Recognising Unconscious Bias in the work place and recruitment process

We’re 99.999996% unconscious so let’s understand unconscious bias: Our brains are complex machines that are bombarded with over eleven million pieces of information every second through our senses, and yet our conscious mind can only process 40bits per second (equivalent to just 0.000004% of the stimuli received).

To make sense of it all, our brains categorise the world around us. This automatic processing enables us to know what to expect and how to react to certain objects. It also means we automatically classify other human beings. And it happens very fast. It takes just 50 milliseconds to recognise gender and 100 milliseconds to recognise race. Our brains gravitate us towards people and things that are similar, and this is the driver behind the levels of bias we all have and experience on a daily basis, for the most part without realising it.

Other terms include hidden bias and implicit bias. Biases in the workplace can be barriers that not only prevent people from working together effectively, but also damage the development of inclusive relationships that foster creative and innovative ideas

So, let’s give us a moment when we are assessing someone, reviewing an application, attending a meeting or delivering a pitch. Be aware of the bias that exists and move it from the subconscious to the conscious. Then you can park it and review and react objectively.

Being diverse about diversity and inclusive about inclusion

Initiatives to support gender equality are very often the first, and only inclusive tool thoughtfully applied in organisations. While easy to measure and important to implement it is vital to see beyond gender equality and into all aspects of diversity.

Moreover, a common pitfall is whereby organisations focus on equality between the sexes or on supporting a particular minority but fail to generate allies to the cause or involve the whole of the organisation in the change. The key to unlocking the gender debate is around engaging men, and the push for disability, LGBT, and others’ rights and accommodations.

Reflecting a changing work force

In the past two decades, Ireland’s work force and structure have evolved, from a place of industry to a knowledge-based economy. Along this evolution, an influx of non-Irish nationals settled in Ireland. The number of working women and dual-career couples has increased and, together with an ageing work force and matters of sexual orientation, all these considerations fall under the term ‘diversity’. More than one-in-four people who live in Dublin are not from Ireland. Does your company reflect this?

Keep it simple
Too often, organisations engage with groups of passionate volunteers who draw up long lists of top priorities from the wonderful to the wacky. While this is energising and can be a real eye-opener to the less initiated managers, it can create noise without action and waste time without direction and a clear link to the business.

If starting out, stick to proven measures such as committing publicly to inclusion and diversity strategies and targets, addressing unconscious bias, providing agile working options. Also, encourage family-friendly and gender-supportive policies and practices such as parental/carer leave and worker returnee programs.

Also, sponsorship of female talent has proven to be the key to unlocking career success for women by bypassing the male-biased infrastructure around networks and exposure. Sponsorship, where the sponsor talks about the sponsored outside the room, rather than mentoring, where the mentor/mentee conversation stays in the room, is cost efficient and can produce timely and measurable results.

Source & Copyright: Thinkbusiness.ie / Mark Fenton