Unconscious bias and how to avoid it in the workplace

Kirsty Peacock FPSG By Kirsty Peacock, Director of Operations, FPSG

31 October 2018

Recruitment experts FPSG discuss how to avoid unconscious bias in the workplace.

What is unconscious bias?

Have you ever heard yourself say?

  • I like them - they are like me.
  • I won’t ask them to help - it’s not their kind of thing.
  • I will ask them to do this – they always do a good job.
  • They don’t work that day so they won’t be interested.
  • We need a man to help with this.

These are everyday examples of unconscious bias.  Whether recruiting in our image or making judgements based on our perceptions or previous experience, we are withholding opportunity for all by letting our biases make our decisions for us.

Unconscious bias is increasingly being brought into discussions around equality and inclusion in the workplace. It can impact everything from recruitment and attraction to opportunity, promotion and retention and can have a detrimental effect on diversity within an organisation and all the benefits that a diverse workplace can offer such as:

  • Enhanced talent pool
  • Increased motivation
  • Higher levels of productivity
  • Stronger brand

What can you do to avoid unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias forms the snap decisions our brains make when making judgements about someone for the first time. From an evolutionary standpoint, unconscious bias is a necessary survival tool.  Problems occur when we translate this in to our everyday lives and use our judgements to make decisions in the workplace.

As employers we can avoid unconscious bias in our workplaces through taking the following steps:

  • Standardised recruitment processes – consider standardised recruitment process by campaign with measurable outcomes which ensure a ‘like for like’’ comparison.
  • Candidate application - anonymise applications and introduce diverse candidate pools through a multi-channel attraction plan for your recruitment processes.
  • Panel interviews – avoid one to one interviews to ensure a diverse range of views are being represented by the decision makers.
  • Seminar – consider bringing in experts to deliver seminars on unconscious bias in the workplace.
  • Induction – make sure your new hire induction covers unconscious bias as part of your Equality and Diversity Policy.
  • Workshops - deliver an unconscious bias module as part of further equality and inclusion topic.  The workshop could include content on what forms unconscious bias takes, how to recognise it in yourself and colleagues, how to realign your decision processes.  The workshops can take the form of tutorial and practical exercise formats.

If you want to know more about unconscious bias in the workplace, and how to avoid it, organisations such as the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion and Acas offer excellent support.


Professional recruitment advice

Whether you are looking for your next career move, career advice, or just want to see what is currently available in the market, FPSG want to hear from you.

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This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.

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