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Prevent unconscious biases from spoiling your company's culture and diversity

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Currently, the vast majority of companies are embracing diversity. However, the fact that people are not discriminated against because of their gender, their race, or because they have a disability (among other things), does not mean that diverse teams are forming well. Unconscious biases exist, unfortunately.

What happens now is that discrimination occurs with respect to not so obvious factors, like the way a person thinks, or even the way they dress.

Discrimination is not always conscious, in many cases it comes from the activation of unconscious biases that end up generating in the selection specialist negative prejudices against certain people.

This means that the workforce is not really that diverse, which can go against the culture that the company intends to implement. But is it possible to prevent unconscious bias from doing its thing?

Unconscious bias haunts companies

Even those corporations that believe they are past this and have a fully inclusive and diverse culture find that their recruiters continue to engage in certain behaviors over and over again.

This is because no one can be target 100%. There are biases like halo effect, ageism, or conformity bias, against which it is very difficult to fight.

The only tool that companies have is to continue training their staff in this area. In addition, apply measures that make it possible to build a workforce that is as diverse as possible at all levels.

Company culture and inclusion to avoid unconscious biases

unconscious biases are learned in the environment and through one's own experience. For example, if we have had a problem with a person of a certain nationality, we may end up misjudging everyone from that country. Or, if the cinema and television have shown us that certain jobs are for men, it will seem strange that a woman wants or can exercise that profession.

The key to get out of that vicious circle it is to be aware that it exists and that we are falling into behaviors that imply discrimination. In this sense, company culture can be a great tool to combat unconscious bias.

We spend a lot of our lives at work, and the culture of the organization ends up penetrating us. In this way, if we are used to having all the managers in our company being men, and all the cleaning staff being women, we will develop different attitudes towards one gender and the other. On the contrary, if there are men and women in both positions, even the most closed minds will start to change as the situation normalizes.

Therefore, if the company strives to implement a culture that advocates diversity at all levels, that culture will permeate its entire workforce, gradually breaking down old stereotypes and prejudices.

What to do to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias

Fight meta bias

It is rare for a person to declare himself openly racist, or sexist. This is because we are not aware of the biases that operate in ourselves

A recruiter may not consider himself racist because in his private life he associates with people of other races and cultures. However, throughout his career he may never have selected a Roma person for a position. 

Perhaps he has not done so because he has negative prejudices towards the gypsies. Or he may not have done so because he is immersed in the company's culture and is aware that there are no Roma workers in it. In either case, you are applying an unconscious bias.

Meta bias is present in many people, and it is the tendency to think that we ourselves are not affected by cognitive biases. What happens is that, as in the previous example, our actions often prove otherwise.

Hence the need to fight against this meta bias in the first place. Make the personnel in charge of personnel selection aware that even the most prepared and experienced person ends up falling into unconscious ways and not based on objective reasons when assessing a candidate well or badly.

Changing behavior as another way to avoid unconscious biases

For a professional in the field of recruitment it is hard to realize that perhaps you have not been fair to many of the people who have passed through your office looking for a job. It is possible that your unconscious biases have led you to discard candidates who could have integrated well in the company, and to hire individuals who later did not adapt well to either the position or the company.

The moment we overcome meta-bias and become more aware of how we think and act, we all want to be more inclusive. The problem that the personnel of the Human Resources department encounters is that they do not always know how to put that more inclusive behavior into practice.

Therefore, it is useless to apply training on unconscious bias and the importance of diversity, if it is not accompanied by a set of tools. These must help staff members to move from theory to practice.

Having a consistent culture as another way to avoid unconscious biases

As we said before, company culture has a lot of influence on how workers behave. It is this same one can bring out the unconscious bias, or eliminate it

For example, would our recruiter hire a blind employee for the accounting department knowing that there are no blind or otherwise disabled people in the company? Probably not.

If we want diversity to be a value within the organizational culture, it must be promoted from the outset. If that recruiter overcomes their bias and decides to hire that candidate, and the company supports their decision, we will have taken a very important step towards diversity. Surely, in the future, more people with disabilities will be incorporated into the organization, and everyone will see it as something perfectly normal.

Conversely, if the recruiter overcomes his bias, but is met with opposition within the company, he will most likely never consider people with disabilities for a job again.

Foster trust and communication

It is the base employees and the middle managers who know best if the company culture is applied effectively, if the values are respected, and if there are diversity in teams. Therefore, when it comes to obtaining information, they are the best source to go to.

However, it often happens that employees do not want to talk to their superiors, and they do not do so because they do not feel confident to do so. If you work on this aspect, the improvement can be very noticeable.

It's a good idea to encourage employees to talk about cases of unconscious bias that they have detected in their workplace. This will allow those responsible to make the decisions they deem most appropriate.

When we talk about ending unconscious bias, we always think of Human Resources personnel, but we cannot make that task fall only on them. If we involve the entire workforce, unconscious behaviors that are acting as a limit to diversity will begin to surface. The better we know about these types of behaviors, the better we can fight against them.

Holding leaders accountable for change as another way to avoid unconscious biases

Leaders directly influence company culture and how employees behave. If these are the first to apply cognitive biases, we cannot expect the rest of the workforce not to do so.

Those who have the power to make decisions must also act in the most objective way possible when it comes to achieving diversity and inclusion.

A good leader is one who gets others to follow him, and even want to replicate his way of acting. Therefore, if the leader has freed himself as much as possible from unconscious biases and no longer applies them, the rest of the template will start doing the same.

To establish objectives

A company cannot become an example of diversity in a very short time. The road to end unconscious biases is a long way to go, but the goal must be clear.

The entire staff will find it more easy understand the importance of advocating objectivity when valuing others, and relating to them, if the objective to be achieved is well defined. For example, achieving within two years that the age range of employees in the marketing department is wider than it is now, giving opportunities to younger candidates as well as older ones.

The unconscious bias is always going to be there, and the only way we have to fight against it is:

  • identify it
  • involve the entire staff
  • design truly effective strategies to achieve diversity in work teams.

Thanks to platforms like Hirint, you can minimize bias in your selection processes, evaluating your candidates and getting to know them even better. Book a meeting with us here 

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