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An expert shares: unconscious bias in the workplace

If I told you your hiring process is biased (despite your new Diversity & Inclusion initiative), you’d probably take offense. Hey, I’d love to be wrong! But you’re not alone. While there are tomes of research tying an inclusive, diverse, culturally connected workforce to better business results, creating and protecting that ideal, empowered environment is a lot tougher than it sounds.

Why? Bias. Specifically, unconscious bias. Think of it like a reflex. Unconscious bias is a set of biases that can be triggered instinctively when we’re met with something, or someone, new. We aren’t aware it happens, it just does. Thus the term ‘unconscious.’

But if we aren’t aware of predisposed biases and they’re triggered without our knowledge, is it possible to avoid them?

Enter the employee onboarding program. You need a structured, consistent approach.

Unconscious bias in the workplace
Whether or not you realize it, you’re making instinctive assumptions while reviewing resumes, during candidate selection, in the assessment approach you take, your style of interviewing, your onboarding practices, etc., based on predisposed biases of demographic profiles.

Women are caring, men have a short attention span, engineers are pragmatic, this person would probably relocate but that person would never, there’s no way that person knows how to this, I’m sure this one won’t care about that….you get the idea. Bottom line, you’re leaving a lot of risk and potential reward on the table when you assume things about the candidate and employee experiences you provide (or don’t).

Here’s the rub. If we’re standardizing an approach where we talk to everyone the same, treat everyone without a name and face, don blinders in order to avoid the temptation of bias, conscious or not, is there room for authentic culture, for a personalized touch, for a relevant, customized experience? Because that’s been the obsession with the advent of employer branding, recruitment marketing, targeted advertising and so on.

You can and want to target me if I fit the persona you’re looking to hire. That’s standard practice as we normalize consumer marketing for talent attraction and engagement. Are these mutually exclusive?

Check out our full conversation with Scot Sessions. You’ll gain a better understanding of unconscious bias in the workplace, how and where it plays out and how it impedes the performance of your organization.

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