Building a diverse workforce gives companies many advantages: increased productivity, creativity, and better financial performance. To reap those benefits requires more than just setting one more corporate objective. An enterprise must understand bias, how it is shown, and its impact on hiring and team building, and then take steps to dimmish its influence. A good place to begin is with the hiring process.
Executives and organizations want to create companies that foster inclusion. So, their goal ostensibly is to find the best candidates for the workplace and foster an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. Yet, research shows that hiring is unfair, so change is needed.
Start with Education
The first step in altering the current business landscape is establishing awareness about the problem. Many professionals view bias as overt and obvious, but it is much more insidious. In many cases, bias occurs unconsciously, and its impact is overlooked. Executives need to take a step back and examine their own mindsets. Tests are now available that reveal biased thinking, and here are a few examples of the often-invisible barriers that women and minorities encounter in the workplace.
Humans crave affirmation, so naturally, they feel excitement when they meet someone similar to themselves. With affinity bias, employees gravitate towards people who look or act like they do. Companies that talk about a “culture fit” may be experiencing affinity bias. In these cases, they end up with a large number of employees who grew up in similar neighborhoods, went to the same type of college, or have a common interest, for instance sports or fashion.
A person’s physical appearance is the first impression made and often a powerful one. An eye- catching look or the right clothing does impact how individuals are viewed. Good-looking job candidates receive 36% more callbacks. Even something as innocuous as just standing a few inches taller than someone else leads to a higher paycheck — $789 per year. To be successful, enterprises need to guard against the false belief that there is a connection between a person’s physical appearance and their job skills.
Status Quo Bias
Management that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” has fallen victim to status quo bias. As the name implies, this outlook means they have become accustomed to the modus operandi and are reluctant to embrace change. Status quo bias presents a serious roadblock to diversity goals. If the staff is mostly white, this bias often results in future hires whom all look the same.
Here, one positive personal quality overshadows any potential or real red flags. A salesperson may be good at prospecting but does not work well with others or follow company procedures. Often, the person’s overall input detracts rather than enhances the organization. Managers need to see the person’s full contribution and not be blinded by their one strong characteristic.
The opposite of the halo effect: here, one deficiency overshadows the rest of its positive traits. A prospective employee arrives late for an interview but checks all other boxes works well with others, produces high-quality work, has strong references, suitable experience, etc. That one misstep eliminates the person from the prospect pool.
Remove Age, Name, Gender, and Origin from Résumés
Most candidates are eliminated before the first interview. In many cases, managers examine items like age, gender, or race and use that information to reduce the list of candidates. Removing a candidate’s age, name, gender, and origin from their résumés levels the playing field. Another plus is that the step helps to render gender bias moot, for instance, cases where a screener thinks that job requirements fit either males or females.
Bring A Diversity of Perspectives Into The Process
The reality is that bias cannot be completely removed because everyone involved in the evaluations has personal blind spots. What a company can do is bring a diversity of perspectives into the process. Whenever a variable is missing, it hinders individuals who have that trait. So, enterprises need to try and include as many demographic variables (individual and organizational) as possible in the evaluation.
Have Candidates Take an Assessment Instrument
Companies need the most qualified candidates, not the ones that fit a particular stereotype. Having candidates take an assessment instrument (norm-referenced and validated by science) before setting up interviews ensures that the candidates have been judged on their job-related abilities and not on other frivolous factors. The company is also assured that it created the strongest prospect pool possible.
Standardize the Interview Process
Personal preferences often arise during interviews. Standardizing the interview process ensures that every interview is conducted using the same agenda, the same questions, and the same standardized methodology to rate candidate responses. Training managers in this process and requiring that they follow it provides all candidates helps to eliminate bias.
Rework Job Descriptions
Job listings play an essential role in recruiting talent and often provide the first impression of a company’s culture. Word choices can have a substantial impact on the application pool. Adjectives like competitive and determined appeal to men, and collaborative and cooperative draw more women. Software programs highlight stereotypically gendered words. Companies can then either remove the words and replace them with something more neutral or strive to strike a balance by using the same number of gendered descriptors and verbs.
Set Diversity Goals
Diversity goals are worthwhile because they bring the issue of bias front and center in the organization. At the end of every hiring process, leaders track how well they have done against the firm’s diversity goals. Linking such processes to performance reviews and financial goals can also move the company in the right direction.
Embracing diversity is more than a lofty goal: it is a sound business practice. A growing body of research illustrates that diverse workforces improve the bottom line.
- Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their US industry medians financially
- Businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to overachieve.
Bias is found in organizations and individuals, preventing corporations from attaining their full potential. The process of reducing its impact begins with recognizing its many forms and then taking steps like anonymizing candidates’ portfolios, reworking job descriptions, and setting diversity goals. Only then can a company truly build a diverse workforce.