How HR can stamp out unconscious bias

One diversity manager shares some key strategies that organisations can use in the battle against unconscious bias.

How HR can stamp out unconscious bias
While most HR professionals strive for a diverse and inclusive workplace, unconscious bias can easily influence major decisions without anyone even realising. Here, one industry expert shares her advice on ensuring key HR activities – such as recruitment and promotion – aren’t unfairly affected.

“Two of the most common forms of unconscious bias that are triggered during recruitment and promotion processes are affinity bias and confirmation bias,” reveals Fezeela Raza, of Diversity Works NZ.

“Affinity bias, put simply, is the preference towards hiring and promoting in our own image,” she explains.

“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, and favour information in a way that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities,” she adds.

When these biases are operating, leaders end up with heavily skewed decisions but according to diversity manager Raza, there are there a number of different ways organisations can address this.
“Firstly, what is important to realise, and is very positive, is that research shows us that awareness of unconscious bias in itself is an unconscious bias mitigation strategy,” she reveals.

“So awareness can bring changes to thinking and behaviour. This means training for people leaders, HR teams and others in unconscious bias is vital.

“In addition to that, there are a number of strategies and tools that organisations can utilise across the recruitment and promotion processes to help mitigate unconscious bias. For example, each candidate should go through a formalised step-by-step recruitment process, involving a number of different people, which will allow for some of the risks of unconscious bias to be minimised.”

Other tools that can be utilised include a candidate screening matrix, blind CVS, interview templates with scoring and weighting, and balanced interview panels.

“We also know that, in the future, technology will play an increasing role in helping us to mitigate bias,” says Raza, pointing to a number of U.S. companies that claim to have developed software which can detect bias as it happens.

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