Want to Achieve Gender Balance? Stop Focusing Solely on Gender. 

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Mar 24, 2020

Unilever recently reported that it reached gender balance in its management ranks. Half of the company’s 14,000 managers worldwide are female (up from 38% only five years ago). This is particularly striking because the organization has more managers than most companies have employees. 

One reason, according to Unilever, why they were able to accomplish gender balance is because the company used AI assessments in their recruitment process for management trainees.

AI & Assessments

Unilever uses Pymetrics and Hirevue in their recruitment process for management trainees. It’s important to realize that much of Unilever’s management is internally promoted and selected from their well-renowned management trainee program. As such, selecting the right candidates and having a gender balance in trainees is much more important down the line for Unilever than for companies that recruit a lot of external managers. 

Of course, merely achieving gender balance was only part of what Unilever accomplished — because, of course, diversity without inclusion does not work. Still, it’s worth focusing on the role that recruiters can play to have an impact when it comes to addressing this issue. 

The Power of AI and Assessment Technology

Unilever was able to achieve its results because the company concentrated on selecting people based on their potential to become great managers — not because it wanted to select more women.

Indeed, the best part of all this is that the organization simply wanted to select better people. And it did so by assessing talent. As it turns out, if you actually measure talent, there is a lot of it out there among all genders and races.

Although Unilever is still pretty secretive about its models and how it uses predictive assessments, we know that the organization used them with their current staff. So what probably happened is that the company found out that there was no one singular definition of a good manager. As we all know, you can be a good manager in several ways.

Unilever might have even discovered that a good manager for a certain team with certain types of people is a bad manager for another team. And because the company was able to identify someone’s real strengths based on digital assessments, instead of biased human judgement, it was subsequently able to develop the weaknesses of its management trainees early on. 

In other words, Unilever gained knowledge about its talent not just based on gender but on neurological differences to reveal different types of effective managers. Simply put, it’s not gender that determines great managers; it’s a mix of qualities that transcend gender.

The Future of Selection

Unilever was one of the first big names to start on the road of using AI-based assessments, and they have now shown results. Others have been following the company’s lead. Recently, for example, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a contract to assess every applicant with game-based assessment technology, whereby the results will be matched to the job analyses of every job they have. 

So are digital assessments the future of selection? Will game-based pre-selection assessments become as common as submitting a resume? I think so, and I certainly hope so.

The beauty of AI-powered assessments is not that they are better than all the other assessments (and their corresponding psychologists). Rather, it’s that such technology is scalable and you are able to leverage both assessment and predictive components at the start of the funnel. And if we start actually assessing candidates on their abilities instead of their resumes, we’ll probably find there is a lot more talent out there than we thought. 

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