Combating Bias in our Workplace

If you’re like many of our clients, you see huge value in recruiting a diverse workforce. More diverse organizations have fewer blind spots and perform better as a result. A more diverse sales force is likely to be more effective in reaching and selling to a diverse customer base. Diversity in hiring is the right thing to do . . . and it’s good for business.

So, what stands in the way of your recruiting diverse pools of candidates? One factor may be implicit bias – attitudes and beliefs you hold that you are unaware of, unwilling, or unable to articulate.

We recently touched on the issue of implicit bias at our All Company Meeting. As homework for the meeting, we asked each United Personnel employee to take an Implicit Association Test (IAT). There are many different versions of this test, measuring one’s preference on things like:

  • Weight
  • Age
  • Race
  • Skin Tone
  • Religion
  • Sexuality
  • Disability

We chose to take the Gender-Career IAT, which often reveals a link between family and females and career and males. After taking the test, in small groups we discussed these four questions:

  1. What were your results?
  2. Did they surprise you?
  3. What are the implications of those results for your work as a recruiter/staffing consultant?
  4. What steps can you take to mitigate any implicit biases you might have?

The bottom line: Many of us (even some who are full-time women executives and mothers) have biases that favor men in careers and associated women with families. These biases are the result of being bombarded with messages about the role of women and the role of men in our society – messages that come from the shows and movies we watch, the courses we were encouraged to take in school, the family structures we grew up in, and more.

Fortunately, we came up with several ideas to combat these biases in our staffing work:

  1. Be personally aware of our biases
  2. Look at candidate skill sets, not color/gender/ability status, etc.
  3. Use blinded resumes (i.e, don’t share the name of the candidate when we send them to the client)
  4. Ask for referrals from new people that don’t share the same networks we’ve traditionally used
  5. Evaluate candidates using scoring rubrics to ensure consistency and fairness
  6. Don’t screen candidates out for “cultural fit”
  7. Go out of your way to seek out media that portray women, minorities, people with disabilities in positive, non-stereotypical ways

What techniques are you using to be sure you’re not biased in your recruiting and hiring practices? We’d love to hear from you!