Stourbridge (UK), November 2018 - The latest article to be published on eLearning supplier Engage in Learning's website deals with unconscious bias and suggests ten tips to help reduce its effects. Written by Bob Little, an internationally known writer and commentator on corporate online learning, the article begins with a rare personal glimpse that provides an example of unconscious bias.
"One day, when I was a boy, my father explained to us - without any animosity and only a hint of disappointment - that he'd been refused a job purely because of his ethnicity," commented Bob.
"Prejudice, discrimination, and conscious and unconscious bias were merely accepted facts of life in those days. Today, things may have changed - if only that these things are now overtly, and rightly, discouraged in our society."
Yet displaying bias is not just typically human; it's a trait that seems to be "hard-wired" into the human psyche. So, recognising - and then overcoming - it takes some effort, but the results for all concerned are well worthwhile.
Unconscious bias happens when people favour others who look, speak, or act like them, or share their values.
One major consequence of letting unconscious bias prevail within a work context is that it leads to a less diverse workforce. Moreover, talented workers can be overlooked and discouraged from exhibiting their talents to the organisation's benefit.
Bob Little's article on the Engage in Learning Blog sets out ten things to bear in mind to help you to overcome unconscious bias in your organisation:
- Be aware that unconscious bias exists and is always trying to manifest itself, in the name of perceived (but incomplete) evidence, efficiency, effectiveness - and expediency.
- Stress or tiredness tends to increase the likelihood of our decisions being based on unconscious bias, so try never to take decisions when you're stressed or tired. If you do, be aware that your decisions at these times can easily be influenced by unconscious bias.
- Don't rush decisions. Rather, take your time and consider issues carefully, rationally, and as objectively as possible.
- Justify decisions with hard evidence and record the reasons for your decisions.
- Try to work with a wider range of people and get to know them as individuals. This could include working with different teams or colleagues based in a different location.
- Focus on people's positive behaviour and not on negative stereotypes.
- Implement policies and procedures that limit the influence of individual characteristics and preferences.
- Use name-blind recruitment since research has shown that a person's name can affect their success within the recruitment process. This involves removing information such as the job applicants’ name, gender, and age from their application form before it's shared with the person carrying out the recruitment.
- Remove any - and all - information that could unintentionally bias a decision-maker. This can help a member of an under-represented group to have confidence that their application will be fairly considered.
- Train managers in your organisation in the techniques that enable them to recognise, and overcome, their own unconscious bias.
"In addition," commented Engage in Learning's Kate Carter, "if you're a leader, manager, or HR professional, you could benefit from Engage in Learning's eLearning materials on recognising and overcoming unconscious bias. Notably, Engage in Learning's 'Unconscious Bias for the front line' course focuses on helping people who hire workers or make other HR-related decisions."