Diversity and Inclusion

by Gamiel Yafai

Unconscious Bias

We absorb a tremendous amount of information every minute of every day, however only some of this information is thought about consciously. Our brains are wired in a way that they can only interpret so much information at one time and therefore when making decisions we take shortcuts that are fast, unconscious, emotional, automatic and stereotypic.

In taking these shortcuts we have a tendency to look for high benefit and low risk and vice versa so the shortcuts become reliant on the accuracy of the information that we hold.

These shortcuts bring emotional responses to the decisions that need to be made. We call them ‘Gut Decisions’ because they are made based on some previous positive or negative experience that we have been associated with that has left us feeling a certain way.

These experiences could have been in person, through friends and family, through our education, our work, the media or a combination of all of these and we have a tendency to reconnect with those emotions when we are confronted by a similar situation.

Our unconscious biases can have an impact at every level of the employment process from designing a job description to deciding who to make redundant.

Example

When interviewing, if the person who is sat in front of us reminds us of someone who was excellent at their job. Our gut gets that warm feeling and we tend to look for good responses to our questions and ignore the not so good.

And vice versa. If the person in that we interviewing remind us of someone that we didn’t get on with, then we are more likely to focus on their not so good responses.

Mitigating Biases

The key to mitigating our biases is to first recognise that they exist and that we risk making bad decisions and halting the progress of your organisation if we do not keep these biases in check.

The second is to help everyone in the organisation to recognise their biases. This can be done in numerous ways such as face to face training, elearning, workshops, TED talks and many others. However, all of this training will be useless unless the learning from the training is put to immediate use.

This can be done by a review of where biases can exist in all policies, processes and systems in your organisation.

Example

Many assessment exercises are known to disadvantage people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds. The likes of the Civil Service are dispensing with these exercises and focus on strength-based interviews.

Once the review is done and the areas of bias are identified, then it is about looking at innovative ways of mitigating those biases.

Example

Interview panels are spending 10 minutes before each interview discussing each application and CV of the candidate that they will being interviewing to discuss areas of potential bias so that they are conscious of the potential for bias and therefore eliminate the bias.

Unconscious bias prevention creates a culture of inclusion where the work environment and culture is conducive to the needs of everyone.

Here is a link to Project Implicit which is a test that people can take to identify areas and levels of bias.

Project Implicit