To what extent do preconceptions and stereotypes influence hiring of staff? A great deal, according to exercises performed by city officials in Gävle, Sweden. The city’s recruitment process has now been quality assured by means of education and a web-based tool.
One-third of the City of Gävle’s 7200 employees will retire within ten years. This implies a major recruitment need, and the city management has decided to actively increase the quality of the hiring process, which includes prevention of discrimination. The project Diversity and Recruitment started in September 2008 and ended in December 2009.
A total of 403 managers and union representatives have been trained in discrimination and equal opportunity issues related to the recruitment process. The evaluation of the project shows that 85 per cent of the participants believe that their new knowledge will benefit them significantly in their work.
Helena Vahlund, HR manager within social services, has participated in both the project steering group and the training. She uses the new tool a lot.
‘Some wordings have simply become obsolete as they signal the wrong things.’
‘It can be about how we word job ads. It’s so easy to just copy old texts, but we don’t do that anymore. Some wordings have simply become obsolete as they signal the wrong things.’
The tool also helps with the selection process. It gives tips and advice about how to avoid the traps. Knowing what she knows now, Vahlund almost gets upset when she thinks about how they used to recruit new staff.
‘We had this idea that I thought was really good – to give a bonus to the group of co-workers that could find a trained social worker within their circle of acquaintances who was willing to work for us. We did recruit workers who fit in well in the organisation this way and everybody had a great time together. Today though it seems obvious that it was completely wrong.‘
‘You need to stop for a minute, identify your gut feeling, and then question it.’
Vahlund says that many young workers entered the organisation this way. Today there is rather a tendency to strive for diversity in the group, and many older staff members have been hired.
Moa Hjertson, manager of the project, says that the most common trap is the tendency to choose somebody who is like yourself.
‘With this approach, too many people outside the norm are excluded. Everybody has preconceptions, but you need to be aware of them. You need to stop for a minute, identify your gut feeling, and then question it.
The project Diversity and Recruitment included the following aims:
- A uniform and transparent recruitment process across the City of Gävle’s entire organisation.
- Guidelines and education material available via the intranet.
- A web-based tool available to support management staff.