Unconscious bias can be difficult to recognize, but it can have a powerful and far-reaching impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. In a global workforce, it can lead to discrimination and marginalization of certain groups of people. Unconscious bias is rooted in a person’s own experience and beliefs, and it can influence their behavior and decisions without them even realizing it. This can lead to unfair treatment or exclusion of certain groups of Individuals. It is crucial to control unconscious biases to establish a workplace environment that is a more inclusive and equitable work environment. Research shows a correlation between diverse leadership and more robust financial performance for companies. In this article, we will explore various strategies for managing and ways to reduce unconscious bias in the global workplace.
1. What is unconscious bias
Unconscious bias encompasses the underlying prejudices or generalizations that unconsciously influence a person’s thoughts and actions. These biases are formed by our background, cultural environment, and personal experiences, and they can shape our beliefs and attitudes without our awareness or intention. Unconscious biases can manifest in various ways, such as in the hiring process, performance evaluations, and promotions, leading to the underrepresentation or discrimination of certain groups of people in different forms such as affinity, confirmation, and implicit bias in the workplace.
Examples of unconscious bias include:
- Affinity bias– Affinity bias is the tendency to favor people who are similar to us.
- Confirmation bias – Confirmation bias refers to the inclination to look for and understand information that supports our pre-existing opinions.
- The halo effect– The halo effect is the tendency to generalize one positive characteristic to other aspects of a person.
- Implicit bias– Implicit bias is the tendency to unconsciously associate certain characteristics with certain groups of people.
It is important to note that everyone has unconscious biases, and recognizing and acknowledging them is the first step in addressing them. The goal is to reduce their impact on decision-making, by being aware of them and actively working to counteract them.
Impact of bias on teams
There is a powerful impact of unconscious bias in the workplace. A Deloitte study, found that more than 60% of respondents acknowledged the existence of bias in their employment.
when individuals are unaware of their own prejudices, it can result in poor decision-making and a climate where certain team members feel excluded. Inadequate communication, a lack of trust, and low morale may have an impact on team dynamics.
Here are some specific ways in which bias can impact teams:
Inadequate Representation: Bias can cause a lack of diversity within teams, which can lead to a lack of representation of various viewpoints and ideas. This can result in groupthink, where the team is not exposed to different ideas and may make bad decisions.
Reduced Collaboration: Bias can create an environment where team members feel uncomfortable speaking up or sharing their ideas, which can lead to reduced collaboration and communication. This can negatively impact the team’s productivity and creativity.
Low Morale: Bias can make some team members feel excluded or undervalued, which can lead to low morale and high turnover. This can negatively impact the team’s performance and make it more difficult to attract and retain top talent.
Test your bias
The concept of unconscious bias first emerged in 1995 when psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald defined implicit stereotypes. They proposed that these biases are not always a result of conscious intent and are not limited to just race, gender, and ethnicity, but also include other characteristics such as age, weight, and even physical ability.
It states that these biases are learned through repeated exposure to certain attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes and can manifest in a variety of ways, including judgments, decisions, and even behavior. Therefore testing bias in the workplace is necessary.
There are various tools and assessments available online that can help individuals test their own biases. One example is Implicit Association Tests (IAT) developed by Harvard University’s Project Implicit, which measures associations between concepts such as race, gender, and evaluations or stereotypes. These assessments can provide individuals with a better understanding of their own biases and can be a starting point for addressing them. It’s important to note that while these assessments can be a good tool for identifying biases, it’s not the only way, and it’s essential to keep in mind that bias can manifest in various ways and different situations.
It’s crucial to be aware of the potential causes of bias and actively seek to combat them by fostering an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion, offering training and education, and putting in place policies and practices that lessen the effects of bias in the workplace.
2. Evaluate your current business practices for bias
Evaluating business practices for bias includes looking at how decisions are made, who has access to resources, and how power is distributed among employees. It is also pertinent to look at how biases are perpetuated and how they are addressed. By understanding the underlying causes of bias, employers can identify and address potential inequities in the workplace.
The evaluation process also includes identifying potential sources of bias in important stages like recruitment and promotion. Uncovering bias in an organization is like peeling an onion: once you remove the outer layers, new sources of bias may be revealed. It’s a continuous process that requires careful examination of each layer to create positive change.
It involves collecting data on the composition of the workforce and the promotion rate by demographic group. It involves analyzing the data to determine disparities and determining the causes of the disparities. Once the causes of bias are identified, solutions can be implemented such as providing training on unconscious bias or changing policies and procedures.
Additionally, it is critical to include employees and other stakeholders in the process, as they can provide valuable insights and perspectives. Monitor and evaluate the solutions implemented regularly to ensure their effectiveness and make necessary adjustments. Establishing a workplace culture that values diversity, fairness, and inclusiveness can also aid in reducing biases.
3. Ensure every employee is heard
As a leader, it is crucial to foster an environment where all voices within the company are valued and heard, regardless of their position or the size of the team. To achieve this, any existing barriers between upper and lower management should be removed to facilitate open communication and the exchange of ideas. However, it may still be challenging for lower-level employees to feel that their suggestions are being considered and taken into account by upper management.
Also, management should actively listen to employees’ feedback and suggestions, consider them when making decisions, and address unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace. Employees’ participation in the decision-making process will make them feel valued and heard. Providing opportunities for employee representation and participation in different committees such as diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, etc. can also be effective in ensuring that every employee is heard.
4. Conduct frequent diversity and inclusion training
Diversity and inclusion training can help employees and employers to understand and appreciate different perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds, and recognize and address unconscious biases.
Here are some ways to conduct frequent diversity and inclusion training:
Make training mandatory: Require all employees to complete diversity and inclusion training regularly.
Provide different formats: Offer training in different formats, such as in-person workshops, online courses, and webinars, to accommodate different learning styles. Use real-life scenarios that employees may face in the workplace and demonstrate how they can address and reduce bias in these situations.
Tailor training to the organization: Tailor training to the specific diversity and inclusion challenges facing the organization.
Keep the training updated: Regularly update the training materials and content to reflect the latest research and best practices.
Measure the effectiveness: Measure the effectiveness of the training by assessing employees’ understanding and retention of the material and using the feedback to improve the training.
5. Adopting technology that enables collaboration across time zones
Adopting technology easily enables collaboration across time zones. It allows employees from different locations to work together seamlessly, regardless of their physical location.
By using technology that enables collaboration across time zones, employees can communicate and collaborate in real-time. This is especially important for organizations with a global presence or those that have remote teams. Utilizing these tools for remote work seamlessly reduces barriers. Examples of technology that enables collaboration across time zones include video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet, project management tools like Asana, Trello, and Monday.com, and instant messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
These technologies allow employees to share documents, hold meetings, and work on projects together in real time, regardless of their location. By adopting technology that enables collaboration across time zones, organizations can foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace, where all employees can participate and contribute to the success of the organization.
6. Practice data-driven decision-making
Practicing data-driven decision-making is crucial for creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace. By using data and evidence to inform decisions, organizations can identify and address areas of bias and discrimination and improve the representation, engagement, and retention of underrepresented groups.
Analyze data on important measures, like employee engagement, retention, and representation by demographic group, are first gathered and examined. This data can be used to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. Setting goals and targets for the organization, such as increasing representation by demographic group or improving employee engagement, and testing different solutions and interventions to improve these metrics, are also important steps in the process. Regularly monitoring progress towards these goals and targets and making adjustments as necessary, is crucial to ensure the success of the initiative.
Additionally, fostering data-driven thinking among staff members can contribute to the development of an accountable and transparent culture, which will ultimately result in better decision-making and increased performance for the business.
7. Create a culture of sharing and caring
Having a culture of caring matters because it positively impacts the bottom line and bias at the workplace starts to crumble. A positive culture leads to increased employee engagement, which reduces absenteeism, improves retention, and increases productivity. Additionally, a positive culture results in a better customer experience, as happy employees lead to happy customers. Empowered and valued employees are more likely to provide a positive customer experience.
This culture can be fostered by encouraging open communication, fostering a sense of belonging, recognizing and celebrating diversity, showing empathy and understanding, leading by example, providing support, and encouraging volunteerism and community involvement. By creating an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, perspectives, and concerns, and where they are encouraged to connect with one another, organizations can foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace. Additionally, encouraging volunteerism and community involvement can also create a positive impact on society, fostering a positive reputation for the organization.
8. Hold each other accountable
Holding each other accountable is an essential aspect of creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace. It means that everyone in the organization is responsible for ensuring that the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are upheld and that any incidents of bias or discrimination are addressed. One way to do this is by establishing clear expectations for behavior. This can be achieved by clearly communicating the organization’s values and expectations for behavior, and making sure that everyone understands what is and is not acceptable. This is one way to overcome bias in the workplace.
By doing this, employees will be more aware of their actions and will be more likely to hold themselves and others accountable. Additionally, creating an open-door policy and encouraging employees to speak up when they see or experience bias, discrimination, or harassment, and providing them with the necessary resources, support, and protection to do so, can also be a way to hold each other accountable.
The organizations should also have a robust mechanism in place to examine and resolve any reported occurrences. By taking action on reported incidents and holding each other accountable, organizations can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported.
With the use of automated recruitment tools, experts at access a wider talent pool at Talent500 to match their needs. You can determine the greatest fit for your company and ensure continuous engagement. To find out more about how to form successful, diverse teams, Request a consultation.