Boldr is in the business of building global teams for our clients. This makes us naturally curious about changes in the customer experience (CX) industry and how it will impact our business strategy. At the same time we are an impact-driven, people-first B-Corp, which means we are obliged to stay abreast of CX developments, simply because we value our people and the communities they form part of.
Over the last couple of years we have sought to make a meaningful difference in the CX space. Besides the thousands of hours of exposure across various CX verticals, we also attended events, engaged with our partners, and made every effort to better understand the future of CX. In large part, our successes during this time can be attributed to our adoption of inclusive hiring in our talent acquisition process. That’s why we launched a webinar series for those who are equally interested in overcoming the biases of the CX industry.
Getting tips from the pros
Earlier this month, we hosted our first webinar about the challenges of making CX more inclusive. The panel, all notable CX specialists, slowly unpacked this sensitive topic by sharing their personal experiences while offering sustainable solutions towards creating a diverse workforce where all employees are equally valued.
Here are the key takeaways of the online event.
Understand what inclusivity looks like
Mandy Kutshied is the VP of talent culture at Exponent Partners, which offers a sales-forecast and implementations solution to non-profit organizations. She defined inclusivity as a way of providing equitable access to opportunities and resources, especially to those who are at risk of being marginalized by inequitable or discriminatory practices in systems.
“Inclusion is deconstructing inequitable systems, it is increasing access, and reducing barriers. I think committing to inclusivity, especially during that recruiting, hiring, onboarding process and the entire life-cycle of an employee means striving for what we call Intentional Inclusion. So, not just being aware of some unconscious or conscious bias that could exist. For us, I think that means striving to accurately reflect the world around us and the clients we serve. Especially in the customer space where we’re supporting and serving clients, we want to reflect the world we’re serving. That means building better, more inclusive product services. It means, also understanding what diversity looks like, or what it means for your organization, and then knowing, and understanding, and tracking your data to better understand where there is opportunity for improvement or growth.”
Be inclusive in the interviewing process
Once the notion of inclusivity has been established within an organization, it is imperative to adjust talent acquisition processes to echo that notion. By hiring outside the normal paradigms that typically exist, we can eliminate barriers to entry for talent, regardless of race, gender, or where that individual is from.
According to Shani Watler, a Program Director at KindWork, the most innocuous interview questions could set an impossible threshold for hopeful applicants, thereby unknowingly excluding them as a fair candidate for a specific position. While this might not be intentional, it is time to relook the interview process as a whole.
“One example that comes to mind is a screening question that was encountered by one of our fellows. It was a ‘get-to-know-you’ screening question from an employer. It was simply: “What’s your favorite place to travel?” or “What’s your favorite place you’ve visited in the world?” The fellow who encountered this question was born and raised in New York and had heaps of customer experience, but, realistically, had been living paycheck-to-paycheck for most of their working history. They had never traveled anywhere so they didn’t really know how to respond to a question like that. That’s an example of the types of questions we ask in the interview space. One that’s a lowball one. A getting-to-know-you cue could be a signal that this isn’t the most inclusive or open-ended question, depending on the audience and their background. That same fellow, she hadn’t traveled anywhere and it wasn’t for a year that she was able to take her first vacation. Inclusivity happens at every stage of engagement. Every part of the team matters, even down to the questions asked during recruitment and selection. At KindWork we try to keep those things in mind and prepare our fellows for what they may encounter, but also push our employer partners and people we connect with in our delivery process to think more deeply about the questions we are asking.”
Create non-prejudiced job descriptions
Digging even deeper into the hiring process, David Sudolsky, Founder and CEO of Boldr, made reference to a hiring practice from a fellow B-Corp that he encountered during the B-Corp Champions’ Retreat. Greyston Bakery is a nonprofit social justice enterprise that does open-hiring. They have specific bakery roles for which they will hire anyone. They focus on backing that open-hiring process without an interview, without a job description, without any policies or procedures as to who or what they screen for. They have a rich training that supplements this hiring practice.
Samantha Pink, a graduate of the Kindwork program, now works as a Technical Support Specialist at Smartsheet, which is a SaaS company whose product is a modern work platform. She pointed out that it all starts with the job postings.
“I think that changing the language of job postings so that it is more inclusive and removing anything that would make an applicant feel excluded, would boost more applicants from a wider audience. I think the job description is the beginning of creating this welcoming environment for potential candidates. This could look like advertising the role and responsibilities more than the requirements for the job including removing degree requirements where they are not essential. Reducing jargon, as well. Typically jargon-heavy advertisements reduce the chances of applicants that are pivoting from another industry with transferable skills from applying and can be discouraging for those that are maybe entry-level and don’t even understand a lot of the words that are meant to be in that job description. Also, just in general, not including a lot of gendered language. Making everything very neutral and even posting in different languages – especially if you are looking for someone that is bilingual. These are things that can make someone that is reading it think, “Oh! This is something for me.” Job postings are a marketing tool and they should come with an inclusive message if you are trying to build a more diverse team. Choosing where to advertise, as well. Companies post on their websites or on sites like LinkedIn, but if you can post things in community organizations and local career centers that are dedicated to boosting employment or overlooked communities, you will attract a wider range of audience.”
Degree or no degree? That is the question
It is possible that college degrees as a requirement can create systemic barriers to entry within the CX workforce. Stefan Pintaric, the CX manager at BioRender, where software is a service product catering to scientists and researchers, believes that degrees are an arbitrary requirement in 90% of CX roles.
“When I started at a company called Format, I came in without a degree. That opened the door for my hiring practice because I would be hypocritical if required that from people. What was more of a requirement was that people were passionate about or interested in the arts. We were catering towards digital artists so it was amazing to have people join the team, and it’s not like you had to be a practicing painter, you just had to love art because that was something you cared about. That was it! I had folks coming in from free-service retail backgrounds and specifically those folks lifted customer satisfaction when I brought them through the door. The way they were able to handle customers was entirely different. They had experience. When someone is yelling at you in person there is something you absorb, like a muscle you build. At BioRender, the team requires that degree because of the need for the conversations we have with customers, but there are future roles that I will build out in my longer-term strategy that wouldn’t need that. Someone talking about the traversal of the blood-brain barrier by some molecule that is going to impact the serotonin-receptor or something… There is a pretty strong benefit. Our clients are grad-students, PhD’s, post-docs, or directors of academic institutions. There is a strong use-case, but as I build my team and change my focus, those roles would not necessarily have that requirement. Right now it is the default. It’s a way for us to say, “We don’t know anything about CX.” I think a lot of managers and community leaders are unfamiliar with the space.”
Be bold and hire outside your comfort zone
Stefan Pintaric provided an example that challenges CX or Human Resource teams to be bolder in their hiring decisions. By creating a language of inclusivity and casting a wider net, we should not be afraid to hire candidates that fall outside the the perceived comfort zones we have created for certain positions. Following the sudden surge in remote working arrangements, it has become easier to take on individuals who would previously not have been available to you.
“In your job listings, make it clear that there is accessibility. For remote positions, mention that there is geographic accessibility. One of the hires I was most excited to make was a woman who was based in Kazakhstan. She saw the job posting through some European service. She took a shot. I felt so excited to have her apply for this job – and to be able to offer it because of remote work.”
This example serves as a benchmark to inclusive hiring because it foregoes race, gender, and geographical biases by looking at the abilities of the candidate. It uncovers hidden talents, creates opportunities where there were none, and is true to our vision of ethical outsourcing.