Steps to eliminate unconscious bias
Unconscious biases do not have to be permanent. While it may be impossible to completely eradicate these biases, we can take steps to reduce the chances as they influence many of our decisions. Follow these nine steps to limit the unconscious biases at your organization.
- Learn what unconscious biases are.
The first step of limiting the impact unconscious biases have on your organization is making sure everyone is aware that they exist. “Awareness training is the first step to unraveling unconscious bias because it allows employees to recognize that everyone possesses them and to identify their own.”
- Assess which biases are most likely to affect you.
Take tests—like Implicit Association Test—to figure out which of your individual perceptions are most likely to be governed by unconscious biases. Armed with that information, you can take proactive steps to address them on a personal basis.
- Figure out where biases are most likely to affect your organization.
Biases tend to affect who gets hired, who gets promoted, who gets raises and who gets what kind of work, among other things. By knowing where bias is most likely to creep in, you can take steps to ensure that biases are considered when important decisions are made in those areas.
- Modernize your approach to hiring.
In order to make sure that unconscious biases don’t adversely impact your hiring decisions, you may need to make some big changes. For example, studies show that the wording in job descriptions, can discourage women from applying for certain positions. Rework job descriptions so you’re able to draw from a wider pool of applicants. You may also want to try judging candidates “blindly,” i.e., not looking at anyone’s name or gender and instead hiring on merit alone. Additionally, consider giving candidates sample assignments to see what their work contributions might look like. Finally, standardize the interview process, as unstructured interviews tend to lead to bad hiring decisions.
- Let data inform your decisions.
If your company’s upper management echelons are only staffed by white men, unconscious biases are determining which employees are promoted. Make it a priority to diversify your management team so that more voices and backgrounds are represented.
- Bring diversity into your hiring decisions.
If your goal is to hire a diverse staff, make sure that there’s diversity among the group of people tasked with hiring new employees. Otherwise, you may continue hiring the same kinds of homogenous workers—despite your best intentions.
- Encourage team members to speak up about biases.
The more people involved in a decision—and the more transparent the decision-making process is—the less likely an organization will be to be affected by unconscious biases. Create a culture that encourages open dialogue. That way, when employees realize a decision might have been influenced by unconscious biases, they won’t be afraid to speak up and set the record straight.
- Hold employees accountable.
Actions speak louder than words. While you shouldn’t necessarily punish someone for making a decision influenced by unconscious biases, you should keep track of whether such decisions are being made. “If a manager gives 10 performance reviews, five to men and five to women, and four out of the highest five are women, it should at the very least call for an inquiry into whether there might be a pro-female bias in the process.” “It might be total coincidence, but it is worth checking.” If the data reveals bias, someone may need to intervene.
- Set diversity goals.
From more innovation to more talented employees to higher retention rates, there are a number of reasons why companies should focus on creating diverse workplaces. Set goals to make sure that your diversity program is more than just lip service and you actually make progress toward building a diverse team.
All of us are affected by unconscious biases. From an organizational perspective, the sooner we realize this reality—and take proactive steps to overcome the biases that hold us back—the stronger our companies will become, and the better positioned we’ll all be to serve our customers effectively.
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