How does Bias manifest itself in your workplace and what to do about it.

How does Bias manifest itself in your workplace and what to do about it.

My friend recently got a job in a financial loans call centre. She brought up a discovery of her own. She told me that her colleagues with ethnic names were found challenged when achieving KPIs. This got me thinking. How does unconscious bias manifest itself in your workplace, and more importantly. 

What should we do about it? 

What is unconscious bias?  

Think about your earliest memory, then picture it in a timeline with your most recent memory. It’s an impossible task, to be able to recollect every memory. Your brain uses pieces of all that information you have gathered to help you understand how the world works. These associations are so hard wired so deep into your brain that you can act without consciously thinking about them all. 

An example is if you see a red light. You know what that symbol means and you instinctively know to slam the brakes without a second thought. 

However, there can be others that aren’t so useful. Perhaps there was a neighbour called Karen which made your life a little harder than necessary. When you meet someone with the same name you flinch a little as this is how your mind responds.

The University of California defines bias as a prejudice in favour or against an object, person or a group person. This is done in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.

It is important to note that biases, conscious or unconscious, are not limited to ethnicity and race. Though racial bias and discrimination are well documented, biases may exist toward any social group. One’s age, gender, gender identity, physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, weight, and many other characteristics are subject to bias.

What are the two types of Bias 

There are two types of biases: Conscious Bias and Unconscious bias

Conscious Bias ( also known as explicit bias) 

This is when the individual applies bias to their surroundings and announces their opinion through physical and verbal harassment or through more subtle means such as exclusion.

Unconscious bias ( also known as implicit bias) 

The part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behaviour and emotions. 

Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.

What does this have to do with HR ? 

Unconscious bias is a fact of life and must be discussed. Personal topics of the like delve into deeper than just societal norms. But also roots and values of the person themselves. 

Everyone harbours these thoughts, no one can help it. It then becomes involved into your day to day, even into your workplace. 

Unconscious biases in the workplace can unknowingly shape an organisation’s culture. It influences diversity, recruiting and retention efforts to unknowingly shape an organisation’s culture. Unconscious bias in HR professionals affects every step of the recruiting process. From who gets hired, promoted and developed, to skewed talent and performance reviews. 

Issues in HR 

HR Professionals must ask themselves, to what extent are our business processes being affected by unconscious bias. 

Here are some statistics of unconscious bias consequences to bring to light. 

  • According to Forbes 2017, in America alone, the cost of workplace bias is projected to be at $64 Billion dollars annually. This is the cost of replacing more than 2 million American workers due to unfairness and discrimination.This amount doesn’t even take account of legal costs when companies have to defend themselves or incur penalties when an employees’ biases lead to unlawful behaviour.
  • 48% of corporate African American women and corporate 47% of Latina women report being mistaken for administrative or custodial staff reported by Gender Bias against Women in Science.
  • Less than 15% of U.S. men are over 6 feet tall. Yet, 60% of corporate CEOs are at least this height.
  • The height of a male is relative to the income he will make. The taller a male is the more likely he will earn more than a shorter man.
  • Last names with “ethnic” influences are less likely to get callbacks for interviews.
  • Blond women’s salaries were 7 percent higher than women who were brunettes or redheads. 
  • The National Bureau of Economic Research found that for every 1 percent increase in a woman’s body mass, there was a .6 percent decrease in family income.

Bias Statistics Infographic My Recruitment +

Google Case Study 

All companies face issues of bias, even in large  companies. The Society for Human Resource Management ( SHRM) announced that “Google Settles Pay and Hiring Bias Case for $3.8 Million” in 2021. 

5,500 current employees and job applicants received payments under a conciliation agreement, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has uncovered pay disparities for female software engineers during a routine compliance review, the agency said on Feb. 1. The tech giant’s hiring rates for software engineers also showed disparities for female and Asian applicants at certain locations. Google did not admit to any wrongdoing but agreed to settle the claims.

What can we do about unconscious bias

Even though the unconscious mind may seem as hard to control. There is research to show that there is hope.

 One study found that hard-wired, unconscious brain bias can be reversed. A study collected data on the implicit preference (or unconscious bias) for straight people over gays and lesbians.During 2006 and 2013 the preference for straight people  declined 13.4 percent. Conscious bias experienced a 26 percent decline, however the statistics for unconscious bias showed that slow change can happen on an unconscious level. 

How do you address and identify unconscious bias in your workplace: 

Recognise that as human beings, our brains make mistakes without us even knowing it. The new science of “unconscious bias” applies to how we perceive other people. We’re all biased and becoming aware of our own biases will help us mitigate them in the workplace. 

  1. Recognise that everyone has their own biases. We are all human and make mistakes without knowing it. 
  2. Review the onboarding and recruiting processes for hidden bias: screening resumes, interviews, onboarding, assignment process, mentoring programs, performance evaluation, identifying high performers, promotion and termination.
  3. Anonymous employee surveys can be used to conduct company wide research. Different departments and locations may conclude in a range of results 
  4. Offer anonymous training based upon surveys of current and former employees
  5. Open communication channels to allow for discussion. Most of behaviours that employees perceive as unfair are not covered by current laws
  6. See whether resumes with roughly equivalent education and experience are weighted equally against gender or race. Dissect your biases to prioritise which you are going to address first 
  7. Spread awareness by supporting projects that encourage personal perceptions of minorities. This can be through stories and pictures that portray stereotype busting images- posters, newsletters, annual reports, speaker series and podcasts.
  8. Identify, support and collaborate with effective programs that increase diversity in the pipeline. Reward employees who volunteer with these groups, create internships and other bridges, and celebrate the stories of those who successfully overcome obstacles. 

If you put the lessons into practice, you’ll be well equipped to start making better, fairer decisions in the workplace. You’ll also be in a better position to support diversity in the workplace and start realising the full benefits of diversity.

You’ll never be completely free of bias, but if you work at it over time using the techniques we’ve discussed, you’ll be able to reduce the effect of unconscious bias on your decision-making and start achieving better outcomes. And if you can share what you’ve learned with your employees, you can multiply the impact across your organisation.