Is the language you use holding your company back?

In our ongoing AI series, HR Grapevine explores corporate bias, inclusive language and how AI and data can help us attract more talent and hire the best people, rather than just filling quotas...
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Is the language you use holding your company back?

The proverbial cat is well and truly out of the bag on data being the surest way to make sure your diversity and inclusion policies are working. But there is one area that is often neglected in data gathering and analysis for D&I: language.

Most business and HR leaders have either heard or thought the phrase, “I want to hire from a wider and more inclusive pool of candidates, but I can only hire from the CVs that come across my desk.” But what if your behaviour and the language you use is not only preventing that pool from widening, but actively turning candidates off?

And what if you were able, using data, to point to specific changes that your business companies can make to dramatically increase the range of candidates you attract?

Here’s one small example: US-based ZipRecruiter has found via recruitment research that gender-neutral job adverts receive up to 42% more applications than those that use more biased language.

But what if we don’t even realise we’re doing it?

“Ask yourself honest, hard-hitting questions about who you have in the organisation and why”

The language of diversity

That is where linguistics, diversity and recruitment specialist Nancy Roberts comes in – and she doesn’t just talk about it – she backs it up with data.

She told HR Grapevine via Zoom: “Using language analytics and natural language processing, we’re able to help companies understand where they're inadvertently communicating something that doesn't align with their messaging."

“Working with a firm called TechWolf, we analysed 14million job adverts worldwide. So instead of saying to CEOs, ‘You should probably use more inclusive language’, we can actually show them, look, this is why people are clicking off, this is why they’re not moving ahead with you. Sometimes the candidates themselves don’t even know, because language is full of subtlety and nuance.

“But those are the specifics we are able to define,” she continues. “For example, we found that while men and women both might find ambition desirable, they define it very differently. So, if a company wants to recruit more women to senior leadership roles, instead of offering a vague or more ‘softskill’ consultation about gendered language, we can advise companies that steering clear of words like ‘dynamic’ and ‘competitive’ will mean they will be able to recruit more women.”

While Roberts’s self-assuredness is encouraging (and based on data), is it really that simple?

The studies say so.

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