Diversity and inclusion remain one of the top challenges facing businesses in 2021, despite more than 80% conducting unconscious bias training, according to a new survey.

The study, conducted by Arctic Shores, revealed that more than three quarters of companies plan to review their diversity hiring practices for 2021. And it comes despite 81% of employers surveyed having conducted unconscious bias training with its existing workforce.

The results suggest that unconscious bias training alone is not enough to ensure fair, consistent and effective processes around diversity and inclusion, Arctic Shores said.

When asked to rank their priorities in improving their talent acquisition processes in 2021, 25% highlighted ‘removing unconscious bias’, making it the top priority ahead of reducing ‘gut feel’ approach to interviews (24%) and ‘consistency across the business’ (18%).

These desired improvements also align with the overall top challenges for talent in 2021, which are ‘access to top talent’ (19%) and ‘diversity and inclusion’ (18%).

“The Black Lives Matter movement has amplified a long overdue awareness of bias and driven the need for action, so it’s encouraging to see companies saying they want to address issues of ‘gut feel’ and unconscious bias.

Companies and their employees are pushing for a change in culture and mindset, and 2021 is an opportunity to take a leap forward in the right direction.”

Robert Newry, CEO of Arctic Shores

Mr Newry added: “The survey also highlights that there is a problem between company training and actual delivery of diversity objectives. Companies need to ask themselves ‘why they are hiring for diversity?’ Because it’s a box to tick? No, of course not. People should want to celebrate and be part of diverse teams – and we should all feel a duty to provide fairness and opportunity. This, in turn, will create stronger teams and have a bigger impact on success.”

Sean Mileusnic, director of organisational development at Avast, who participated in the research, said: “We want to create a process where there are no barriers whatsoever. Be it gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or social class, we’re creating a naturally inclusive experience. And, as a consequence, we’ll naturally be more diverse.”

Alongside a CV and interview to assess candidate potential, nine out of 10 respondents say they use at least one or more extra tools (e.g. an application form, behaviour-based assessment, realistic job preview, situational judgement test), with just under half (48%) using a ‘technical skills test’.

Newry added: “It’s encouraging to see that businesses are using a range of tools to get a wider picture of a candidate’s suitability. But many of these tools and technology solutions are designed to use skills and experience as a form of assessment. The important question is, how do you measure someone’s alignment to culture, or values? Currently, there’s a reliance on ad hoc – and sometimes borderline ridiculous – questions over objective data and real behavioural insight. When behaviour is being measured, it is often in curated environments that are still open to bias and ‘gut feel’ decisions.

At a time when there is more available talent than ever, we need to sharpen our focus on measuring what actually matters and challenge the old school ways of hiring.”