There are more than 150 cognitive biases that we do not really talk about. These biases can impact integral business processes such as recruitment and hiring; organisation development; supply market analysis and procurement. Being educated on the types of unconscious bias that are common in workplaces can make us aware of when they are influencing our actions, decision making and workplace structures. We can begin to look critically at our own thoughts, and work culture, and begin the sometime hard yet rewarding work of creating an unprejudiced and inclusive environment.
Some examples of biases to look out for are:
Knowing where unconscious bias can emerge in a workplace allows us to be proactive in implementing strategies to prevent it. These strategies can include looking at your supply market critically and ensuring that it represents a diversity of groups; creating policy and procedures to ensure that your recruitment practices do not exclude certain groups of people; and through staff training, creating greater awareness of biases and discrimination within your organisation.
The importance of educating and training your staff in unconscious bias awareness cannot be underestimated, as it is your staff that create your work culture. In day-to-day interactions and team meetings, the natural tendency to listen more to those who are similar to ourselves, whether that’s in appearance, age, race, gender, or experience, can result in a potentially devastating pattern of behaviours that stifle true inclusivity and diversity. Most of us have experienced the feeling of not being given a voice in team situations, and how this can often lead to us feeling diminished in confidence, self-worth, and with our ideas and ability overlooked. When this happens in a workplace, it can be damaging to not just the individual but to the organisation, as voices are not being heard, and new ideas and perspectives being stifled.
The good news is that once we have an awareness and understanding of our unconscious bias, we have a genuine opportunity to change it. When beginning on the journey of workplace diversity, there are three steps to addressing unconscious bias: