- Talent Management
If you are human, you are biased. It’s the most basic point author and diversity expert Howard Ross has been making for years, most notably in his most recent book, Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives. How these biases affect the talent management process and what you can do about it is the focus of this article.
Take the case where you’re in a hiring process and evaluating two final candidates. You review the resumes and interview notes of the two different people and see that they have the same qualifications, and yet you end up rating one lower than the other, perhaps with a vague sense that one just “doesn’t feel” like as good a fit as the other. Chances are good that you’re acting on some form of unconscious bias, and you may or may not be making a good hiring decision based on it. It could be your subconscious mind is recalling that one spoke with an accent very different from yours while the other spoke with a similar accent as you. As it turns out, research shows it is not uncommon for people to favor those who speak with a similar accent as they do. But that’s not a good, rational reason to hire one over the other! How can you or your staff recognize unconscious bias?
The only way to address these kinds of issues is to create structure and systems where these kinds of biases can be revealed and discussed. That such conversations are not easy is a given, but they must take place if you’re going to make your talent management decisions more efficiently and rationally. After all, it’s not your personal preferences (or hang-ups) that count, it’s how well candidates align with your company’s goals and priorities. Your unconscious biases could be preventing you from making the best talent decisions possible.
Again, the point is not that all bias bad. It’s really neither good nor bad – it just is. What you need to do is come up with a way to constructively confront bias to make sure it’s not derailing your talent management efforts. Pointing fingers at others, or even yourself, is not the way to go. Anytime your diversity and inclusion efforts result in people feeling guilty about their biases, you’re losing them. The results are often contraction, resistance, forced compliance, or even backlash.
Here are the ten most common ways unconscious bias surfaces in the workplace, according to Howard Ross:
These are all ways that unconscious bias can derail your talent management decisions. In my next article, I’ll share what you can actually do about it. In the meantime, take a look at this video.