Promoting diversity and inclusion is a win/win. Studies show that diverse workplaces generate 1.4x as much revenue and are 120% more capable of hitting financial targets than less diverse ones. How is that possible? Well, for one, we know that a diverse team will bring diverse perspectives; you’re simply going to generate a broader array of ideas and possible solutions to business challenges when you’re hearing from more than just one type of person (e.g., a team of engineers who all went to the same school, learned from the same professors and graduated in the same class will most likely all come up with the same kinds of ideas). We’re all motivated to recruit and hire more diverse teams (and we have some compliance issues to consider as well). So, why is hiring for diversity and inclusion often a little harder than it seems? Implicit bias may be the problem.
What Is Implicit Bias?
When people picture workplace discrimination, it’s easy to simply imagine that it’s done by “bad people”—get rid of them, and you’ll have a free and harmonious workplace for all. The reality is, while there are undoubtedly those who knowingly stand in the way of progress, often biases can be held—unknowingly—by people with the best of intentions.
You might wonder how that’s even possible, but every day, in work and our personal lives, we make implicit (i.e., unconscious) judgments. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have time to get anything done—quick thinking has helped humans survive since the days of cave drawings (if you’re lucky enough to still have time to read books, there’s a great one about this very topic called “Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman). But snap judgments based on gut feelings can work against us, often without us even knowing it.
Implicit Biases in the Workplace
There are many ways that unconscious judgements can lead to discriminatory actions. It all comes down to letting someone’s identity get in the way of seeing their real value and achievements. If someone shares identity traits with you, you may place more trust in them or underplay the significance of their mistakes. If someone has an identity that you instinctively see as “weird” or different, you may unknowingly be less friendly to them or take longer to see their potential.
Implicit biases can create accidental discrimination when recruiting, during performance reviews or in the allocation and review of everyday tasks. It’s not just recruiters and managers at risk, though—this applies to how all employees interact with their colleagues.
Examples of Implicit Bias
Biases exist for many reasons. Often, we unconsciously judge people according to a stereotype: this could be based on their race, nationality, accent, age, class, gender, sexual orientation, weight, attractiveness, level of education or whether someone is a parent. In many cases employees may have implicit biases against people who they share an identity with.
Take these examples. A leader may fail to see the potential in an employee because they have a regional accent. Or, a team member’s intelligence and contribution might not be fully recognized due to their age—whether that’s young or old. Alternatively, a manager may think certain tasks are a “natural fit” for certain employees, just because of their gender.
How Does Implicit Bias Training Work?
The key to fighting implicit bias is learning to recognize it. Avoiding it altogether is tough—after all, unconscious judgements are part of how humans think. But if employees can spot when they are making a quick judgement about someone which might be grounded in who, rather than what, they are, they can learn to step back and think again.
Implicit bias training—conducted in person or online using an LMS system—aims to make employees aware of their own biases and the potential damaging effects. Often, this will extend to training employees to make better instinctive judgements, that don’t rely on stereotypes.
It’s natural that some employees may be defensive and resistant to the idea that they have unconscious biases, and that’s okay. The important thing is that they learn how it works, how it’s normal to make these kind of snap judgements and, both through training and in their own time afterwards, they evaluate their own actions and, if they become aware of their own biases, learn to fight them.
Why Implicit Bias Training Isn’t Enough
The science is still divided on how effectively implicit bias training can use ‘counter-stereotyping’ to change unconscious biases. What’s certain, though, is that being made aware of the power of biases allows employees to consciously reevaluate their decision making.
Training is not enough on its own, though. You need structural processes in place to fight bias, especially when it comes to recruitment. Blind hiring—viewing resumes without any identifying information—is a great place to start. The more you do to fight implicit biases, the better, not only for recruitment but also when judging performance, allocating promotions or even simply conducting meetings.
How Paycor Helps
The good news is, Paycor can help. Our Learning Management software gives you the tools you need to offer employees powerful, personalized training on demand, accessible on-the-go on mobile or desktop.
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