We all have biases. We can’t help it. We’re human.
And humans tend to group together for a variety of reasons, including having familiar backgrounds, sharing similar likes and dislikes, or even coming from the same hometown.
It becomes a problem, however, when these biases become so strong that certain groups are excluded from the equation altogether.
What Is Bias?
Bias exists whether we acknowledge it or not.
If you had to guess, how many male kindergarten teachers are in your child’s school? You might assume not many as people don’t usually associate men with child care.
If we don’t see and hear about female engineers, for example, some people won’t associate women with software engineering roles, although that is changing.
But what does the word bias truly mean?
“Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals from outside their own conscious awareness,” according to the University of California San Francisco Office of Diversity and Outreach. Their website goes on to say that everyone has some form of unconscious bias, which probably stems from the human tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
In other words, people like to sort things into tidy boxes.
Affinity bias — having a more favorable opinion of someone like us — is another common form of bias. “Even if you head up your organization’s diversity committee, you have biases that impact your professional decisions,” writes Ruchika Tulshyan in “How to Reduce Personal Bias When Hiring.”
With this form of bias, people tend to hire those who share the same race or gender, attended the same school, or even remind us of our younger selves.
How Does Bias Affect Us?
Although employees say their companies foster inclusive cultures, 84% of people who have reportedly experienced bias at least once during a year-long period say it has had a negative effect on their happiness, confidence, and well-being to some extent, according to Deloitte’s first 2019 State of Inclusion Survey.
Many survey respondents felt the bias they either experienced or witnessed was subtle and indirect, making it more difficult to respond to when the incident occurred.
Creating an unbiased workplace takes time. Bias can’t be eradicated by one sweeping mandate from above. Eliminating it challenges us to see things from someone else’s viewpoint and evaluate how different perspectives can be advantageous to our teams.
Here are six ways managers can help develop a diverse workforce.
What Can We Do?
#1: Recognize Everyone Has Bias
Affinity bias is widespread in hiring. Managers tend to hire people who look, act, and operate like them. It’s only human. One way to combat this is first to be aware that it exists. Second, keep that nugget tucked in the back of your brain when it comes to assembling your team, and try to reach out to people with different experiences and backgrounds.
#2: Perform a Culture Check
Bias deprives companies of different perspectives that often bring fresh ideas and avoid stagnation. What ethnicities, ages, or genders are underrepresented in your organization? Don’t forget to show your appreciation for your diverse managers. They’ll appreciate the recognition.
#3: Flip It
What’s another way to fight hiring bias? Try the “Flip It to Test It” method. Mentally flip whoever or whatever you’re talking about to test yourself. If the flipped result seems not quite right, you might have uncovered a bias.
#4: Make Up Your Own Mind First
Forbes recommends trying to form your own decisions about a potential new hire before talking to your peers, so you’re not influenced by the majority view. After you’ve established your opinion, share it with your cross-functional interview team.
#5: Ask Each Candidate the Same Questions
Create a set number of interview questions to determine candidates’ skills, knowledge, and abilities for the job. Make sure to ask all of the applicants the same questions. Forbes says this allows hiring decision-makers to base their opinions on informed comparisons about candidates’ capabilities rather than their first impressions.
#6: Join an Employee Resource Group
What’s another great way to combat hiring bias? Join an employee resource group at your company. PEAK6 has several. Black Resourceful Individuals Dissolving Gaps Everywhere (BRIDGE) works to increase the visibility of PEAK6’s Black employees by promoting professional development and continuing education. The Women in Tech Alliance (WITA) strives to get more women involved in technology and help them succeed through mentorship and professional development.
Do you have any ideas or strategies that have been successful for you? Drop them into the comments below.