Winning with Underdogs: How Often-Overlooked Candidates Benefit Business

IRI Podcast Episode on Job Candidates

In our increasingly competitive recruiting landscape, companies are redefining their ideal job candidate profiles. The rise of remote work meant that for many, geography could be removed as a deciding factor for job candidate viability – and with that in mind, could other factors fall in the face of today’s hiring challenges? Today, we’re joined by Gil Winch, Founder of CY and author of Winning with Underdogs: How Hiring the Least Likely Candidates Can Spark Creativity, Improve Service, and Boost Profits for Your Business! Here, he explains:

  • Why marginalized populations are so often chronically overlooked in the job market;
  • The problematic nature of the term "inclusion";
  • What "full inclusion" means, and how it can be achieved; and .
  • How companies can reap financial benefits by hiring "underdogs"!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


Unemployed, Marginalized Populations

  • Between 80-90% of severely disabled people are unemployed, and many people with other kinds of disabilities also face statistically significant rates of  unemployment.
    • And yet, people with severe disabilities use screens and computers in their daily lives, doing the same things that jmany able-bodied people do for a living - so what is stopping them from employment?
  • There are roughly 1 billion people worldwide who face some kind of disability, and that population faces some of the highest rates of unemployment compared to their able-bodied counterparts.
  • Formerly incarcerated people also face high rates of unemployment across the world.
  • LGBTQ people and women face higher rates of unemployment or underemployment than the average even in the United States.
  • Every country has groups of people (such as races, religious minorities, gender, sexual orientation etc.) who face a higher rate of unemployment compared to the general public.


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Inclusion vs Full Inclusion

  • The term “inclusion” can be problematic because it creates an otherness of allowing a certain group into the workplace, and by nature some people are still being excluded.
    • Mr. Winch does not believe inclusion exists. Either companies have a system of only allowing certain people to work for them or they do not. If companies do have a system like that, intentional or not, then they are not inclusive.
    • When companies start letting in more groups of people than they did before, it does not make them more inclusive, it just makes them less biased.
    • Either companies allow everyone to have a fair chance, and allow people in on merits, completely disregarding demographic groups, or not. Most companies are not looking solely at merit when hiring potential job candidates.
  • Full inclusion means companies do everything they can to judge job candidates solely on merits during the hiring process, and disregard factors such as race, gender, and orientation.
    • A survey showed that roughly 50% of interviewers thought that if job candidates do not make strong eye contact with them, they would not continue the hiring process with them. This is because most companies are set up to look for mainstream job candidates.
    • Companies often have a (spoken or unspoken) instituted guideline of job candidates they are interested in hiring, and what types of job candidates should be working at their company. Otherwise, there is no clear explanation as to why certain people are left out of the hiring process. 
  • There are quite a lot of barriers when it comes to embracing full inclusion. 
    • Companies are motivated to strive for maximum profit, and when there are job candidates who are currently outside the workforce, and have been unemployed for some time, it can inhibit confidence. These candidates are already left out of the loop, face greater dependency on others, may not be able to solely focus on work during the day, and face lower self efficacy, which means companies would need to put in more effort and patience to catch these workers up to speed. 
      • The beginning of their work experience would be more difficult than job candidates who are “mainstream”. 
      • This is a factor that companies consider, intentional or not, when they report back on profits and productivity. Many senior managers may not have the patience to bring in people who need to be brought up to speed, even if they would stay at the company longer than the average employee.
    • Diversity does not only mean bringing in different people of different groups, but also bringing on people who start off slower, but who can and will catch up, or candidates who would be more loyal and engaged and boost employee morale. 
      • Bringing on “underdog” job candidates can inspire existing employees to work harder and do better.
      • Diversity is not just about opening the doors for everyone, but understanding that everyone may need a different kind of introduction into the company to be able to thrive.

Bringing in the Underdogs

  • Companies need to change the way they operate if they actually want to be diverse.
    • Changing practices can bring in better employees. By changing the job postings, the onboarding, the training, and everything else in the hiring process because there are large amounts of job candidates that cannot do well in the traditional way of doing things.
    • By being a company that adapts, it can open up new job candidates with unique backgrounds that will stay for the long haul.
    • Changing procedures is not only a question of seeing if companies are willing to change, but how much they are willing to put in effort to see that change through.
  • There are also financial benefits to an employer that justifies changing practices to open them up to a greater population.
    • Social purpose is highly correlated with employee engagement, and there is robust research about the financial benefits of employee engagement as well. Every important financial metric (sales, profits, productivity, etc.) is in double figures for the companies with highly-engaged employees.
  • If HR departments implement reserved employment for the opportunity deprived, it saves some of the best positions for job candidates who would not normally have employment opportunities. 
    • Certain populations have a hard time finding work, by setting aside a few positions for people with disabilities or criminal records, there would not be so many people with those life experiences unemployed. Companies can find people to do the work if they make those jobs available. 
    • If HR departments look for available jobs in their company that would work well with people with specific populations that need a job, there would not be so many unemployed people. 

CY and Winning With Underdogs

  • Call Yachol (CY) was built as a showcase in order to prove that job candidates with disabilities, and other unemployed populations, can reach proven regular productivity if companies realize what they need in order to do so.
    • CY became a call center because that is a way to prove regular productivity, and researchers can compare operations from company to company. CY operates as a social business, without presuming maximum profit, and is designed to prove a point about hiring practices, and to prove a point.
    • Two thirds of CY’s several hundred employees are severely disabled, and the other third are other underemployed populations such as formerly or currently incarcerated people, elderly people, single parents, religious minorities, and more. 
    • The company was built to prove the point that underemployed people can work, and will be loyal to their employers and successful in the long term.
  • The concept of CY brings underdogs the chance to work not only at regular productivity, but advancing expectations.
    • Everyone in the company, according to Mr. Winch is doing their job well because of the system they have set up at CY, and managers are able to bring every employee up to regular productivity for fair wages.
  • While there is a limit to how many people who can work at CY, Mr. Winch wrote  Winning with Underdogs: How Hiring the Least Likely Candidates Can Spark Creativity, Improve Service, and Boost Profits for Your Business to prove the success of hiring underemployed populations within his company to show how that model can work for other companies as well.
  • Giving is addictive, and provides a unique opportunity to completely change someone’s life, and HR professionals have that privilege. HR can change, and even save, lives and show what is really important.
  • Mr. Winch was inspired to create his company to give greater opportunity to the underdogs: groups of people who face higher rates of unemployment, such as disabled people, LGBTQ people, etc.
    • After 10 years of operations, more than 70 countries have observed the work that CY is doing. 
    • While it is very difficult to change the global landscape, and there is still a great deal of progress needed to be made, CY uses a specific managerial model to set companies up to hire underdogs.
    • The only way to get that managerial model out there for companies to understand was to write a book in English, to create a playbook for companies.
  • Mr. Winch believes that not only can any organization become inclusive, but even the largest of companies can go above and beyond for their employees, but senior management needs to be on board in order to see it through and truly change practices to make a difference.

Gil Winch Background

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Psychology from Tel Aviv University
  • Master of Arts (M.A.), Clinical Psychology from Tel Aviv University
  • B.A. Psychology from Tel Aviv University
  • B.A. Special Education from Tel Aviv University
  • Gil is the Founder and Social Entrepreneur for Call Yachol (CY)



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