Unconscious bias is a talking point right now. This year, there’s been an enormous shift in all walks of life to address discrimination; with global protests and a rise in activism for many causes. Following the Black Lives Matter protests across the world it was suggested that MPs in the UK Government should take a training course in unconscious bias, to make them better at their job and make society much fairer for all. However, this caused controversy when 40 MPs refused to join in with the training, claiming they had a right to their opinions.
This news story, however, has had some positive implications within the business world. LinkedIn Learning has seen a spike in popularity for courses based on unconscious bias and fighting gender bias. This September, LinkedIn has also launched the LinkedIn Fairness Toolkit (LiFT), to identify bias in AI algorithms showing that removing bias is at the forefront of minds in recruitment efforts.
Unconscious bias in the hiring process means forming an opinion of someone based on first impressions. It could be based on name, gender, appearance or even where they live. Research shows that there are over 13 different kinds of hiring biases, from confirmation bias (making snap decisions based on perceived truths) to similarity attraction bias (hiring those we feel are similar to us and we could get on with). However, when it comes to giving someone a job or not, basing hiring decisions on bias can have profound long-term implications on your business.
Unconscious bias can cost your organisation money as well as making you lose out on incredible talent. For one thing, it leads to less diverse teams. We live in a very diverse, multicultural society. To stay relevant, attract top talent and maintain great company culture, a business must reflect society as much as possible. Diversity, as we’ve heard time and time again, is a key to being more successful; it fuels innovation, aids decision making and even impacts profitability with more diverse management teams leading to an average 19% higher revenue. Diversity also attracts more talent, with 67% of job seekers saying a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers. Unconscious bias is proven to lead to high and early employee turnover, which can end up doubling your recruitment costs.
So how can you remove unconscious bias from your hiring decisions?
Be aware of unconscious bias within your organisation
To remove unconscious bias from your hiring process, and through all parts of your organisation, the first step is to be aware that it exists. You cannot stop doing something if you don’t acknowledge its presence and accept things need to change. As business leaders, and people, many of us hate to think that we have pre-determined ideas which are influencing our choices and could have adverse effects on the business. But to change, we must understand what our own unconscious biases are, and work to remove them. Denying there’s a problem will not help you to hire a diverse workforce and create an inclusive company culture. There are tests online which can determine any underlying prejudices you may have, along with many courses which discuss how to combat unconscious bias.
Train hiring managers
It’s not enough for CEOs and leadership teams to understand unconscious bias and the implications it can have within a business. Instead, to create a genuinely fair candidate and employee experience, you must train your managers and anyone involved in the hiring process. With many online courses (like those on LinkedIn learning that are gaining popularity) you can prepare your hiring team to be aware of any underlying opinions, prejudices or biases they may have. This means that they can attempt to overcome them when hiring new team members. Making managers aware of these issues will, in turn, make them better at their job; creating a more equal and fair company culture which will enhance your employer brand.
Assess your hiring process
Next, when it comes to removing unconscious bias from your hiring process, you must cover every angle. To understand where your business’ biases come into force, you need to monitor your entire recruitment process on an ongoing basis. This will allow you to pinpoint any areas which could require improvements and help you to hire a diverse and exciting team which could grow your business in unexpected ways. Consider the wording of your job adverts, the application process, your interview process and everything in between. Make sure they are all as inclusive as possible. Try to remain neutral in the terminology used while still reflecting your employer brand.
Invest in tech
Automating parts of your recruitment process takes away the human element. Removing human decision making could help to eliminate the chances of bias. Using technology and AI to screen candidates’ CVs, analyse skills assessments and even to automate sourcing candidates through social media could all help to reduce the amount of unconscious bias within your hiring process. However, with any technology, there is always a human element involved, whether it’s creating an algorithm or even setting up targeting requirements. Remember, tech is not completely bias-free! Don’t assume that just because you’re eliminating people from your recruitment process that your systems will ultimately create a fair and equal candidate experience.
Due to the coronacvirus crisis, employers are seeing high volumes of applications for jobs which means they’re relying more on AI. However, as an investigation from Wired found, many companies are using flawed historical data sets to train their AI. This means that women, Black people and people of colour could find themselves discriminated against before they’ve made it to the interview room. Make sure you check your algorithms so that factors such as name, location, gaps in the CV and even hobbies can’t influence the screening process.
It may seem an obvious way to remove bias, but blind applications have been proven to work. Remove personal details such as name, age, gender and even address from any resumes or applications that you are reviewing; this means that your decisions are based on skills and experience rather than perceived information. Any hiring manager needs to make evidence-based decisions when it comes to deciding on a new recruit rather than basing the choice on assumptions. Evidence-based hiring means you know you’re recruiting the most skilled or experienced person for the role who should be able to help your business to thrive or your startup to scale. Hiring people for cultural fit means they may be more likely to join your colleagues at the pub, but won’t necessarily be the best person to get the job done.
Standardise the interview process
Most businesses have standardised interview questions; however, in smaller companies like startups or scaleups recruiting can be a less robust process. You may feel that having standardised interview questions takes the personality out of your recruitment efforts, or you may prefer a more relaxed style of job interview; the kind that feels like a more informal chat. However, while it may seem tedious, having a designated list of questions that you will ask every candidate ensures that everyone has the same interview experience. You remove the chances of giving one candidate an unfair advantage, asking leading questions and cutting any interviews short.
Look at personal targets and objectives
It’s one thing to look at unconscious bias within your hiring process, but you also need to look at your organisation as a whole if you want to create a genuinely inclusive company culture. Personal targets, objectives and even the workloads that you give your staff could be a reflection of your unconscious bias. If it’s always similar people who achieve success in your business, unconscious bias could be at play. Managers could be putting more time and effort into similar people to them; leaving others to fend for themselves. Make sure that you talk to every member of your organisation about their development and progress; find where they want to go and help them to get there. There’s no room for favouritism in the workplace, and hard work from all parties should be rewarded.
If you’re worried about the effect unconscious bias has on your organisation and your recruitment process, you could look to outsourcing your recruitment process. Letting an external provider recruit for some of your roles will help to diversify your business as they have the considerable benefit of an outsider’s perspective. Taking the decision out of your hands and trusting recruitment experts can make the recruitment process a lot fairer. RPO providers, learn the ins and outs of your business so they can identify areas of your business that would benefit from added diversity; they can see where your unconscious bias may have been at play. RPO providers also have techniques to avoid unconscious bias while recruiting, they’re experience and knowledge means that they how to find the best candidates for your business, including ones you may not have considered.