iCIMS – D&I Analytics Measuring What Matters With Amber Brown

On today’s RecruitingDaily Podcast we have Amber Brown on the show. Amber is Product Leader in D&I Technology at iCIMS, as well as a founding member of iBelong, a D&I committee at iCIMS.

With our upcoming HRTX Virtual event, I’ve been talking to a lot of folks about diversity. Amber is a wonderful person and I’m thrilled to have her break down D&I Analytics for us and talk about measuring what matters.

Listening time: 29 minutes



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William 0:33
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Amber on from iCIMS. We’re gonna be talking about D&I analytics, measuring what matters. I can’t wait to get into this with Amber because I’m actually producing a diversity sourcing event in June. So I’ve been I’ve been talking to a lot of folks about diversity and, and Amber’s an expert. So it’s gonna be really, really nice to actually talk to somebody about this. So, Amber, would you introduce yourself and introduce iCIMS?

Amber 1:07
Yes, thank you for the kind words and the introduction. My name is Amber Brown, and I am the principal Product Manager at iCIMS. Leading the D&I efforts across our technology and partnerships. iCIMS is a talent cloud company responsible for helping people find and onboard the best talent. And we’re really keen to kind of help all of our customers, diversify their workforce. And the work that we’re doing with D&I analytics is just one of many approaches that we’re taking to help make that happen.

William 1:41
You know, one of the things I’ve found out as I’ve interviewed a bunch of practitioners, corporate side. Is everyone, it’s, it seems, you know, this probably started with #metoo, and #loveislove, and #blacklivesmatter. But it seems that, thankfully, the societal pressure has kind of finally hit corporate. Only 100 years later. You know, it’s finally kind of resonated on the corporate side that everyone’s responsible for diversity.

I mean, it’s cool if you’re a diversity recruiter or sourcer, but even technical recruiters, people that, you know, you thought would be lost in just hiring software engineers. They’re responsible for diversity. Like it seems, again, outside looking in, what do you see, especially cuz you’re talking to customers and things like that? What do you see about how diversity? And again, when we talk about diversity, folks, we are talking about diversity, inclusion, equity, equality, and belonging, we’re talking about more than diversity.

But, you know, it’s hard to say all of that at once. So, for the rest of the show, and when we say diversity, inclusion, we mean all those other things, of course. But what do you say, are some of your conversations? What do you hear?

Amber 2:57
Yeah, I think you’re kind, of you introduced this topic really well, in that, you know, our personal and professional lives have started to commingle right as a result of what 2020 meant for the world, not just what it meant for a particular industry, or a particular type of business. But everybody in the world was kind of faced with the same challenge. And so this, working from home, a kind of microscope that everybody was under, really kind of helps to break down some of these barriers of what you do and do not talk about in the workplace.

And obviously, as you mentioned, just a big cultural shift with just talking about and speaking up in terms of different inequities that happen across various spectrums of diversity started to happen. But when you have that kind of change, that’s the change kind of surfacing, you know, in manifesting itself. And then you have people starting to talk about these things in the workplace. It’s a recipe to kind of rewrite the rules, so to speak, of what of who’s responsible for what, right, there’s not these clear, defined lines drawn in the sand.

And so when we talk to customers, oftentimes they’re saying that this is an executive priority. It’s a personal priority, it’s a TA priority, but also it’s a business priority. And so people are trying to figure out, like, how do we help make sure everybody is accountable for some element of diversity and inclusion? And it’s not just one person’s role anymore? And so one of the ways, I’ll just kind of share this, as I close out that thought there are one of the ways that we see it is with people putting requirements on their sourcers. Right. And I mean, sourcers of like, let’s say raw materials.

I want to make sure any vendors or sourcer is that I work with have some sort of commitment to DE&I. Right, so that’s really kind of tying back to like business and bottom line. And that’s huge.

William 4:57
Well, and again, is we joked only 100 years late. But thank God we’re here we are talking about it and more than talk, thank God, it seems like people are doing, there’s more intentionality and actions. So talk is cheap, right? So it’s nice that it started, I can easily use as an outsider I could start to see it actually show up in job descriptions and show up, you know, in where people are talking about their cigs and their ERG’s.

And they’re talking publicly about some of the stuff that used to be kind of behind the veil, they’re talking more publicly about, hey, we’re, we have an LGBTQ plus community. And you know, we’re learning things, and we’re trying and, you know, it’s just, it’s nice to see that, again, it there’s a lot of pain that got us to this place. But we’re at a place now where it does seem like, again, outsider looking at it does seem like it’s less than words and a little bit more about actions, which leads us to some of the analytics, what do you what, what should people. Let’s just do a blank slate? What should people measure when it comes to D&I?

Amber 6:11
Yeah, this is great. So this concept of measurability kind of varies based on where you are in the world. In customer studies that we’ve done, where we were focused in on businesses in the US, what is measurable is typically, what’s backed into some type of compliance, right expectation.

So race, gender, disability, veteran status, those are what I would consider, like table stakes, you just need to make sure you’re tracking those. So you don’t have some sort of like lawsuit on your hand. Right? But then, when we look at the world, right, if we’re looking at the UK, specifically or Canada, right, Canada has a specific question that they asked in terms of tracking indigenous persons, right, that’s very specific to their region of the world.

And then in the UK, there’s a little bit less consistency in terms of what you’re going to track and what you’re going to measure because there’s no equivalent of an equal opportunity law, right? So they actually are can be a little bit more creative, and what they’re collecting and what they’re measuring. So they can probably ask questions about optional, of course, all of this is voluntary data on you know, your religion, or, you know if you’re part of the LGBTQ community. And we have seen some of our customers measure that, I would say, at a minimum, everyone, regardless of where you are in the world, should present the opportunity for people to share a little bit about themselves.

And they should at least be tracking gender, they should be tracking ethnicity. And disability veteran is a very US-centric kind of data capture. So if you’re a US company, 100%, you should be asking that question. But then we started, we need to start thinking a little bit differently in terms of even the types of attributes that you allow people to select right.

So typically, you get like four or five options of what you can select under race or two options underneath gender. So we’re also starting to see a more consistent schema and data model of allowing people to have more variety in terms of what they can choose from, in order to kind of increase opt-out.

So to answer your question very plainly, at a minimum, you should be tracking the compliance based pieces, but you should also kind of look at how you’re going to evolve so that you can really show the person on the other side of the screen, that you’re not just looking at this from a compliance standpoint, you really want to resonate and understand how people identify.

William 8:40
So this will be an odd question, but bear with me, because I’m an odd person. Is there something that you’d like for us to not—like, we’ve evolved, please stop looking at this measure? Or we should stop thinking about this? We should really, we should really be thinking more about these other thoughts, like you mentioned, the diversity sources, and you were you were talking on the procurement side, which is, which is really fascinating.

I actually think this is again, yet another odd thing. I actually think procurement was ahead of recruiting in this sense. My wife runs a, owns a woman-owned business. And 20 years ago, they were talking about, you know, you have to have a certain ,they used the word quota, which I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with. But they use you know, if you’re a large company like American Airlines, you had to have 20% of your business had to go to minority or, or women-owned businesses.

And you know, again, you talked about that from a procurement perspective. We’re talking on the recruiting side. Is there something you’d like for people to maybe if you you know, not eradicate but just something you’d like for us to talk less about. We talk about diversity and inclusion, especially from an analytical perspective perspective.

Amber 10:00
Hmm, this is a great question. But first, shout out to your wife for her woman’s owned business, I’d love to know what it is so that I can support it in any way that I can. But in terms of what we would want to know less about, um, so there’s, I’ll answer this question in two ways.

William 10:21
I want you to be honest.

Amber 10:22
Yes, yes yes. I’ll answer this question in two ways. I think this is a very, very high level, like, I think it matters less about tracking, like, the, I want to say, where people live in terms of like, in terms of who’s coming to see to view your jobs, like, what is their what is their zip code? Where are they in the world, unless it’s a requirement where the person literally needs to be working for some specific reason, um, you know, physically at a location. You need to be in a certain distance.

I think we should focus less on tracking from a diversity standpoint of locale. And we should also probably focus less on kind of honing in on like, the prestigious universities, right, unless that is like an absolute hard requirement because we’ve found that that’s very restrictive in terms of promoting diversity for a number of reasons that we won’t have time to get into on this podcast.

So I think those are like other elements that are not necessarily diversity attributes, but they impact the outcome of diversity that I think people should just focus less on, and focus more about people’s skills, capabilities, being able to upskill up train, etc.

William 11:41
Love it, keep going, keep going.

Amber 11:43
And the second thought, the second thought that I actually had is, I think people should still focus on the compliance pieces, right. So my compliance, I’m bucketing it as the basic data capture, right, your gender, your ethnicity, you know, you’re a veteran or disability, but people should like not limit themselves to only looking at those attributes and what gets collected on a census.

If you Google Pew Research in terms of and you kind of search for, you know, census data collection, you can see how the way that these questions have been asked have evolved over, you know, that the century essentially. And so I just want to challenge people like just because the census collects the data in a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to collect that data, right, you want to put your best foot forward in terms of what this means, what diversity means to your business.

And of course, you want to be compliant. But don’t be afraid to kind of break the mold and expand your attributes of what you’re offering, right and not be bounded to like this very, like antiquated framework, because quite frankly, even the census kind of changes how it asks questions over time. And so should we as businesses.

William 12:53
I love that you used the word antiquated, so at least a nickel for that, that’s, that’s awesome. I, let’s pivot a second when you talk to customers, because now that we’re focused on it, one of the things that have I’ve heard actually from candidates that one would consider on the diversity spectrum if you say there’s more demand for them. Like 20 something years ago, we as a country, we invested, thankfully, we invested a ton of money into STEM. For little girls, you know, that kind of come up through the system.

And we’re starting to see, starting to reap some of the rewards on that. But we didn’t make that investment in other communities. Land Max, you can just go around the wheel, and we didn’t make the same investment. So there’s, there’s whether it’s real or perceived, there. There’s, there’s this thought of that there’s a supply issue?

Do we have enough? If we all, if everyone pushes forth? And does what we want them to do in person in terms of diversity inclusion? Do we have enough talent to actually achieve the goals that we want to? And I’m not sure if that’s just a perception, or if that’s reality, but I have talked to some of the folks that are actually, you know, when they apply to a job, it’s there. Instead of, you know, it said their resume lingering, you know, they’re there.

Thankfully, there’s more action to get their resume top to the top of the pile, if you will, and more priority to that, when you talk to clients about this as a supply and demand thing. And again, this could all be just myths and perceptions, which would be fine. We have enough talent to be great. Do you hear anything about the supply and demand side of diversity?

Amber 14:52
Yeah. So this when we talk to customers, we typically ask them a series of like, five questions. Do you have a diversity strategy? Or was it set from the top down or grassroots based on the way that the customer or prospect answers that question, it really is telling about the rest of what they’re going to say. And then when we get into the more specific questions we would ask, you know, do you have any specific sourcing strategies that you have for target groups that you’re looking to increase representation for?

And that is where we get into uncovering for these businesses, if they believe that there is a pipeline problem, right. And anytime that we ask that question, right, how do you hide any targeted sourcing efforts for groups that you want to increase representation for? The answer is, almost rarely? Well, no, because we believe that there’s a pipeline problem.

The answer is usually, we know that the talent that we are missing at in this vertical at this, you know, in this department and this level, or whatever it may be, we know that it exists here. And so we’re partnering with this community, right. So it to answer your question is, if you only relied on the basic job boards to scrape your jobs and posts, then the answer to the pipeline question would be yes, there’s not enough of the different types of people that we need to have more representation for, for in the traditional, I’m doing air quotes, routes of sourcing candidates, right.

But if you just include a little bit more of like a strategic approach in terms of how you’re sourcing, right, so working with these different groups going to, you know, alternative, career pathing schools as an example, so maybe like a boot camp or a trade school, or whatever it might be, right, you’re going to find the talent, so there’s not going to be a pipeline problem. So the pipeline problem in my this is my opinion, based on information that I’ve gathered from customers. In my opinion, the pipeline problem is only a problem if you’ve just done the same thing that you’ve always done. And if you did nothing different.

William 17:08
So first of all, wonderful answers. Thank you, Amber. Second, is I want to ask you a question, because we talked about some of the basics, and you throw out the table stakes, which I think is fantastic. Some of your clients are, again, a little bit more advanced than others. We won’t name names, of course, cuz y’all have 1000s of clients.

But when you interact with somebody that really gets it, and they’ve been doing this for a while, and they’ve got talent pools that working with, you know, HBCUs, and they’re doing all kinds of cool stuff. And what are some of the things for the audience, or for the listeners? What are some of the advanced things that you’re starting to see from your clients that they can aspire to? If they’re not there yet?

Amber 17:54
Oh, yes. Oh, this is a great question. So I have a few in mind. Again, I’ll kind of like describe, but I won’t explicitly say who’s who. But I’ll start from like, a data collection perspective, right, because we’re talking about analytics. So our more advanced clients on and again, this is I’m speaking globally, right. So based on region, this might change, but our most advanced clients are collecting gender.

And they’re increasing the options to not just be binary, but also include transgender and other options, right. And then they also kind of have statements as to why they’re collecting this data, what are they doing with this data, so they’re very transparent with the candidates. They’re also connected, collecting ethnicity, and they’re collecting ethnicity in a way that kind of expands the traditional like, Hispanic, Asian, Black, white, etc.

So an example being, um, you know, for a global company that operates a lot in the UK, instead of just having Asian as an option, they typically have Asian, Asian, British and Asian, British Bangladesh as an example, right. And all of this on the back end, that’s the power of our analytics can be codified. If you needed to report to leadership, you could we could cleanse the data for you and say, here’s the group for Asian, but the candidate should have that kind of cleansed experience, they should have a more authentic experience.

And our most advanced clients understand that and they expanded those options. They also are kind of tracking the spread across top job titles at different levels. So C suite positions, Director levels, managerial positions, and they’re able to clearly see the split of these different groups across those areas as well. So that’s a lot of what our advanced clients are doing and then obviously looking at the funnel in that in that same lens, okay. And then we have the veteran and disability as an example, for extra data collection we look at.

Sourcing I’ll use disability as an example. Lots of our advanced customers have strategic partnerships with different organizations that support persons with disabilities. And they use that as a direct outlet to promote what they’re doing on their career sites, right? They talk about it during their interview process. And they’re also using that as a sourcing mechanism and tracking that very strategically in the CRM so that they can kind of understand the representation of diverse persons coming from these sources at a moment’s notice in their platform.

So there’s no ifs and buts about it, it’s very easy to see. So these are some of what our like more advanced customers are doing in terms of the data collection, and strategically partnering, but also tracking the flow of people that come from these niche partners that they work with.

William 20:48
I love, I love it. Of course, some of this translates into internal mobility, right? If we get the front door right. And let’s assume that we’re making a lot of great strides to get the front door right. Then once folks are in the front door, we’ll also get them promoted in much the same way. Right?

So down the road, that’s gonna be something that people are going to also have wrapped around the analytics around is that making sure that folks proportionally get promoted and move through the organization. Which will also fix some of the things we see at the top of the organization and leadership and the end of the board? So I’m excited. It might, it might take a little while.

But I’m excited that but then it’s also happening. With diversity recruiters that are diversity sourcers. So you, let’s go back into the tactical for just Just a second. And this is again, my odd question. What have you seen, cuz I’ll throw out Comp, but it could be rewards and recognition. Is there a way, or you have seen something or hurts other from your clients, where they’re trying to incentivize hiring managers, recruiters, sourcers, etc.

You know, it’s one thing to say do your job. That’s fantastic, it’s another to then say do your job, and oh, by the way, if you do your job, and in any group it leads to these outcomes, then there’s something else. It could be just a pat on the back, it doesn’t necessarily have to be money. How are you seeing? Are you seeing some of that we are hearing about any of that with your clients?

Amber 22:25
Yeah, I have an example that comes to mind, it actually ties back nicely to another example, based on your previous question. So we worked with a company that was very advanced, that actually helps to influence our roadmap with some capabilities we’ll be coming out with later in the year and in the beginning of 2022. But this company is just very advanced in terms of how they think about D&I. And, you know, it just kind of screams when you look at their brand. And it’s really powerful.

And one of the things that they focus on are, they’re kind of like one of our other customers consider some like good faith efforts. So there are these like extra things that you do to put your best foot forward. When you’re sourcing, right, so you’re going to reach out to this specific HBCU, you’re going to host to women’s events, you’re going to do X, Y, and Z, right. And so as the sourcer is doing these activities, they kind of get these, I guess they I want to say they get these points of recognition, they earn points, right for doing more sourcing efforts.

So what I want to say is, no, it should not be okay for people to get rewarded for hiring a diverse person, because then it puts the focus on the wrong area of the funnel. But you should get rewarded for doing everything that you could upfront to diversify your funnel, right? That’s really where the points or the recognition should be curated. And that’s what this company does. And it really works for them.

In terms of what they do with the points, we didn’t really get into that. But I do think it’s like an incentivized system, that they probably kind of crank out awards in the, you know, on a quarterly basis or something. But I kind of want to just mention one other thing is that this company is really advanced because what they’re trying to get at by incentivizing the sourcing efforts, and the top of the funnel is that the most more advanced companies have, I want to say, slate goals, right for making sure that they’re presenting at a minimum, let’s say as an example, at least to women or to minorities in the fleet to the hiring manager.

If you did a lot of good faith efforts up front, you’re, the likelihood that you’re going to present a diverse slate to meet those goals goes up. And so that’s why they incentivize the top of the funnel. So that way, their recruiters and sourcers are more likely to present that diverse slate that is a requirement for their business.

William 24:55
I love it. Thank you. We, you and I could talk for hours. But I do have two questions left to say, within our time allotment. I have run into folks, practitioners whether or not they’ve used this word or not. It’s questionable, but it’s the sense of being overwhelmed with at all. Because now there’s thankfully, again, like we talked about the beginning, thankfully, there’s pressure coming from everywhere.

That’s the good news, the bad news is pressures coming from everywhere. And they’re overwhelmed. And again, they haven’t explicitly said this, but they know their organization is wrought with bias. Like, these are HR leaders and typically global heads of TA, and they just know that they have to do this, they need to do this, I want to do this. They also know their organization.

And they know that there are these barriers, you know, we’ll call it all the different biases, what if we can call them out individually, but they know that their organization has this? Have you? You know, we’re not so we have you run into this, but what advice would you give to those folks that might feel okay, you’re overwhelmed, because it is a lot? Fantastic. That’s okay. And you know, your organization is riddled with hiring bias. Okay. All right, is what it is, we’re here now, how do they rewrite their history? How do they start on the path of doing the right thing?

Amber 26:25
Yeah, no, this is a great question. Um, I can just share a personal example of like, what I might recommend based on my personal example, and that’s, I’m a founding member of “I Belong,” which is our own iCIMS diversity and inclusion committee. But years ago, there was no diversity and inclusion committee and it didn’t exist. And we saw that there was an area of opportunity for us to do a little bit better in certain areas of the business.

And over time, like, you know, it wasn’t an easy start to change, change people’s perspective, or to get them to revisit a certain process, because people have a lot on their plates already, as you mentioned, they’re overwhelmed. But we got a group of people together and built a charter and we started testing out different ways of addressing certain things.

And we would then show it and try to give it the proper level of visibility and say, Here, look at something that we were able to do on our own within our free time, right. So I think this is more like a grassroots approach, right?

So if things are top-down, and you are identifying areas for opportunity, get a few of your peers together, and try to do something extra that might help prove to be, you know, fruitful, and then share it and say, hey, look, we’ve been able to make this improvement. Imagine if we had the resources in backing.

William 27:48
I love that answer. Thank you so much. This the last question. Before we wrap is I want to ask you about where you’re taking the product. And again, no secret sauce, no, nothing proprietary. But just like where do you think, over the over this year by getting into 2022? Where are your clients? And your customers? Where are they driving you to kind of move the product and make a deeper, richer, better, etc?

Amber 28:14
Yeah, I think the answer to that is we’re looking at not just our products, but our partnerships, our services. We’re really thinking about DE&I as like the fabric of the iCIMS talent cloud. And when you have that mindset, the level of innovation is um, you know, it’s um, it’s unreal, it’s unlimited, right? We can really go anywhere with it.

So I want to say that our customers are driving us not to just think about the tool, right, there’s a lot of bells and whistles out there. But we’re really thinking about this in everything we do in terms of new AI or ML models that we bring into the market and talking about fairness, right, and ethical AI. And we’re thinking about it from the partners that we work with and how we can help from a services perspective.

So we’re, we’re kind of looking at this really holistically, and you just want to do well for our customers and do right by the candidates.

William 29:10
God you’re perfect. Thank you so much, Amber, thanks for carving out time. I know you’re super busy. But just thanks for carving out time for the audience and actually talking about this topic, and we need to have another show to explore some other things. So thank you again.

Amber 29:26
Absolutely. Thank you for having me. And this was a delight. So looking forward to chatting in the future.

William 29:31
Awesome, and thanks for everyone for listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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