Unconscious or implicit bias is shared by both men and women. Research has consistently shown that women also display an explicit bias towards both men and women (Brookes, 2014; Reuben, 2012). When biases subconsciously influence candidate selection or promotion, decisions made can result in workplace inequalities. Numerous social experiments have been performed which demonstrate that simply changing the gender on a resume/CV impacts upon the decision to hire a candidate (Moss-Racusin, 2012). Unconscious bias training and courses that are designed to help people identify their own biases and act upon them, are increasingly being employed by large corporates, but do they work? To see a positive outcome of these initiatives across the organisation, leaders should get more engaged in working out how that bias originates and affects their organisations.
Data suggest that individuals and organisations can begin to reduce unconscious bias in a hiring or promotion process by doing two things. The first involves laying out a structure that is subsequently adhered to, and the second, increasing accountability in decision making (Google Ventures, 2014; Uhlmann, 2005). In the first approach, executives who are making the hiring decision write down the specific skill sets that they believe are required to do the job; simply making a list which should then be referred to throughout the hiring process. Ideally, the list of skills and experiences would have been compiled by a group of people making the hiring decision – it is very important that this is done by the decision makers, not HR. Each candidates’ profile and performance in the interview is then applied to the requirement list – everything that is not on that list and was not identified when initiating the process should not be considered. The decision is then made based on the requirements for the position and not influenced by personal bias. The second approach is about increasing accountability for a decision. The CEO or executive team describes the specific reasons why one candidate has been selected and why the others have not. Even if this isn’t a group decision, even writing down a decision has been shown to reduce bias in decision-making. These approaches cost nothing to implement and are accessible to all.
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