Challenging The Industry

Travel was arguably one of the hardest hit industries during the global pandemic suffering extensive layoffs, restructures, and location closures. As the industry experiences a rapid increase in demand to pre-COVID levels, it’s ramping up its workforce in response.

Now, one of the world’s largest travel agencies has taken several steps to improve its inclusive hiring practices and advises peers to be proactive at a time when it’s tempting to take shortcuts given the current labour shortage.

Flight Centre Travel Group Americas DEI Manager Emese Graham says moving from a state of unawareness through awareness, active interventions and addressing unconscious bias on a personal level are all part of the solution, but the biggest impact comes from mitigating bias using a few structural safeguards.

Graham said that: “At FCTG, we endeavour to maintain consistency in the way we evaluate applicants by using a pre-determined scoring matrix for both reviewing applications and conducting interviews, using a panel of decision-makers instead of a single person, and sticking to structured interviews.”

She continued: “Of course, when implementing safeguards like this into your recruitment process, it’s essential to ensure your scoring matrix is inclusive and accessible for all.”

For example, things like eye contact, firm handshakes, or speaking without pausing or stuttering can be challenges to neuro-divergent candidates and therefore aren’t good indicators to include in an evaluation of a candidate’s presentation skills.

Graham points out that an often overlooked source of possible unconscious bias is correspondence with job candidates.

“If the role’s decision-makers are the same people going back and forth with candidates about their application status and availability for interviews, there’s more opportunity for small judgments to sneak in that could factor into evaluations,” she said.

For example, what possible judgments might a decision-maker unconsciously make about a candidate if they were to: Respond to an email at 11:30 pm? Use British instead of American spelling? Have a headshot in their email signature? Have limited availability for interview times?

FCTG addresses this by using a calendar tool to allow candidates to pick interview times that are suitable for them. Another solution could be to have scheduling correspondence completed by someone who won’t be making any decisions about the role.

Reference checks create a lot of room for bias. Not only are employers relying on the impartiality of the referee, but some questions are also more likely to cast a negative light on minority candidates.

Graham suggests considering how asking about attendance issues can be discriminatory against people with disabilities and chronic illness, or how asking about team culture fit can be an issue for LGBTQ2+ candidates, women, neuro-diverse folks, newly immigrated employees, and racialized people.

Said Graham: “We’ve eliminated reference checks from our recruitment process here at FCTG, which not only avoids that potential for bias, but also helps us to get an offer to the best candidate sooner.”

Personal prejudice is a small piece in a much larger system that includes internal, interpersonal, organizational, and structural oppression. Therefore, one of the most important steps is to consider equity outcomes at the very beginning of the recruitment cycle.

Graham said that: “While drafting your job postings, consider which elements are absolutely essential for the success of your role and which can be approached with more flexibility. For instance, is experience with a certain software essential or could training be provided to the right hire? Could the best candidate have more or fewer years of experience than what you’ve asked for? Does the right hire need to “fit” into your current team culture, or are you prepared to cultivate a team culture in which everyone can thrive?”

Employee Resource Groups, in addition to a diverse recruitment team, can be consulted to develop a flexible vision of what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate.

Said Graham: “At FCTG, we have developed a guideline for inclusive job advertisements with consideration for possible biased language and qualifications that may be too narrow.”