HR tech and AI is increasingly used by employers.

What’s one of the most troubling challenges for employers hiring today? Talent scarcity and the growing skills gaps certainly often come to mind, but behind these difficulties may be something more stubborn to overcome for many organizations — institutional hiring bias.

As much as some companies try, overcoming hiring bias to promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce can still be challenging. Bias against female and minority candidates may be unconscious and/or intentional at any point in the hiring process. A company may foster a culture that institutionally creates barriers for diverse jobseekers or is simply unaware of sourcing, screening or interviewing steps that may make it more difficult for these candidate to get hired. Whether intentional or not, these employers are losing out on great workers who can drive stronger business results.

A diverse and inclusive workforce has many benefits. Studies have shown that diversity and financial results have a strong correlation. In fact, McKinsey reports that data suggests companies with a stronger diversity & inclusion strategy may be rewarded with greater market share. Harvard Business Review found that diversity can help drive business innovations. These are just some of the research supporting the business case.

Despite these compelling reasons, many companies are still not achieving a workforce well represented by workers of different races, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and age. Forbes reported that executives are increasingly interested in hiring more diverse candidates, but executing on this goal remains a problem. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently quoted one talent acquisition executive as saying that while companies want to do better in their hiring practices, many fail to create an effective approach that leads to results.

For companies making a concerted effort to hire more diverse candidates, they may face a host of barriers. Unconscious bias is becoming a significant issue for many organizations as they look to better educate their recruiters and hiring managers, using a variety of training tools and programs along the way. In fact, technologies that use AI and machine learning to create a more inclusive hiring process were among the top software selected at this year’s first Pitchfest held at the annual HR Tech Conference.

technology innovation to the rescue

The most buzz-inducing category at this year’s HR Tech Conference helps create more diversity by aiding recruiters. Two platforms in particular stood out during the show. The first, Blendoor uses AI and talent analytics to reduce unconscious bias and promote diverse hiring. The second, TalVista relies on algorithms to eliminate bias in the recruitment process. Both solutions were winners at the Pitchfest competition.

Among key ways to promote more diverse hiring are ensuring job descriptions are more inviting to candidates of different backgrounds and blind screening applicants. Companies often aren’t aware that the way they construct a description can discourage certain segments of the talent from applying, while anonymizing resumes can minimize bias in the selection process. By leveraging AI and automation to rapidly perform these tasks, employers ensure their process isn’t slowed by the need to consciously identify bias. Furthermore, technology can be applied to identify where bias does occur in the entire hiring journey.

Some technologies also help with sourcing diverse candidates by providing access to more inclusive talent pools. This ensures an employer is looking in the right place to begin with. Others solutions such as Textio help hiring managers write job descriptions that are more appealing to diverse candidates by comparing the content to successful postings. This is powered by AI to scan descriptions as they are written and compared with key terms that are appealing to diverse candidates.

The use of AI to eliminate bias and promote greater workforce diversity is not new. More companies, however, are eager to use new tools to get the best talent, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age and other personal traits. In these talent-scarce times, it makes sense for employers to ensure they don’t leave great candidates behind through unconscious or institutional bias. Employers are recognizing there’s room for improvement in their processes, and that they’re actively want to close the gaps.

Moreover companies that operate in markets in which workforce diversity is a requirement for doing business with government agencies have no choice but to comply with these mandates. Although they may see it as a necessary evil, the fact is over time they will come to realize the benefits of a more inclusive culture.

As employers around the world become more aware of their need to bring talent of different backgrounds into their organization, the good news is that technology is helping to automate and accelerate their efforts. While there will always be bias somewhere in the hiring process, companies can significantly minimize the impact this has to reach the best talent in the market regardless of gender, race or age.