Diversity has shifted from buzz word to business imperative, as companies identity the business upside of a diverse workforce, the growing expectation by Millenials to work in inclusive organizations, and the immense, though less quantifiable, benefits of a workplace that leverages the richness of the society in which it operates. For some companies, it may be the stick as much as the carrot, with companies seeking to avoid bias-related allegations that can put a drain on company resources, hurt employee morale, and tarnish a company’s reputation in the market. Either way, increasing diversity and eliminating bias from the hiring process has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
Like many things in life, achieving diversity - and avoiding bias - is easier said than done, even for organizations that are truly committed to D&I. One of the key barriers is particularly difficult to combat, because it is unconscious: unintentional bias.
To complicate matters, unintentional bias is often joined by others in the bias family: Similarity bias may create an unintentional preference for people who are like us in some key way (a fellow dog owner or a member of a similar community, for example). Confirmation bias focuses our attention on evidence that confirms our initial biases (this candidate is great! She’s a long-distance runner AND all her stories point to being super resilient, which is what you’d expect from a runner).
Awareness is a necessary but insufficient condition to successfully addressing biases. We need to take active steps to deal with biases, even, and maybe especially, when they are essentially blind spots in our fields of vision.
Here are a few suggestions based on our work with companies across industries and in multiple countries and cultures:
Talking about biases, and admitting that we may have some blind spots, can feel uncomfortable. But with a combination of goodwill and smart technology, we can help eliminate bias and, as importantly, increase diversity that will bring in voices, perspectives, and skill sets that will enrich our teams and companies.
Stay posted on Empirical’s research and insights from the hiring trenches. Or reach out to us if you have any comments, questions, or you want to learn more.
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