Strategies for an Equitable Workplace
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become integral pillars of modern workplaces. Organizations have recognized the impact of a diverse and inclusive workforce on innovation and productivity. That, in turn, has compelled them to appoint senior leaders to develop and implement robust DEI strategies.
The Reality of the Modern Workplace
Despite these strategies, world-renowned companies, including Amazon, Bloomberg, Google, and Meta, have been accused of discrimination and harassment. Many of these organizations continue to fight lawsuits by former employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these issues as more than five million women lost their jobs. Women of color had to face disproportionately higher unemployment rates. Furthermore, a recent report by Payscale revealed that women earned 18% lower than men in 2022.
Why are discriminatory workplace practices still prevalent despite the growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion?
One of the key reasons behind that is unconscious bias, an umbrella term for ingrained beliefs and opinions about certain individuals, groups, and communities. Also known as implicit bias, it presents itself in various forms, from affinity bias and gender bias to the halo effect.
Unlike explicit bias, individuals often don’t realize when they discriminate against others or perpetuate stereotypes due to unconscious bias. That’s what makes it particularly catastrophic for organizations.
How Does Unconscious Bias Affect the Workplace?
If left unchecked, unconscious bias can be the biggest roadblock to the successful execution of a company’s DEI strategy. For instance, affinity bias can affect hiring decisions and influence HR managers to recruit employees from similar backgrounds.
That, in turn, can result in a homogeneous workforce where employees don’t challenge each other. It can be detrimental to critical thinking and innovation, which are crucial for a company’s growth. Besides affinity bias, other forms of unconscious bias, such as ageism and sexism, can be equally damaging.
Unconscious bias can make employees from marginalized groups feel unheard or unsafe. Also, they often feel that their efforts aren’t properly recognized or rewarded. These employees might hesitate to share their ideas and opinions, thus depriving the workplace of alternate perspectives and turning it into an echo chamber.
Worse still, when unaddressed, such biases act as an enabler for explicit bias. It creates a culture where employees can get away with discriminating against marginalized coworkers and mistreating them.
That, in turn, can adversely affect almost every aspect of a workplace, from employee engagement and productivity to retention. Employees who are discriminated against are less likely to stay at the job for long or recommend their employer to others. That, in turn, impacts employer branding.
How to Minimize Bias in the Workplace?
Eliminating unconscious bias in the workplace is challenging. But there are ways to control it. Here are a few effective strategies:
Address Workplace Bias
The first step to minimizing unconscious bias in the workplace is to admit it exists. It requires company leaders to model inclusive behavior by ensuring everyone’s voices are heard in meetings and valuing the contributions of diverse team members. It’s also crucial to hold employees and managers accountable for discriminatory behavior.
Additionally, organizations must take steps to familiarize employees with different types of unconscious bias. It’s a good idea to conduct regular anti-bias Gild Collective training sessions for that purpose.
It can help employees recognize inherent biases and modify their belief systems.
The key to controlling workplace bias is to ingrain transparency into every process, from hiring and onboarding to promotions. It reassures employees that everyone is held to the same standards and that bias does not play a role in determining who gets hired or receives opportunities for professional development.
Transparency can also help organizations create a sense of trust among employees, particularly those from marginalized groups. When employees feel that their contributions and efforts are visible and valued, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work.
Establish Clear Criteria
Whether reviewing applications for recruitment or evaluating employees for promotions, it’s crucial to define clear assessment criteria. For instance, hiring teams can focus on specific parameters, such as qualifications and work experience, when looking for new employees.
Similarly, managers can use parameters, such as punctuality, customer orientation, patience, etc., when evaluating employee performance. Defining proper assessment criteria can be instrumental in eliminating affinity bias and helping build a diverse workforce.
Build Diverse Hiring Teams
Homogeneous hiring teams can be more prone to affinity bias due to a lack of challenging opinions and voices. That makes it crucial to create hiring teams with employees from different backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities.
A diverse and inclusive hiring team can help to counteract bias by providing different perspectives and opinions during the selection process. That, in turn, can make the recruitment process more objective and even attract a more diverse talent pool.
Toward an Equitable Workplace
Unconscious bias is a complex and persistent issue in the modern workplace. It negatively impacts company culture and employer branding. The good news is that there are ways to control its impact.
Besides recognizing bias, holding employees accountable, and having diverse hiring teams, organizations should go the extra mile to empower employees from marginalized groups. It can be as simple as asking for their opinions during team meetings or appreciating their work on a project.