Islington Council is exploring how using AI in recruitment can help to meet its aim of being a diverse employer. Jennifer McGee, Islington’s Strategic Resourcing Lead, tells us how the council’s staff and new technologies are working together to develop their recruitment processes.
A vital part of our Islington Promise is to relentlessly tackle inequality. Fostering inclusivity and diversity within Islington Council is central to our ambition of creating a more equal borough where everyone is able to thrive.
We want our actions to live up to our promise throughout everything we do. One example is our work to tackle inequality in recruitment.
We’ve brought in several innovative initiatives to assist us in attracting a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We created a diverse recruiter’s scheme which includes anonymised recruitment, advertising roles below a threshold internally first, utilising diverse recruitment panels from a pool of trained staff, and creating job literature that is appealing to all.
To further enhance diversity in recruitment, we began testing out the use of generative AI tools and gender bias decoders, to engage with and attract a wider diversity of candidates.
Generative AI can be used to create and fine-tune text for recruitment, and to review and make suggestions on potential bias, inclusive language, and phrasing. A gender bias decoder can analyse text such as job descriptions and adverts for gender bias or gender-specific language. It can help make sure that content is inclusive and does not unintentionally discourage or exclude individuals of any gender.
Using these technologies, we quickly identified that some language within our adverts may inadvertently discourage female candidates. For example, we replaced the use of the term "strong leadership" with “effective leadership skills”. We also ensured the use of gender-neutral pronouns and cut out jargon or culturally specific references that may be unfamiliar to some candidates.
The difference in the language generated is quite remarkable and we’ve seen how this has made a difference in some of our most recent appointments. We have recently made five chief officer appointments, all of which have attracted a diverse field of candidates.
While AI systems can be useful tools in the hiring process, we know it’s essential to use them thoughtfully and ethically, with a clear understanding of their limitations.
This technology is evolving quickly and much like previous technological leaps such as the advent of the internet, mobile phones, and social media, it carries transformative potential. However, as with its predecessors, it also comes with inherent risks. Realising its positive potential hinges greatly on our ability to harness this technology effectively and ensure safeguards against misuse. The technology must be used ethically and responsibly.
In the context of inclusive recruitment, generative AI tools and gender decoders can play a pivotal role whilst we exercise appropriate care and consideration. They can assist in ensuring inclusive job advertisements and literature by helping to identify and address potential biases, making the language more inclusive, and appealing to a wider and more diverse pool of candidates.
However, we firmly believe that AI should be used carefully, reviewed, and refined by our skilled workforce. Human oversight and regular reviews are essential to ensure that AI recommendations align with our values and ambitions. This is why we’ve opted for a hybrid approach, where AI is used to assist in attraction elements of recruitment while keeping human judgement central for vital processes such as screening applications.
We have formal internal organisational policies in place at Islington Council providing guidance to staff around appropriate and safe use of AI technology. Overall, our emphasis is that AI in recruitment does not replace human interaction, but that it can assist in delivering our vision of a more equal Islington.