Unconscious bias: educating teams towards diverse hiring

The positive impact of diversity in the workplace is not news. For many years we’ve known that business productivity, company culture and employee satisfaction improve with a workplace made up of diverse genders, nationalities, sexualities, ages, ethnicities and educational backgrounds.

Despite all this information, the reality of adopting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not as easy as simply implementing policy change. Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) also plays its part in a well-meaning hiring manager not hiring diversely. Unfortunately, the negative impact of non-diverse hiring falls on the minorities themselves. 40% of LGBTQ+ employees say they are not open with sexuality at work [1],  and  women earn on average 81 cents to every dollar a man earns [2]. It is therefore very clear that bias has long-term consequences.

So, what is it? Unconscious bias is the subconscious prejudice we all have against different groups of people. This can manifest itself in preferencing one candidate over another, purely based on their personal characteristics, rather than their skills and experience. If it goes unexamined, increasing diversity in the workplace will be almost impossible. HR managers, if you’re working with hiring managers who you suspect might be hiring with unconscious bias, consider the following steps to help kick-start a change.

Unconscious bias training

Unconscious bias training has been criticised in the past for not being an effective solution to the problem. In fact, some argue that it may reinforce stereotypes in the workplace, as the training clarifies existing stereotypes and may give people permission to use them in the office[3]. Another problem is that people may become defensive when confronted with their own ability to discriminate against others.

In order to make training effective, it has to be part of a multi-pronged approach that targets specific actions rather than hypothetical situations. It must also be tailored to your company and your hiring manager. Don’t set unrealistic expectations about timing: it is unlikely that there’ll be a major increase in diverse hires immediately. Just focus on making a small change at first.

Shot of a group of colleagues giving each other a high five

Revamp job descriptions

A job description may be the first piece of communication a potential hire receives from your company. There are many subtle ways the wording of a job description can either encourage, or completely discourage, different people from applying. Work with your hiring manager to understand that words like ‘dominant’, ‘rock star’, ‘expert’ and ‘superior’ are problematic as they are seen as gendered and can discourage women. In addition, if you want to attract individuals of varying sexualities, nationalities or ages, include a line about your diversity values within the job description. It will imply that you are open to hiring a more diverse range of people.

Change the way you assess resumes

A blind resumes assessment is the easiest way to eliminate bias from the first stage of the selection process, however it may not be enough. It has been found that the types of words used on resumes can actually give the hiring manager an indication of gender, without knowing a person’s name. Using blind resumes alongside other techniques, like an AI software, which is programmed to ignore all demographic information and use data reference points instead. Discuss adopting this change with the head of recruitment at your business, because it does make a monumental difference in the number of minorities considered for the role.

More focus on skills tests

For some positions, a skills test is integral to hiring successfully. But what if the only candidates that progressed to that stage were selected through a biased process? Talk to your hiring manager about re-examining their recruitment practice to put more emphasis on skills tests. Once the results come in, take the people with the best scores through to interview stage as a non-negotiable, regardless of who they are.

If you’re looking for your next great hire, contact our team today!

[1] https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/inclusive-cultures-must-follow-new-lgbtq-workforce
[2] https://www.payscale.com/data/gender-pay-gap
[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-01-04/implicit-bias-training-isn-t-improving-corporate-diversity
Author Jenna Glen Tiger Recruitment Team