Socioeconomic Bias Is The New Frontier In DE&I With Brayden Olson of Almas Insight
Listening Time: 28 minutes
The Recruiting Daily Podcast episode features a discussion with Brayden Olson, co-founder of Almog Insight. The episode focuses on the issue of socioeconomic bias in the hiring process and how technology can help mitigate it. Olson shares his personal experience of growing up in a family of educators and facing financial challenges while pursuing education.
Olson’s company, Almog Insight, offers a technology solution for measuring human capability that helps remove biases inherent in resumes, referrals, and interviews. The podcast discusses the importance of addressing socioeconomic bias in the hiring process to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
The conversation also touches on the role of technology in reducing bias and improving the efficiency of the hiring process. The episode provides valuable insights into the impact of socioeconomic bias on the hiring process and how organizations can address it using technology.
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Over the last decade, I have had the privileged to pursue my dream to start my own businesses and to show that video game technology could be used to improve lives, and I'm excited to continue with that journey.
I've had the opportunity to learn and become a specialist in the measurement of human capability, creating & validating new method of data collection, data prediction & correlation, fundraising and technical project management. I'm also proud of my authorship of my book on the impact of economic inequality in the United States, and hope to make a dent in the inequality.Follow
Socioeconomic Bias Is The New Frontier In DE&I With Brayden Olson of Almas Insight
William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you are listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today we have Braden on from Almog Insight, and our topic today is Socioeconomic Bias is the New Frontier and D n I. De and I, or you can call it d i BBB if you’d like. There’s a lot of different ways to kind of get at diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity equality.
So why don’t we just jump into introductions. Brad, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Almog insight? [00:01:00]
Brayden Olson: Absolutely. Um, well, and in particular, I’ll try and tailor it a bit to the conversation today. Um, so normally in my background I just say, you know, I got a, you know, grant from the National Science Foundation working on, you know, how do you measure human capability at scale?
I talk about my background as a game designer. I talk about, you know, the opportunity I had to help Deloitte build their, um, center of excellence around enduring human capabilities. But today I think what’s most relevant is, you know, I. Grew up, uh, family of educators, um, you know, that typically doesn’t position one to grow up with a lot of, um, kind of privilege and money.
And, and the same would be true for myself. Um, you know, I went primarily the reason I was able to go to college is because I went on like a two-thirds merit scholarship. Um, I did my associates [00:02:00] degree in a Running start program, which is like a state funded program, uh, in Washington. And I overloaded all my classes, graduated in about 18 months with my four year degree, worked in the school cafeteria.
I mean, it, it was not, uh, it was not an, an easy task, uh, to go and get that education for me. And so, I’m sorry this is the longest file you probably ever had for this, but, uh, one last piece. And, and so that, um, pushed me to really think about what was happening in the. And I ended up writing a book called Twilight of the Idols on American Story that talks about just kind of seeing the door close behind me for people who are equally hardworking, um, who are just as committed, who are probably even brighter and more talented than myself.
Um, but you know, the math is what the math is. And if I had been born two years younger, I wouldn’t be the business. You [00:03:00] know, the co-founder at Almog Insight, I wouldn’t have written a book, I wouldn’t have started other businesses because my loans would’ve been such that, you know, there was a time where I ran outta money for food and I just wouldn’t have been able to keep going.
So it’s a, it’s a really personal issue for me. Um, and Almog Insight is in the business of human capability measurement, which is another way of getting around the biases that are inherent in resumes and, um, kind of referral jobs and interviews and college.
William Tincup: Okay. Which is great because now I can ask you all kinds of fun things.
But let’s focus on, tell us a little bit about Almog Insights for before we get into the topic. Yeah.
Brayden Olson: So, you know, my, um, my, so what the technology fundamentally is, is it’s a way that people can. Um, engage in, uh, a measurement that takes less time than a normal interview that looks at all kinds of, um, behaviors or [00:04:00] capabilities or soft skills, or whatever you wanna call them, that an individual has, does it in a way that has been proven to be completely unbiased, not only for adverse impact, but for things like level of education or someone’s current job status, whether they’re, you know, a gig worker, full-time employed.
And so it’s a way to get data on talent. That you can see what’s already working at your organization and you can hire more people like that or find culture ad people for your organization, but do it in a way that, you know, doesn’t, doesn’t have to look at, uh, a resume or a college degree. That’s fundamentally what you can do with that.
William Tincup: So, well, first of all, thanks again, uh, for the, for the intros, both, both of most personally and, uh, for Almog. Um, let’s start with kinda the visible and invisible part of socioeconomic, right? So if, if someone’s, uh, African-American, not all the times. [00:05:00] Sometimes you can, you can ask ’em a question, are you, you’re African-American, fantastic.
You know, this, that, and the other. Like, you, you, it’s known like we can talk about it ish. Racial is not the easiest things to talk about with people, but, okay. Socioeconomic seems to be, to me at least something that could be hidden, like as a recruiter or even if you’re someone’s an employee, we might not know what’s going on with them and their situ.
So how do we adjust for that?
Brayden Olson: Gosh, you know, it’s, it’s hard because, you know, not all of the listeners are gonna have this association in their culture, right? But for a lot of listeners who might be tuning in from the United States, it is not something that we’re very comfortable talking about. But even worse, for a lot of people, we are taught this notion in America.
That is so wrong, [00:06:00] but if you’re poor it’s because you don’t have merit. Um, right, right. That, that you ended up there cause you didn’t work hard enough or you didn’t push hard enough, or you didn’t, you know, and the, the facts of the matter are that is foundationally disproven in the quantitative numbers in the country and in particular, You know, one of the more recent studies within the last four or five years that looked at 30 different developed countries, you know, across the world, America ranked dead last in terms of someone’s ability to transition from being poor to being wealthy, no matter how hard they work.
And, and I bring that up because. It’s hard to know who you’re talking to, and I might not wanna say to my employer, you know, I’m struggling financially because the presumption in America is, that means that there’s something wrong with me, you know, or that I’m lazy, or that I’m some other negative pejorative [00:07:00] term when that’s not the case at all.
Right? It just is truly, truly
William Tincup: the opposite. So, okay. Where do we start? Where do we start to unpack this? Uh, again, let’s start in recruiting, if we will. Yeah. How do we, how do we become more diverse in this particular way that we’re looking at diversity, equity, and inclusion? And this is probably a little bit more on the inclusion side, but let’s just, let’s just kind of think about it and say to how do, when, when an HR leader’s listening this, or recruiting leaders listening to this, or even a founder, how do they start to like actually change?
Whatever’s there. Yeah. And audit it, uh, for, okay, do we have this bias? Okay. Is it there? Okay. And if we do, great, okay, fine. Now how do we change that? So how do we, what’s your suggestion on the approach to find out where they are in their journey as it relates to socioeconomic bias? Great.
Brayden Olson: And I’ll answer [00:08:00] this by, uh, kind of tying into something you said, you know, earlier about the silence of.
So I’m gonna start by outlining the problem and then talk about the solution. The fundamental problem is we are a system that is addicted to things like college requirements, like resumes and like was someone referred in for this job, our entire. Culture and society are built on these things. And I’ll say interviews to a lesser extent, right?
Cause the interviews, you know, we all know have a like me bias, right? Right, right. So if you already have the problem of being a little bit exclusive, you know that those won’t help. But let’s talk about, you know, the resumes, the college requirements. Therefore, why are these inherently socioeconomically biased?
Why are these bad things? So resumes, um, you know, As we kind of saw from the Amazon experiment a couple years ago, if you try and look in [00:09:00] resumes to infer someone’s fit for your organization, uh, a lot of organizations will find that they have incredible biases. You know, types of schools, clubs, foundations that people who are more privileged belong to.
So when you do resume keywords for things that are already, you know, working at your company, you’re gonna find more bias that you already. Um, they also found a lot of gender bias associated with that as well. The college requirements are on so many jobs where they’re not relevant, and having a college degree is not a reflection today, especially today of whether someone is capable of committing and working hard.
It is absolutely a reflect. In most cases of someone’s ability to afford that degree. And I was almost not one of those people myself. Right. Um, and in terms of referral jobs, it, you know, it seems like a really, you know, simple and easy thing, but having the privilege to go to the right [00:10:00] school to know the right high up people, you know, to have your, you know, family have connections with someone.
These all come from inherent privileges in the system. So that’s the problem. And the solution is we have to look at different data than we have today. And you know, I know I’m, I’m, you know, plugging the, the work that Almog does here, but we have to look at what is, if your term is soft skills, use soft skills, I prefer the term capability, but what is someone’s capability and what do you actually need in terms of capability at your organization?
And if we move into a place where we start learning about who the person is and what kinds of people work at your organization, everybody wins. The employer wins. They find better talent in places they never knew possible. And I will say again, more diverse talent because there are, [00:11:00] um, you know, ethnic biases associated with socioeconomic biases.
Um, but the employer will, um, be able to find out what is working mm-hmm. And make those connections. And then the people on the other side of it are gonna find jobs where they’re a better fit because you don’t fit because of the, you know, school you went to, you fit Right. Because of the kind of person you are and the type of work it.
William Tincup: So from a skills, uh, development perspective, if they’re, if they’ve, if they recognize that they maybe have this bio, this or a deficiency, let’s just say that they’re not socioeconomic diverse and they, they recognize that, do you believe that they, they should, uh, work on either recruiting in different ways or are potentially working on kind of skills development in different ways?
Brayden Olson: Yeah, I mean, skills development will won’t [00:12:00] necessarily help you if the recruitment and kind of talent acquisition pipeline doesn’t change. Right? Cause you’ll develop more of the people that you already have, right? If that bias is already there. Good point. Um, but yeah, it really does come down to, you know, what are your data sources?
And you know, maybe I’m saying that because I’m a data guy, maybe I’m saying that cause I’ve worked on this problem for too many years now. But if your data points are resumes and interviews, this is pretty much an unsolvable problem, right? You have to get some other kind of data in there. And I, you know, I believe we are in the era where, you know, whether you use something like Almog or you use something else like it.
We’re in the data where there’s not, sorry. We’re in the day and age where there’s not a reason to not have capability data. Right. Uh, just we’re there, you know, welcome to the century. And so [00:13:00]
William Tincup: welcome to the internet.
Brayden Olson: Exactly. Time to get data like
William Tincup: that. So, so again, um, one of the things I wanted to ask you on, on the skills side of things is, again, if we don’t have skills data, let me, let me back up.
What does great skills data look like? Because, you know, I grew up in a world where we talked about competency, competency models, but I always laughed about competency models cuz I was like, it looks great on a wipe off board. But no one actually does it. And I always got in trouble saying this, but, but I, but I kind of stuck to it.
I’m like, it’s great. It’s like the Communist manifesto, right? You read the Communist Manifesto, you’re like, oh my God, this is fantastic. It’s great. And then you add people and it blows apart, right? Kinda like competency models, like it’s wonderful, well structured, like look at it in Excel and Word and all these different diagrams.
Like it is, okay, I get it. I understand what we have in abundance. I understand where [00:14:00] we, what we have in, in scarcity, I understand what we have to do to kind of create the right model to kind of build for the skills of the future, like I get it, or competency to the future, et cetera. But I, I can’t count on my, on one hand the number of companies that actually did that well, and, and so we fast forward to the conversation around skills.
It feels like I’m having the same convers. Yeah, the question I guess is how, what does skills data look like? So the audience actually can frame it up in their mind to understand like, okay, what is that? What should I be looking for with skills data? Oh, these
Brayden Olson: are, these are the million dollar questions.
I’m gonna try and make this simple as much as I can. Um, so first, uh, you know, and, and. If people use whatever language they want to use, that’s fine. This could be a bit of my bias coming from Deloitte, but I tend to talk about skills as being, [00:15:00] um, you know, can I code an HTML five and capabilities or competencies or soft skills as everything that drives performance, right?
My level of collaboration, my, um, you know, analytical ability, my et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, right? Adaptability, all that. Um, so, you know, I, I don’t consider myself the total expert in the best way to do a skills model. I have colleagues that, that really work on that problem. The capabilities problem is very unique and very different.
As a quick example, um, with skills, people tend to be able to self-report pretty accurately and objectively. That is not the case in the capabilities world where capability is a matter of degree in comparison to other people. It’s a lot more complicated and we could get into that. So there are different ways to solve for those problems.
Speaking to the capability side, I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that we’ve gone through four generations of this [00:16:00] technology and for those, to your point, William, that might be more familiar with kind of earlier iterations. Of, you know, what’s existed in this space. They might kind of think like, oh yeah, you know, that Myers-Briggs thing, or that this thing was cool, or the Hogan or.
And we’ve come a long way in the last hundred years. I mean, the disc is, is literally about a hundred years old now. It’s no
William Tincup: longer a disc. It’s a wafer. Yeah.
Brayden Olson: Yeah. Uh, it’s one of those old timey, you know, black and white photographs. There’s no color in there. Um, and so we’ve come a long way and the fourth generation is very recent.
But here’s basically what defines it. So, you know, in the past, the best you could kind of hope for is kind of. Inferred capability data. So, you know, if you got past self report and all that, you would have someone click a space bar when they see the color green. And it didn’t really relate to what they were doing at work, but it was inferred, [00:17:00] you know?
Right. Maybe through some expert opinions, that’d be wrong. The, the new generation is demonstrated contextual, work oriented digital native. It’s literally, If you can in your mind, think about those old assessment centers, you know, that we used to send senior executives to and pay tens of thousands of dollars per person, and they’d come in and they’d actually execute work functions.
That’s the era we’re in now. It’s these digital work samples where I can put someone in a situation where they demonstrate the behavior and they’re just, you know, they’re just making their decisions. Right. Um, and so that’s the kind of data, that’s what it looks like. That’s how we collect the data and make it so valid and objective and scalable and inexpensive and, and all of that.
And then with that, it’s all about correlation, right? It’s, it’s, now I look at the data points from the people who are high performing at my organization in this role, and I know exactly. [00:18:00] What to find, not based on resume, not based on what school they went to, not based on what clubs they were in, not even based on their technical skills, which again, people tend to have a pretty good sense of, um, based on who they are, right?
So that I can compare people to people.
William Tincup: So, couple quick, not quick. None of these are gonna be quick cuz this is such a juicy, uh, subject. How do, how do the, the leaders of both HR and TA think about tangential or uh, transferable skills? And the separate, separate question. It could be probably same is the potentiality of talent and skills.
Like how do we look at like, okay, they don’t have that skill, but they have the potential to have that.
Brayden Olson: Absolutely. So this is, this is a challenge that, um, you know, our clients ask us a lot. People have different, the theories on this, [00:19:00] but generally speaking, uh, a lot of people think that capabilities are who you are and they don’t really change that much, right?
Except when you go through a life crisis. But skills are very developable, right? That’s, that’s what our whole world is built around. And so if you are looking in your organization, you’re like, I really need more cloud architects, and I just don’t have ’em, and I can’t hire them, well then the question become, Who do I have in my organization that already has the capability that we know to be a high performing cloud cloud architect?
And now I can invest those resources in the evolution of the skills that I need in those people, right? And plug them in. And so it really is a hand in hand kind of activity, uh, you know, transferability of skills, developing those skills once you kind of have that capability data within your organization.
So it could be as crazy. I’m moving this customer support representative over into, um, [00:20:00] you know, a cloud architect position, right? Because they’ve got some of the background and not all of it, and they weren’t client, but we can get ’em there, but we know that they’re the right kind of person.
William Tincup: Ed, what’s interesting, ask the question. Yeah, it does. What’s interesting is, is thinking about how to unlock socioeconomic different socioeconomic groups, uh, and clusters of people. It’s because again, they, you might have ’em in a role you might not be. And, and again, historically we might not have ever seen, seen someone move from, uh, engineering to.
Or marketing to engineering. Like, we might just not have thought, like when you start as a junior and you move your way up and this, that you have a degree, like this is kind of a real old way of, of thinking about skills. Mm-hmm. And so like, like, especially like I, I was thinking about when it comes to like all these operational positions, recruiting, operations, hr, operations, sales, operations, et cetera, at one point or another that that person has a certain amount of [00:21:00] data.
That they understand data, they understand how to tell stories around data. And so, okay, yeah, it’s a different, different data set, right? And there’s other things that they’d need to learn, but it’s, but, but it’s transferrable. Uh, and so it opens up like the internal mobility discussion, which I think is fantastic.
And as we think about it with socioeconomic, it’s like you’re not in just one. With these, with these skills that you acquire, that, that we help you acquire, et cetera, you now can take those skills elsewhere, but also internally there’s all kinds of new opportunities that weren’t even available to you years before.
Brayden Olson: I, and I’ll, I mean, absolutely William, and I’ll make a big pace there. There’s. So as pertains to socioeconomic inequality, right? One of the limiting factors in a lot of people’s lives that are, you know, not, not coming from a lot of resources, is getting the right kind of [00:22:00] education and training and university degrees and whatever, and whatnot that would unlock the type of career that they wanna head down and that they would be really, really good at.
And so, knowing that there’s not a lot of companies out, Oh, sorry. There’s not a lot of really big companies out there that think it’s a crazy idea to send, you know, your employees who already have an undergraduate business degree to go get their mba right. And pay for it with company funds and support them in doing it and letting them, you know, work part-time for a while and then come back and have that MBA paid off, right?
Like this is not a crazy idea. So why is it such a crazy idea to take these people? Again, you know, maybe they don’t have all the technical skills that they need right now, but instead of offering those, you know, business kids, the B A B A, offer these people a similar program and say, Hey, you don’t have these skills, but we see that you’ve got the capability.
Head down this route if it’s intriguing to you, right? Let’s do the same thing. [00:23:00] Let’s give them the opportunity that they didn’t have.
William Tincup: Ma, last question. A magic wand. You could fix socioeconomic bias. For everyone, both, both sides, right? Those that are impacted by it, but also those that are trying to solve the algebra for being more inclusive.
What would you do? What would be your first move?
Brayden Olson: Uh, well, uh, the ex, the expression, when you’re a hammer, every, everything looks like a nail to you, but I, you know, I, I’m sorry. I really do fundamentally believe that there’s something. Organizations have to get on board with capability. We already know that, you know, 97% of employers say it’s the most important.
It’s equal to, or is more important than technical skills. You know, nine and 10 hires that fail, fail because of a mismatch of capabilities. We need to get [00:24:00] companies on board with this data being part of the talent process, being part of the development process, being part of the, you know, training and development process, the leadership succession process.
And it is the magic wand because when companies have data, they respond to that data and the data tells a clear story. And it is a story that can get around what someone’s degree is and what’s on their resume. I mean, it’s the story of who someone is and when you can see the data in your own organiz.
And you can see what’s working in your own organization and you can find more people like that, that’ll be incredibly loyal to you, that you know, none of your competitors are seen because they don’t have the right, you know, college degree, from the right program with the right clubs, you know, on their resume.
That’s the story. That’s the answer. That’s the, that’s the step that we have to.
William Tincup: walks off stage, Braden. [00:25:00] Hey, this is the first time I’ve talked about this and I’m hoping that this leads to more discussion, uh, as it relates to this, because it’s just a wonderful way. I mean, again, the more we learn about diversity, inclusion, uh, belonging, equity, equality, the more we’re gonna learn what we don’t.
And so like, it, it’s, we needed to start somewhere like, okay, fantastic. But it’s expanding that discussion and I’m, I’m really glad that you brought this topic to us.
Brayden Olson: Well, thank you so much, William. If we have time for it, it’s a little bit of a divergence. Um, sure. But just expanding the topic. I know. Hey, this is the HR podcast.
We’re talking about hr, right? But HR is a, is a mirror, is a reflection of society. And I just encourage people who are listening to this and thinking, you know, maybe I haven’t encountered this topic before. Why does it really matter? Why do people talk about this so much? Um, you know, and. [00:26:00] There is some controversy to tackling it in the United States because of the things we talked about earlier in the podcast of like, well if you’re poor, it’s not because you’re unlucky or didn’t have the right advantages, it’s cuz you don’t work hard enough that that whole thing.
So the point I wanna make or to have listeners think about here is when I really dug into the research, you know, about what’s going on in the United States of America and you know how this is impacting. You know, I went through one chapter after another in that book and I looked at the, you know, the cost of healthcare and how that’s getting out of hand and why our education is failing and what’s going on, you know, with having, you know, 4% of the world’s prison population.
You know, and mm-hmm. Sorry. Having 4% of the world’s population, but having more people in prison than anyone else. Yeah. Right. What, what is going on with, why did we have an opioid epidemic? And it came back the same thing every [00:27:00] single time. This was the thread, this was the theme under every single one of these issues and why they keep getting out of hand and virtually everything we’re talking about, everything we’re being impacted.
Comes back to, we have such a degree of socioeconomic inequality now in this country. We’ve never seen it before at at, at these levels. Not even in the Great Depression or the era of the Robert Barons. And it’s having impacts that are impacting you, whoever you are. Uh, and it’s just an issue that, um, I think it’s, I think it’s worth all of us knowing a little bit.
William Tincup: Again drops. Mike walks off stage. Braden, thank you so much for your time, brother. I appreciate you. Thank you. You too, William. And thanks for everyone listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Until next time. [00:28:00]
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.