What is location bias in hiring and 3 ways in which its hurting your business

Recent times have tested the mere concept of work. What equals work? Is it the result? Is it being present as part of a tribe, a team? 

Its a brave new world and the disruption has been a long time coming.

Lets take media for example, a discipline that benefits from tons of online tools and applications.

Traditionally, people-based industries such as media and insurance have been very concentrated in specific locations.

This basically means that there’s a competitive advantage created for people who live near those areas or able to get there quite fast via commuter trains. 

As a result, this can create quite a few inequalities in the way people can access their work. 

More importantly, from a hiring perspective, this creates an incredible challenge for companies and hiring managers alike. 

A few years ago I was in charge of hiring a team for an agency that was based in West London. With most agencies being based Central or East London, most media folk had aligned their home location to match.

We really struggled to hire. Applicants would routinely refuse to interview or reject the position if they had been offered another one closer to home.

Full disclosure, It was a great agency to work for. Truly independent, wonderful family feel, differentiated proposition and to top it all off I really enjoyed my work. 

Applicants would routinely refuse to interview or reject the position if they had been offered another one closer to home.

Myself, I was commuting every single day from Stratford. For those unfamiliar with the specifics the trip is the equivalent of 20 tube stops. It took an hour each direction and most of it was, of course, happening in the incredibly warm and moist Central line. 

This meant a whole lot or book reading via Kindle or listening to the latest tracks on my phone.

It was not a problem for me but apparently I am a rare breed.

Fast forward March 2020 and that commute would be very ill advised. 

In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, it is becoming more and more important to stop thinking about location in a restrictive fashion.

If people can work from home or even more remotely, then work location itself becomes less and less relevant. 

For hiring purposes, it just means that you’re able to access talent, simply based on their skills. In an increasingly competitive world, this can be a huge advantage, not only for the employee, but also for the employer. 

There is a reason why this has been a struggle so far.

The benefit of such practices was clear and measurable. Huge discounts, better placements were all afforded to the better connected.

For hiring purposes, it just means that you’re able to access talent, simply based on their skills. In an increasingly competitive world, this can be a huge advantage, not only for the employee, but also for the employer. 

Less so now.

Hopefully, the coronavirus experiment is going to allow us to experiment with flexibility if there is anything good to come out of something like that.

If you’re a team leader at this moment in time and you’re considering allowing for less location-based hiring, you’ll end up avoiding the three common pitfalls:

Bigger pool, more depth

This is true for both hiring and swimming. Just because somebody is located close to your office doesn’t mean they’re the best candidate. If you only restrict a candidate pool to a particular location, it merely means that you’re able to tap into any workers that happen to live nearby. You’re essentially depriving yourself from the best potential candidate out there. 

Discrimination

This is a dirty word and rightfully so. It doesn’t, however, mean that businesses are doing it on purpose. Its way more subtle than that.

Specific locations are going to have serious disadvantages for particular groups. First and foremost, the less economically wealthy. 

In my example, I was working in Kensington. Therefore, if I were expecting all of my employees to come from Kensington or places nearby,this would have excluded the less wealthy. West London tends to be significantly more expensive than the east. 

Secondarily, not everybody is able to commute. We are assuming that, for example, people like mothers or disabled people are going to have the ability to commute every single day. In reality what we are doing is introducing barriers to entry for the less affluent parts of the population.

Expensive

And finally, it can be very expensive to hire based on location. It’s no secret that jobs in London have to pay more because effectively people have to spend more on rent if they’re living in London. As a result, this creates an artificial wage inflation. If we took location out of the equation there, that means that we can arbitrage rates dare, I say, globally.

The above does not come without serious caveats.

Hiring or allowing for remote work requires the right structure and infrastructure:

Excellent hiring principles: The ability to test for technical excellence and the right behavioural attributes. Once you open up your hiring pool to a wider range of backgrounds you will need a fool-proof way of assessing those candidates. This should take the form of a consistent framework  as well as the ability to deploy it during interviews.

Clear expectation setting and measures for success: Do you know what good looks like? Dont enter the interviewing room unless you are, yourself, clear on what the expectations are for the role you are hiring for over the first 3-6 months and can articulate that to the candidate.

Software: It can be very challenging to run a remote team without the right equipment. In the same way as you wouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight you have to make sure you have given your team the right tools to be able to work remotely and flexibly.

Key takeaways:

  • Inflexibility in hiring can place any media business in disadvantage. Location in particular is not relevant and with remote and flexible working policies it should be a thing of the past
  • When hiring with flexibility in mind you need to have a solid vetting framework
  • Post hire make sure you have the right systems and software for your people to thrive

Only if we move location bias out of our process, are we going to be able to truly hire for the best talent. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: