September 28th, 2021 | Sterling

Smart Ways Employers Are Supporting Equitable Hiring and Mitigating Risk

An African-American guy using laptop in the office

During Sterling Backchecks’s recent retail roundtable, “Thriving in a Transformed Talent Market,” a top-of-mind topic among key retail employers was how to face the talent supply shortage in Canada. There are no shortcut solutions — especially when the health and safety of employees and customers hangs in the balance — so we asked our experienced panelists about the strategies they’ve found effective.

While the pandemic-related exodus of traditional workers has led to high talent demand, another issue emerged in 2020 that may help expand the candidate pool: calls for social justice and equitable access in the workplace. This message reverberated around the world, and many employers have heard the call to respond. Retailers are particularly well-positioned to be difference-makers in the communities they serve, and all panelists agreed that hiring practices can play a key role in supporting larger social responsibilities.

Equitable access to employment opportunities

Chantelle Painter, HR and Recruitment Engagement Manager at The Brick and a board member for the TALK Edmonton talent acquisition board, discussed the value of adopting humility when making community connections. “What has returned with a huge ROI for us is acknowledging what we don’t know. For us, it is really about relationship building — whether with our team members, our agency partnerships, or the people who walk into our stores. We ask how these relationships can be mutually beneficial, and what we can learn from them. We have examples where we had people with disabilities evaluate our systems to tell us where we go wrong in our interview processes.”

Community organizations can also be an excellent resource. “We have developed open relationships with agencies who have been willing to walk beside us and train our managers on how there isn’t just one way to conduct interviews.”

The Brick has also seen positive outcomes engaging with different communities of newcomers. Chantelle explains, “We have our job positions and postings translated into other languages because, although somebody might speak English or French, and they might function perfectly well, they might not be as receptive to someone who doesn’t value the language they speak most comfortably. We try to help our team members identify with the people who walk into our stores. Central to that mission, we want our hiring to reflect the communities we serve.”

Chantelle noted that as conversations about reconciliation have grown nationally, The Brick continues searching for new ways to engage the indigenous community. “Again, it goes back to the humility of making good relationships and seeking out people who know and have experienced what it means to be indigenous and help identify how we might not be communicating effectively. We have national hiring policies and guides. They’re all right, well, and good, but are useless if we don’t realize that it’s a very personal journey, hiring people. What makes them feel fulfilled is very individual. Recognizing that, it’s about how you apply that into regional strategies and how you convey your culture that matters.”

Recruiting to build a more diverse workforce

Rolando Lopez, Sr. Director of Talent Strategy for Loblaw Companies Ltd., also weighed in on the topic of ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in the hiring process at scale. “At a macro view, we want to build an inclusive environment from the ground level and that starts with how and who we recruit, which starts with our job descriptions,” said Rolando. Currently, Loblaws is exploring AI tools to analyze job postings, identify wording and other areas that discourage inclusivity, and recommend more appropriate language to attract the diverse candidates they want. “We try to put our money where our mouth is. If we say we are an inclusive, diverse organization, we need to show that even in how we attract our candidates.”

For a large employer like Loblaws, defining a diversity strategy can be complex, so the focus shifts to projects at a more micro level. One example is Loblaws’ proactive approach to bridge the gender gap in STEM. “We want to encourage future leaders by doing something about it right now. We’ve launched a series of networking and conference sessions attracting women in STEM — while they’re still in school,” said Rolando. “We want to inspire them to think about not just how they can get a job in STEM roles, but how they can become leaders in roles like VPs, Directors, and SVPs. Women that are successful inspire this growing population to not only go for a career, but to go for leadership as well.” This targeted strategy to increase diversity can be scaled to larger levels.

Mitigating risk while supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion

Mark Sward, Vice President and Global Head of Privacy at Sterling and our in-house expert on compliance, opened a discussion on the interplay between doing criminal record checks and goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Mark noted, “There is a myriad reasons criminal record checks need to be done, especially in the retail space, but how can we do these in a thoughtful way that doesn’t have any unintended impact?”

At a policy level, Canadian norms defining how criminal records play into employment decisions are based on a patchwork of different provincial human rights rules. There’s also a worry that candidates don’t know the procedure details on self-disclosure and may drop out of the application process. While Sterling Backcheck continues to collaborate with industry partners to define standards and offers help for candidates who need guidance on following proper self-disclosure process, Chantelle also offered a few tips for employers looking to balance their background screening processes with diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for candidates with criminal pasts:

3 Considerations to Confidently and Compliantly Hire Candidates with Criminal Pasts

1. Align adjudication policy with the most stringent standards within Canada.

Different provinces set different rules on how criminal record information may be used in a hiring decision. “The Brick uses the most stringent standards as the bar. Whether it’s enforced or not, the law is clear that unless the conviction is relevant to job requirements, it shouldn’t impact the application process. We have simplified our job descriptions to focus on core job requirements. A driver applicant with a DUI would be something very important to consider for us. But for somebody going into sales, a DUI might not come into play at all in our hiring decision, especially if it was from a long time ago.”

Having a fair and clearly documented process also serves a second function: ensuring that if the hiring processes is ever audited from legal, employee relations, or an employee labour standpoint, the employer can prove the decision was made in adherence to fair, objective standards.

2. Provide an opportunity for candidates to discuss their past.

Chantelle stresses the value of conversation with candidates. “If there is any discussion that needs to be had, we want to give ample opportunity for people to be honest with us. This is almost more important than the result of the background check. If someone can be honest disclosing their criminal record backgrounds, something this personally difficult for them to discuss, honesty following our policies will be an easier discussion [to have] with them. If [a potential team member] recognizes something that may be a barrier for them, the outcome for us is far better in the long run if they can have open discussions with us about that.”

3. Invest in training hiring decision makers — the payoff is higher talent retention.

Chantelle notes, “In the past five years, our hiring managers have undergone coaching on how to approach these conversations with potential team members. As we recognize that we are fallible and team members will come with life having happened to them, we can put the ‘human’ back in ‘human resources’. Encouraging these very human conversations to seek out who a person actually is, we can find someone who wants to stay with us and grow with us.”

What’s the advantage of hiring someone with a criminal record?

According to Chantelle, “Statistically, when you hire someone who has a barrier to employment, their retention goes up — these are people who genuinely want to work and genuinely want to find a home. When they’re given an opportunity, they’re often higher performers because they value the opportunity.”

The hiring challenges you face are vitally important, and you deserve expert support from a business partner who truly listens to and understands your needs. At Sterling Backcheck, this belief is the basis of our client partnerships, where we contribute effectively towards executing their strategy the way they envision.

For more information how a potential partnership leveraging Sterling Backcheck’s expertise in background and identity screening services can help you achieve your strategic goals, contact us.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.