Mind The Gap | Recruitment News UK

The government issues guidance on closing gender pay gaps. the advice is to change workplace culture. But could technological support also provide answers?

In-work training is vital to employee retention. In fact, more than a half of British workers are ready to walk, if they don’t find opportunities to develop in their current role.

Why Recruiters Can Lead on Gender Pay Gap

The government has released official guidelines on how to tackle the gender pay gap. We consider how recruitment and technology can play a part.

The UK government has unveiled a new set of guidelines concerning the gender pay gap.
Eight ways to understand your organisation’s gender pay gap has been written and published by the Government Equalities Office (GEO). It seeks to resolve pay disparity by offering ways to detect wage gaps, plus strategies to address existing issues.

Topics include starting salaries; parental leave; inherent bias in performance-related pay schemes; and the effect of part time work.

The guidance also provides a four-step programme which helps enterprises establish an equal pay policy for their business.

The support documentation arrives at a key moment. Since equal pay legislation was introduced in 2017, many organisations have been obliged to publish their wage gaps. 10,000 firms publish their wage data; 69 per cent of which now say that pay disparity is a top priority. This figure is up 8 per cent in the past twelve months.

67 per cent of organisations say that they have already held meetings at boardroom level to tackle wage inequality.

The difference in earnings based on gender has been a contentious issue for decades. However, there is some evidence to suggest that more is now being done to tackle pay disparity. Women’s Minister Victoria Atkins recently stated that the gender pay gap is “at its lowest level on record”. However, she conceded that more had to be done “to achieve real gender equality in the workplace”.

You can download a full copy of the GEO guidance here.

Recruitment AI reports on pay disparity

Meanwhile, another report demonstrates the clear advantage that artificial intelligence can play in addressing unconscious bias.

The study, conducted by AI engineers and data scientists at Glass.ai, has looked into recruitment and employment practices.

Thought to be the first study of its kind, Glass used their own AI engine to crawl UK web pages. The software then interpreted what it had read, and built a model of employment practices based on gender.

It forms a picture of UK employment which – in theory – is absolutely free from unconscious human bias. The results could be invaluable for diversity initiatives in the future, as the AI identifies media prominence, reporting, and perception. These are all factors which can inform unconscious biases among employers.

Glass.ai learned that wage disparity begins with imbalances in representation within certain roles. 95 per cent of receptionists and care assistants are female. But 85 per cent of investment bankers are male. Other lower-paid professions, such as primary teaching, are ones with a predominantly female (71 per cent) workforce.

Earnings inequality persists, despite gender representation in the overall workforce being at its most balanced in history. ONS data reveals a gender split of 51% male and 49% female workers in 2018.

The study does not necessarily detect pay differences for comparable duties. In fact, salaries for both genders in the same profession may often be comparable. However a representational imbalance against women in highly paid roles contributes to overall wage inequality.

Are recruitment solutions the answer to inequality at work?

The Glass.ai study points to an area of hiring where recruitment AI could play a vital role. But artificial intelligence has not always had the best track record in our sector.

Last year, we learned about a recruitment AI that was scrapped for making sexist choices. The Amazon AI was an experimental system, intended to replace recruiters with a hiring algorithm. That algorithm had been built using biased data. It ensured that existing biases would only be repeated – even reinforced – over time.

But there are alternative approaches to the use of AI in the recruitment sector. Recruitment AI which works for a recruitment consultant – not instead of them – can help agencies to avoid bad decisions.

Your recruitment AI engine could instantly identify problem candidates, and filter them from your searches. They cannot make it onto the shortlist, even through a misclicked mouse or human error.

Equally, artificial intelligence in an agency can act as a kind of “super-sorter” of big data. It can pick through the minutiae of a CV and form a shortlist that meets any specific requirement. In this context, you could produce shortlists of qualified female candidates who you know will not except a “low-ball” salary. You know this, because you have sorted them by their prior earnings, and have confidence they will not accept a pay reduction.

It’s exactly what semantic search helps to achieve. Software tools such as semantic search will engage employers who are already voicing concerns over at-work equality. The tools let recruiters work their database in almost any way they choose. It is just up to agencies top find a unique value offering that their clients cannot say no to.

Untrained talent is ready to walk

Training a vital part of employee retention.

The value of in-work training has been demonstrated in a new study of UK workers.

A survey, conducted by InstantPrint found that more than a half (56 per cent) of the UK workforce would be willing to quit their job if there were no opportunities to learn new skills.

And, if any business leaders were intending to call their workers’ bluff on this one, they should be warned: 31 per cent had already left a previous role for lack of training.

The poll appears to show the value that workers place on developing skills for life within the workplace. By far the most common reason given for wanting to learn was “self-improvement”.

Yet it is equally clear that the UK falls far behind expectations when it comes to providing training. According to InstantPrint, a fifth of companies (21 per cent) offer no formal training. A third (34 per cent) were not even provided with onboarding or induction training when they began their current role.

Willing to learn – but who will pay?

The issue of funding for skills crops up for the second time in two weeks. We previously asked who should pay for in-demand skills. It is clear that some businesses do not believe that they should foot the bill themselves. Over a third (41 per cent) of enterprises refuse to pay for relevant qualifications for their workforce.

The data suggests an overall lack of engagement with an issue that is becoming increasingly significant. In fact, just 59 per cent of those polled said that they were satisfied with the levels of training they receive at work.

Demographics play a part in satisfaction levels, too. In the south of England, 80 per cent of positions come with some form of training. In the north, it is just 66 per cent.

Fortunately, there are signs that attitudes are changing – and that at-work training may be a generational issue. Millennials (those born after 1981) are most likely to have received at-work training. In fact, 74 per cent of that age group learns at work. But this compares to previous generations, where just 60 per cent of employees could expect to receive training.

The way we learn is clearly an important factor, too. 43 per cent of respondents wanted to learn while at work. A quarter (25 per cent) would prefer a mentorship programme. Just 15 per cent of those asked said that they would choose a distance-learning or online course to help them obtain new skills.

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