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It’s no secret that workplace diversity is a good thing. Most organizations now know that diversity leads to better profits, more innovative ideas, and the ability to tap into a wide range of perspectives, skillsets, and experience to solve problems. In short, including more employees from underrepresented groups on our teams doesn’t just promote equality, it leads to better business results. Yet when it comes to walking the diversity talk at work, unconscious biases might be getting in the way.

Unconscious bias (aka implicit bias) is the way the brain assesses and makes judgements about people based on clichés, stereotypes, or inaccurate media or cultural portrayals. We’re not aware of or in control of them, we all have them, and they’re unique to each of us, influenced by our experiences, backgrounds, and cultural norms.

In the workplace, unconscious bias can be subtle, acting as a barrier to equality and diversity. And while it can crop up in many ways and be hard to eliminate, there are a few simple ways to interrupt biases and counteract the negative consequences.

Have a policy

Putting your stance on diversity and inclusion in writing can start the conversation about unconscious bias. While a policy statement alone won’t cut it, articulating your organization’s values is an essential first step. By drawing awareness to the fact that implicit bias exists and can be problematic. In doing so, we are better able to understand the potential impact, and are much more likely to catch and adjust biased thoughts and judgments.

Revisit recruitment

One place unconscious bias frequently shows up is during the recruitment process. Whether it’s the language used in job postings, your advertising and referral practices, or your resume screening techniques, you might unknowingly be screening out quality candidates from underrepresented groups based on biases you’re not even aware you have.

The good news is that there are easy ways increase your talent pool by identifying and removing barriers to diversity. Advertise through different channels. Conduct a blind resume screening, removing names to ensure your implicit biases don’t affect who makes it through to the next round. When interviewing, use only objective criteria related to the job (bona fide occupational requirements) to assess candidates. Finally, encourage diversity on your own hiring team – we tend to be more likely to hire people who are “just like us”!

Measure it

Like any other people management initiative, diversity and inclusion initiatives should be tracked. If you don’t measure your efforts, it won’t magically happen. Fostering awareness and accountability means gathering facts about your practices. Identify where you’d like to be when it comes to eliminating the effects of bias, set a goal and check in regularly to assess your progress, adjusting accordingly.

Make objectivity a habit

If your people management practices aren’t grounded in objectivity, it’s easy to allow biases to lead the way. To counteract the impacts of unconscious bias, make a habit of relying on consistent criteria for decision making during every phase of the employee lifecycle. For example, does your performance management system count on objective or subjective criteria? If it’s mostly subjective, you may be inadvertently allowing biases to impact hiring, development, or promotion decisions.

When biases are left unchecked, it impacts diversity, engagement, and profitability. This means that every people manager needs to add an additional bullet to their job description that reads “Recognizing, questioning, and dismantling our unconscious biases”!

Your Engaged HR Assignment

Take a few minutes this week to review your people management policies and practices, using the lens of the bullets above to help identify where you may be allowing bias to influence your decisions.

Not sure where to begin with creating consistent, bias-free people management policies and processes? We’re here!

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