6 ways to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace

Why it’s foolish to judge candidates by their educational background (2)

If you want to ensure that your company is set up for success, promoting and fostering inclusivity, as well as diversity within your workforce is a must. However, we often tend to forget the negative impact that unconscious bias can have when we try to create working environments that are diverse and inclusive. 

Yet, don’t feel discouraged – there are ways you can reduce unconscious bias within your workplace to ensure a working environment in which everyone feels like they belong!

In this blog, you’ll learn about the 6 ways to reduce unconscious bias & improve DE&I

  1. Understand that unconscious bias is normal
  2. Create internal support
  3. Broaden your viewpoint and educate others
  4. Examine each and every step of your hiring process
  5. Set and continuously measure diversity and inclusion goals
  6. Hold others & be accountable when bias does occur

Understand that unconscious bias is completely normal

We have a tendency to believe that if someone is biased – they are immediately a horrible person. However, that’s not entirely true. At least not in every situation. Bias is a very useful mechanism within our minds that allow us to filter information on the basis of what’s important to us, what’s safe and what’s not. This can be especially beneficial if we are in a situation that is dangerous.

However, what makes biases horrible is the fact that there is a lack of awareness surrounding the negative impact they can leave on our decisions, especially within a workplace. So, the first step to ensuring a workplace that is diverse and inclusive is to raise awareness about unconscious bias.

Broaden your viewpoint and educate others

If becoming aware of unconscious bias is the first step towards ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace, then the next step is to identify the biases that might already exist within the workplace. So, step number two – broaden your viewpoint, educate yourself and others about unconscious bias.

To do so, try asking yourself and others the following three questions:

  1. What are the biases that might already exist in the workplace?
  2. What is the potential impact these unconscious biases are leaving?
  3. What can be done to tackle these biases?

Additionally, it’s very valuable to ask the current employees if, and if so, how have they experienced unconscious negative biases within the workplace. Once these questions have been answered, it’ll become more clear how to begin moving past unconscious biases and how to educate others about it too. Whether it be through organizing bias training sessions or simply providing workshops about the potential impacts of biases.

Create internal support

Becoming aware of unconscious bias likely won’t feel as urgent as sales targets, and people tend to only care about things that affect them personally in their work-life and goals. For this reason, internal support can only be created by focusing on people’s feelings of safety and comfort.

Company sustainability results in a perceived feeling of safety. When focusing on D&I and removing bias, a more diverse team will be created, which increases innovations, creativity, and critical thinking, resulting in better financial performances. 

Tip: Share the study from McKinsey to back up your story with actual research!

I fully understand that unconscious biases can be a topic that people don’t feel that comfortable talking about, as it can easily trigger emotional and personal responses. In order to make people feel more comfortable and create a safe environment, here’s what to do:

  • Get the elephant out of the room. Never underestimate the power of being honest and vulnerable. If you are somewhat nervous to lead this conversation, then why not share that with people in the room? It’s okay to admit that you’re also still a bit clueless here, as long as your intentions are good.
  • The scale question. When understanding why people might feel uncomfortable, it becomes way easier to take away this feeling. Start with a question you’re answering yourself first: ‘’On a scale from 1-10, with 1 being really comfortable, and 1 being really uncomfortable, how do you feel about having this conversation?’’ Now, answer this one yourself first and explain why you picked this number. Consequently, you will see that other people will also start sharing this, as you took away the barrier. 

After doing this, I am convinced that your team members will feel more comfortable and dare to open up more.

Examine each and every step of your hiring process

Human-based screening is extremely biased. While trying to base our opinion solely on relevant information, we can’t prevent our human bias to influence this opinion. Also, we have very limited information about a candidate, when working with resumes and motivation letters, as this doesn’t reveal any objective insights into someone’s personality and skills. 

As a result, we fill up the blank spots by making use of our gut feeling or, in other words, based on our own frame of reference which is often impacted by unconscious biases. And that’s not only something that happens solely during the interview process.

If you want to ensure diversity and inclusion, closely take a look at each and every single step of your hiring process. Starting from the attraction stage and ending with even offboarding. This way you will be able to identify at which stages (or stages) unconscious bias leave the biggest impact on the diversity and inclusion aspect of your company. Thus, knowing what to act on to reduce this impact.

Set and continuously measure diversity and inclusion goals

Eliminating unconscious bias and ensuring diversity within a workplace is an absolute must. That’s why it’s crucial to include diversity and inclusion goals as part of your business goals, this way everyone already working in the company and every new hire will be aware of the importance it plays.

To do this, the best thing to do is look at which groups within your company are underrepresented in terms of ethnicities, ages, gender, neurodiversity and so on. Then afterwards you can begin setting up Diversity metrics that you want to achieve throughout each stage of your hiring process. Perhaps most importantly of all – be sure to continuously measure your goals, as well as to communicate the successes and the areas in which you’re still lacking to ensure diversity and inclusion.

Hold others & be accountable when bias does occur

Every single one of us is human, so on a day-to-day basis, even when we try our best to be aware of our biases, there are often times where we just tend to forget that we even have them. That’s why most importantly of all – try to hold others and yourself accountable whenever unconscious bias does occur. 

Anete Vesere

Cheers, Anete

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