in CASE conversations was how important it is to put together a diverse hiring panel. A helpful tip attendees shared with me for selecting an effective hiring panel include looking beyond diversity that is visible—such as race, ethnicity, or gender— to include veterans, differently abled, and those from different cultures or belief systems, as well as a variety of people from different teams and levels within your organization. Attendees cautioned that being predisposed toward others who look like us isn’t the only type of bias.

Leverage the diversity

The various presenters in the sessions about diversity all agreed that when you hire a diverse team comprised of people with different talents, skill sets, and experiences, you are setting your shop up for success to creatively solve problems and invent improved processes. They challenged us to nurture that amazing capacity by helping your team members usefully transfer their skills to a variety of settings and ensuring those skills are translatable by making them known to other teams within your organization.

It’s about identity, too

Encouraging true diversity makes everyone feel included and, thus, more engaged, but talent managers can take it a step further with hiring. During one of the plenary sessions, Are We Smarter than a 5th Grader? – Understanding Diversity versus Identities, the speaker encouraged the audience to understand the important distinctions between identity and diversity while also understanding how the two interact with one another. Our identities and lived experiences can’t be discounted when it comes to diversity and, sometimes, those identities can provide a far more colorful picture of a person, compared to the relatively binary checkboxes of diversity.

Talent managers are facing many challenges. Presenters agreed that hiring a diverse team might not solve all the challenges, but it can go a long way in helping alleviate the problem of retaining team members. The ideas, perspectives, and learning opportunities that bubble up from paying attention to both diversity and identity help to create a richer working environment for everyone…and a workplace where people want to come and stay.