Applied Values: Champion the user

Published by:
Diana Rocha
November 26, 2020
min read

Making the world a fairer place depends on all of us who believe that things can be done differently and act according to such beliefs. In our case at Applied, we chose to make things differently in employment decisions, which in 2019 touched 3.3 billion employees and almost 200 million unemployed people around the world.

And there are key elements of this path we chose:

To start off, the heroes

Heroes have the power to change the course of the story through their decisions, in this case, hiring decisions, 

I’m happy to introduce you to some of the many we know:

Jenn, a hiring manager who’s building a new team and is conscious that many of the people at her organisation are very similar to her. She has started to take action to bring different perspectives to challenges that she and her colleagues need to solve.

Alex, the operations manager of a small but growing organisation who knows that if they don’t lead different initiatives on the people-related front, their efforts on other fronts may reach a ceiling. They have launched a DEI agenda, set progression frameworks and started to implement hiring procedures.

Sofia, the talent lead who knows how challenging it is sometimes to convince teams that are used to doing things in a certain way. Despite this challenge, she always tries out creative ways to implement more predictive and fair hiring, assessment and promotion methods, until they stick on others minds.

Zahra, the CEO and founder of a company with a social mission. Although they're quite new to hiring people, it’s clear that whichever the process and the effort it may require, how they hire has to be consistent with their values.

Olu, initially a job applicant and now employee who is inspired by how he was hired and how he has been supported to grow within the organisation because of his talent. He’s the first in his family to have reached that level of employment and, inspired by such change in his life, he’s leading new initiatives to hire and promote talent with diverse backgrounds and huge talent.

The heroes’ shared mission

Although each of these heroes may have slightly different purposes, they’re all pointing at achieving social change.

In the case of making a fairer world through hiring, that means that no matter where you and I landed on this world - family, country or region within our country- we are allowed to think we can and actually have access to the same opportunities as anyone else and can live a good life (World Economic Forum, 2019).

We know this goal is not easy but the good news is that the evidence suggest once you reach the tipping point, change is more or less inevitable.

And the tipping point is a real thing, not a metaphor.

Social scientists have found that once a sufficient people support it, a societal norm can be changed.

For example, a study published in Science magazine in 2018 shows that when the number of people who think differently to the norm reaches roughly 25% of a group, the opinion of the majority can be tipped to that of the minority (Centola et. al, 2018).

Other studies have found that this tipping point can be 10% or 40%, and such variation depends on the characteristics of the social interactions.

We believe that our heroes have the power to move the needle in favour of making a fairer world through hiring.

And they can chunk their mission into different tipping points: within each area of an organisation, then within a whole organisation, industry or country.

When the number of people who think differently to the norm reaches roughly 25% of a group, the opinion of the majority can be tipped to that of the minority (Centola et. al, 2018).

Our role of championing our heroes

At Applied, we partner with these heroes so they can achieve their mission. That’s why I’m proud of us having included champion the user as one of our values. 

With champion the user as a core value, we can be more mindful of how we have partnered with users up until now, and think more frequently about other things we can do to be better partners.

We can use the Behavioural Insights Team’s EAST framework as a set of tools for championing our heroes: making their journey for social change easy, attractive, social and timely. To this framework I would add an additional element: fun.

Here are a couple of examples of how we champion the user through these tools:

We make it easy

In many stories, the worst roadblocks to the heroes’ mission are the heroes themselves. 

Although I’ve emphasised that our heroes are our users, I’d still think the following personal story applies to them: 

A friend from Colombia recently shared someone’s CV with me and I started building an opinion of this CV based on some salient characteristics:

  • The person had my same name ✅
  • they took the same undergraduate course as I did ✅
  • they also liked topics that I liked ✅

I then shared the CV with other friends in case they were looking for someone in their organisations. And one of them pointed out if maybe, just maybe, I was conscious of the ticks I made above. I felt embarrassed because I work at Applied and I should be immune to this affinity bias.

Given our human nature, it’s better if we design the environment that makes it easy for us to avoid falling prey to our own ways of judging and deciding, especially if they go against our own interests. And I remember that this is what fascinated me about Applied since day one: being able to put into practice through technology insights from behavioural science to make it easy for our users/heroes to objectively find the best talent.

Example of biases we make it easy to avoid

We make it fun

Hiring decisions and fun are not usually two things that we match in our minds. Think about it from the candidates' perspective. It’s very likely that they’ve applied to different jobs, they might be stressed thinking about the expectations at stake. It’s also very likely that they’ve clicked on the ‘submit application’ button 5 minutes before the deadline, and are a bit tired after reviewing the application N times.

We can make the application process more fun by moving away from the monotonous screening methods, and asking things that make them feel valued for the job. 

Small details like the wording of the application platform, or big features like providing automated feedback of their performance help to have a fairer and fun journey. And here’s exactly what some candidates have said about this journey:

“I’m often put off from applying for many jobs due to being a minority. This is even when applications state that the characteristic identifying questions will be kept separate. I'm very rarely convinced of this and it can be so disheartening and demeaning just answering the questions in the first place. This application has actually been the first that I have honestly felt fully confident to complete for this reason alone. In addition to this the friendly and simple language used, and the quirky little prompts and reminders to complete the application really did improve my motivation. As old and as wise as we get, we are still children at heart and respond well to the simplest of encouragement, even when applying for such grown up jobs :) The carefully structured details of the set up of this application process have been very well thought out with diversity in mind. My only disappointment is that it hasn't been an option sooner. I'm even happy to have been given the opportunity to share howI feel about it and I don't usually leave reviews.” 

“I have never enjoyed filling my application form like I did today. It has not just helped me expressing my thoughts at the initial stage like talking to the recruiter but has also helped me evaluate the organization culture of fair hiring. I felt respected as a job seeker and as a learner earned a good practice recruitment model.”

“Such an amazing hiring system! Although I'd have enjoyed solving more code challenges, as the position is for a developer, I really appreciate the fact this system goes beyond looking at a piece of paper, or PDF for that matter, instead of giving the candidate a chance to "give a demo". We all test things out before committing to them, (services, apps, shoes, etc). Why not doing the same when looking for people to work together?”

Underneath it all is the basic principle of continuously learning and addressing users' needs

What makes the journey at Applied even more exciting is that we continue doing so much more to champion the users:

  • During this year we’ve learnt we can make the user experience more intuitive. 
  • As any technology product, there’s always space for fixing bugs that may be a ‘bit’ irritable. 
  • A support day per month can help all of us who are not in the customer success team to learn  about the frictions that users face, and the joys we also give them :).  
  • We’ve also been more mindful of having a better balance between inferring stories with quantitative data and observing and talking to our users, face to face.
  • Anticipating our users’ needs, and being less reactive to solutions is also a consequence of championing them.

And if you are reading this post, it’s very likely that you are on the same journey with us or are intrigued by this journey either as one of our heroes or someone willing to work with us to champion them. No matter the good coincidence that made you land here, we are happy to have you onboard!