Approximately 64% of the 3000 individuals surveyed in Deloitte’s 2019 State of Inclusion survey said that they had encountered bias at work in the past year. Most respondents believed that despite progress being made towards making organizations more inclusive, bias continues to exist. This statistic is particularly concerning since bias represents the greatest barrier to building a diverse and inclusive organization.
Therefore, it is even more critical to develop strategies to overcome unconscious bias. Understanding one’s own biases is typically the first step in overcoming biases. However, sometimes biases are so deeply ingrained that mere awareness and training may not be sufficient. Despite this, training remains the most effective way of combating biases. It is imperative that people from all levels of organizations and hierarchy undergo training to overcome their personal biases. Training events must be repeated regularly to ensure effectiveness. Through leadership action and continuous reinforcement, biases must be overcome through a change in mindset.
Despite this, since unconscious biases are deeply engrained, it is essential to examine each stage of the employee life cycle and put into place processes and procedures that will help overcome these biases. To understand how to overcome biases, let us examine each stage of the employee life cycle:
This is the first encounter with the organization that a potential employee has. Biases are a common phenomenon in the hiring process. There are many biases at play, including affinity bias, halo/horn effect, and conformity bias. Recruiting and hiring can be adversely affected by unconscious bias. A biased viewpoint can still result in unequal favoritism, regardless of how it is framed. Interviews are largely determined by first impressions and gut feelings. Unconscious bias, however, should be prevented to prevent unfair or inaccurate judgments, missed opportunities, or even discrimination.
During the development stage, everyday inclusion plays a significant role in helping a candidate to become part of the organization. The development and growth of each employee must be equally accessible. Nevertheless, equality can only be achieved with equity. Equity in everyday practices ensures that each employee can enjoy equal opportunities based on their individual needs. The provision of a work from home facility to a parent of a young child can be viewed as equity but ensuring that they are given equal opportunities for development and project implementation can also be viewed as equality. Equality and equity go hand in hand.
This step in the employee life cycle is crucial. Employees need to feel engaged on an everyday basis to be retained in the organization. Bias can take a variety of forms, including a preference for certain names and the association of certain positions with certain genders. It may seem insignificant, but unconscious bias has a negative impact on employee engagement. As a result, employees may withdraw from the discussion, not feeling safe enough to voice their opinion. Companies may experience higher turnover rates. Consequently, morale declines, company culture suffers, and recruitment and retention become more difficult.