Last year’s Berkley research proved that systemic hiring discrimination still prevents people of color from finding jobs.
The researchers sent 83,000 realistic applications to 500 companies; half of the applications were from white-sounding names such as Allison and Chad, while the other half had characteristically black names such as Latoya and Jamal.
The discrimination against black people was especially noticeable in customer-facing roles and both female and male applicants were less likely to get the job than their white counterparts.
The glass ceiling is starting to crack after more than a century of fighting for equal rights, but humanity still has plenty of work to put in.
Sex-based discrimination stats may deceive at first glance. More women than ever work, but their presence in C-suite positions is still low; even when they’re given the job, they’re often being “pushed from the glass cliff” (remember the downfall of Yahoo?). Unfavorable treatment, unsavory comments, and a lack of workplace policies that support mothers are still issues— just to name a few.
Discrimination on the grounds of disability and retaliation joins race and sex-based discrimination as the most prevalent in the workplace.
Luckily, there are several techniques that help mitigate workplace bias with ease.
In today’s blog, we’ll first introduce you to a multi-faceted explanation of bias, so you can fully understand it. Then, we’ll proceed to simple yet effective techniques which will help defeat bias.
Defining Workplace Bias: Conscious, Unconscious, and A.I. Bias
The Oxford English Dictionary defines bias as “inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair”.
Conscious bias is the bias people are aware of. There are two kinds of people in this group: those ready to curb their prejudice, and those who feel their opinions and actions are justified and fair because the discriminated group “deserves” the treatment.
Everybody is biased to a certain extent, although pretty much unaware of it. Unconscious bias is extra difficult to reshape because it relies on strong, well-established thought processes, beliefs, and worldviews that help people navigate through life. Confirmation bias makes us take in information that aligns with those beliefs.
Finally, it’s important to address A.I. bias.
A.I. software learns from humans and replicates their way of thinking. A.I. bias is reported as a technical mistake, but considering that machines replicate what humans do, bias will remain a feature, not a bug, as long as humans are biased.
This is especially concerning when we take the rise of automation in HR into account. We need to be critical of A.I. and never consider it completely impartial and mistake-free.
How Biased Decision-Making Impacts Your Business
Letting preconceived notions about people blur your rational thinking amounts to poor decision-making:
- Biased hiring robs you of better quality employees. The best person for the job often resides in an overlooked group, while less capable and qualified candidates get the gig.
- A soiled company reputation is almost impossible to wash off. Customers are becoming more aware of the way employees are treated and don’t shy away from boycotts, directly impacting the profit and future business ventures and collaborations. At the same time, a bad reputation deters highly educated and capable candidates.
- Bias directly causes a bad work atmosphere, which results in low employee engagement, a high employee turnover rate, and poor performance.
- More blatant cases of biased decision-making bring lawsuits to the table.
Fortunately, the loss of money and professional reputation due to unaddressed bias is completely preventable.
Stay tuned to learn how. 🔍
Step One: Readjust Your Hiring Process
Workplace bias starts as early as in the hiring process. Hiring bias is what makes offices bland, lacking fresh perspectives and new ideas, and unable to keep up.
The best place to start is to make sure demographics are as equally represented as possible in your office. Switching up the way you employ people will help you diversify the workforce.
Work Through the Gendered Language
The good news is that since 1973, employers are forbidden from advertising jobs specifically for men or women.
The bad news? It didn’t stop employers from creating job posts that target a specific gender for a specific job.
Gendered language still perpetuates stereotypes and deters people deemed unfit for the job due to their gender. Fast forward to 2011: a group of scholars proved that “gendered wording of job advertisements signals who belongs and who does not”.
So, here are some changes you can make in your job posts that will attract everybody competent, regardless of sex:
- Mailman — Postal Worker
- Salesman — Sales Pro
- Weatherman — TV Meteorologist
- Fireman — Firefighter
This one is simple, but does a lot!
Scientific studies argue that gendered language includes subtly-coded adjectives and attributes such as male-coded “strong”, “determined”, or even “expert”.
Since there’s no reason a woman can’t be all these things, it’s probably a better idea to shift the focus on job requirements. If you’re looking for a well-versed sales manager, it’s better to outline the exact seniority level, roles, and responsibilities the sales manager should fill instead. Strong can mean many different things for many people, and it’s better to leave out this male-coded word entirely and replace it with precise job descriptions.
Consider Atypical Candidates for the Role
Let’s say you’re looking for a new salesperson, and you’ve narrowed the choice down between these two candidates:
- A (25, male) student fresh out of college, without prior experience but with some theoretical sales knowledge.
- A (36, female) kindergarten teacher hoping to change her career.
An average employer would be more likely to hire the student. He is seemingly a better fit for the role, regardless of the fact that they actually have the same amount of experience (or lack of it).
What we have at play here are ageism (younger people are often given the advantage), sexism (“she has to take care of her family”/ “will try to have kids”), and disregard for the broader picture.
The kindergarten teacher used to have an extremely responsible job taking care of other people’s small children. Even on her bad days, she had to retain exceptional work ethic, focus, and patience — her “clients” probably weren’t always easy to work with. You’ll often hear people working with children and adolescents claim their adult parents are even more difficult, so add that into the equation as well.
Finally, people looking to shift their careers are highly motivated and eager to succeed in their new role and will give 100% to establish themselves in this new occupation.
The main takeaway from this example: never underestimate the broad knowledge, attitude, and experience non-typical candidates bring to the table. What they may lack in formal experience, they make up for with unique perspectives and backgrounds.
Step Two: Level the Playing Field
Now it is time that you manage your diverse staff properly!
You can do wonders and eliminate any bias with two strong, simple tactics:
- Create a hybrid workplace and let people work wherever they want.
- Create mentorship programs to educate and instill camaraderie.
Introduce Flexible Work Options
Making work more flexible should have been a norm even before the pandemic struck. It makes lives easier for dozens of reasons, as debated in numerous articles and recent studies.
Yet many people fail to broaden their perspective and consider what it could mean for neglected parts of the workforce:
- People with physical disabilities can work from the comfort of their well-equipped home offices, tailored specifically to their needs. Well-rested, happy, and comfortable, they can compete in the job market as equals, putting their work skills and knowledge at the center of attention, as it should be.
- Neurodivergent crowds may feel better in their preferred space if they get overwhelmed or uncomfortable surrounded by coworkers when they need to focus. Also, they can take breaks and organize their workday better.
- New moms and dads (and all kinds of families) benefit from flexible work schedules. Having more family time improves the quality of life — especially for couples with newborns who need any extra minute of sleep they can get.
- Plenty of students need to juggle lectures, studying, and exams on top of work. The hybrid office can physically be anywhere, as long as there’s an internet connection: they can work from dorms, family homes, and study in between.
- The foreign workforce isn’t off-limits anymore! Letting people choose their workspace and hours opens the door for top talent pools across the world, without barriers.
If you’re worried about productivity, a computer usage monitoring software will disperse your doubts!
This software tracks employee activity during working hours and shows precise data. You can monitor idle time, computer activity (keystrokes and mouse movement), websites visited and tools used, and more — in real-time. The dashboard looks like a virtual office and replaces the physical one with more success.
Create Mentorship Programs
Most companies hold mandatory DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) programs annually and call it a day. These programs are often one-sided, dated, and feel forcibly imposed and like a waste of time.
This isn’t to say that DEI programs should be a thing of the past — modern, improved training with a feedback channel is a great investment. But, mentorship programs are an excellent addition.
By pairing interns and employees who are underrepresented with your strongest workers, you will:
- Prepare the mentors for management roles.
- Let interns and new employees obtain practical knowledge.
- Encourage teamwork and improve employee engagement.
- Enable them to learn from each other and overcome their differences in a natural and spontaneous way.
Step Three: Focus on the Outcomes
We are all more or less guilty of being unconsciously biased.
It doesn’t have to be a race, gender, or a religious thing; sometimes we simply like one person more than the other. These personal feelings can also deeply influence decision-making and lead us to discriminate against someone without ever being aware of it.
Instead of personal feelings and banter, let the actual results speak and create a just, unbiased work atmosphere by using software to monitor employee computer activity.
Monitor Employee Computer Use for Impartial Reasoning
Nothing speaks louder than results.
Employee monitoring software will deliver the stats without any bias. The project status, hours and budget spent on it, who worked, when, and how productive they were — are all you need to make an evidence-backed business decision.
This is how to monitor your employees without raising concerns among the staff:
- Stick to workplace monitoring ethics: get employee buy-in, never monitor people without their consent, blur the screenshots, and steer clear of overly invasive monitoring tools such as webcam tracking.
- Always keep the legality of employee monitoring in mind. Not all countries permit the same amount of monitoring, so get to know local laws and regulations first.
To sum things up:
- Be careful how you write your job postings: steer clear of heavily gendered language, and be clear about job requirements.
- Don’t overlook the candidates with atypical career paths; their experience is unique compared to seemingly better-fit contenders, and that skill transfer can be a wonderful thing.
- Create flexible working policies which allow people from all walks of life and abilities to work freely: parents, students, neurodivergent and differently-abled people, religious minorities, etc.
- Introduce mentorship programs along with DEI to bring coworkers together, help them bridge the cultural gaps, and transfer knowledge to less skilled employees.
- Stay impartial with work time employee monitoring — and put results instead of subjective criteria.