The mind works in mysterious ways, and the case of unconscious bias…
…that much has always been true to those tasked with understanding its secrets, including those with an interest in HR.
HR is a profession that is closely linked to the study of the mind: as practitiones and scientists alike have tried new ways to motivate staff and stoke the fire of productivity.
The benefits of having a diverse and productive workforce are well known, and many employers are attempting to make the most of them. Now, employers are attempting to increase the diversity of their workforces through a better understanding of the mind, by tackling unconscious bias during the recruitment process.
This can restrict candidates or employees with certain characteristics from progressing. Businesses are starting to realise that, by limiting unconscious bias, they may be better placed to reap the rewards of greater diversity.
Unconscious bias can be as simple as relying on a gut feeling or first impression to make a decision about an applicant. This could be based on offensive old wives’ tales, or a more behavioural reason such as that they wear white socks to an interview. It’s clear then that unconscious bias can focus on a whole range of characteristics, the idea that only “bad people” bring unconscious bias to recruitment is wrong.
We all make judgements about a person, for a whole host of reasons, some of which are valid. The trick employers balance is not to remove unconscious bias altogether, but to put in place practical methods to limit its effect.
Here’re some tricks of the trade you can use to do this.
- Start off with your policies. Ensure they reflect your business’ commitment to being an equal employer. The HR Dept can help you with the wording.
- Get those job adverts right. If you know what you’re looking for, you can find subtle mistakes on many job boards which could cause problems in the recruitment process. Use of words like ‘he’ or ‘she’ for certain roles is a big no no. It will put the opposite gender off from getting in touch, and unless there is a genuine occupational requirement, could land you with a discrimination claim! Get The HR Dept to help with job descriptions and adverts to get the best applicants.
- Put in place a recruitment process. Having an official process in place can help remove any opportunities for unconscious bias to affect the final decision. Ensure that the same process is followed for each applicant, and that it focuses on the applicant’s skills and capabilities.
- Name blind CVs. The principle is simple. Once the name (and sometimes further details like address) is removed from a CV, the reader won’t have the opportunity to judge the CV on anything other than the applicant’s skills, education and experience. If you can sacrifice the time to make this work in practice, it may help push a more diverse range of applicants through your recruitment pipeline. This may not really be a practical option for many SMEs, but be aware of your own reaction to certain addresses and names.
The benefits of a diverse workforce are great! Ensuring you have a sound recruitment process in place will help you reap them.
Get in touch with The HR Dept for recruitment advice and support.