However much we tell ourselves that we are unbiased and progressive, we all have unconscious bias – and it’s up to us how much we let that influence our leadership.
The very definition of unconscious bias is that it’s a bias we aren’t even aware we have.
Our upbringing, background, cultural environment, the social circles we move in, and our subjective experiences shape how we view the world around us. We tell ourselves that we are open minded and unbiased – but we make snap decisions and form instant opinions constantly, the moment we meet a new person or experience a new thing. Our brains are programmed to do that – to take the weight of processing things off our conscious mind’s hands, as it were.
Unconsciously we process a huge amount of information, and make our decisions based on something we call ‘a gut feeling’ but which is actually the result of a lifetime of experience and learning, processed at high speed before we’ve had time to be consciously aware of it.
This is evolution in action and saves us a lot of time and stress – but it also means that, without meaning to, many of us can discriminate against anything that feels ‘other’ – meaning that sexual, racial and socio-economic discrimination remains a huge part of recruitment and leadership – and one which we do have to consciously counter.
We all tend to be drawn towards others like ourselves, attracted to familiarity – which means that we must take steps to deliberately counter that instinct, to the benefit of our organisation. If we want to ensure that our workforce is as diverse as possible – which benefits the culture and success of your brand in an enormous number of ways – those in charge of recruitment must be diverse, bringing a range of views to determine who would be the best fit.
Our consultants can talk you through the range of tools and metrics we use at ASK that will help you to assess and understand your own unconscious bias – and that understanding helps you to counter those aspects, which will lead to a more diverse organisation – which means a wider range of skills, experiences and understandings, and a wider range of opportunities for growth and success across the organisation as a whole.
Though we might not be aware of our innate bias, we can take steps to counter it in the workplace, and ensure that we don’t fall into the trap of discriminating without realising we’re doing it. We can’t stop our subconscious mind from making snap decisions – but we can question those innate choices. We can even take away the opportunities for bias by assessing criteria for a role, a promotion or a recruitment judging the skills and experience of each applicant without details of gender, name or economic background; if you strip away all the other details which might influence your choice, would your decision be the same?
An awareness that we might have these biased views means we can counter them – and working with a more diverse leadership team will lead to an equally diverse workforce, and that diversity of employees brings increased diversity of skills and ideas – and that can only be a positive change.
If you want to build a more diverse and knowledgeable workforce, call our consultants today on 01234 757575 and we can arrange a discussion about how we can help you to understand and challenge your own unconscious bias.