Sarah is the Director of Marketing of Cangrade, where she’s focused on growing the adoption of bias-free hiring practices. In her free time, she enjoys baking, the outdoors, and playing with her dog Scout.
Creating hiring equity is a challenge all companies are facing, and, as much as we wish it could be, it can’t be solved overnight. To build an equitable organization, you need to update organizational processes not only to remove bias, but actively combat it.
One of the most crucial areas for combating bias is an organization’s talent funnel. Whether it is attracting, evaluating, and hiring new diverse talent or retaining current diverse talent there are many strategies organizations can focus on to eliminate bias and build diversity. Here are methods you can deploy at your organization for combating bias pre and post-hire.
Strategies for combating pre-hire bias
1. Be aware that biases exist
It sounds simple but is more complex than you think. Conscious biases in the workplace are easy to eliminate. Most organizations have policies against discrimination in the workplace and there are several laws specifically for this purpose. That doesn’t mean these biases never come up, but it does make them easy to identify and guarantees consequences when they do.
That leaves unconscious biases hindering diversity in organizations. The reason these biases cause so many issues is that everyone has them and they often go unrecognized. Understanding the many different types of unconscious biases in the workplace is the first step towards eliminating them. Some types of unconscious biases in the workplace are:
Once you have an understanding of the types of biases that exist, build strategies dedicated to eliminating them such as implementing hiring best practices like structured interviews and one-way video interviews or introducing bias-free hiring technology.
2. Use hiring best practices
There are many reasons to use hiring best practices, but a major benefit is that combating bias is baked into the majority of these practices. For example:
- Using structured interviews establishes a level playing field for all applicants.
- Multiple screening methods give you a more well-rounded view of candidates.
- Placing your pre-employment tests on the front-end of your hiring process allows you to open your role to a wider array of candidates.
Focusing on just one or two of these strategies can help, but biases can still slip through the cracks. For instance, having multiple hiring managers screen a candidate can help eliminate some personal biases one manager might have, but there can be overlap in people’s biases, particularly if they work together closely or if one had a hand in hiring the other. The real strength comes from layering all of these practices on top of each other. By implementing best practices across the board it creates a hiring process that fights against bias every step of the way.
3. Implement bias-free technology
Effectively fighting bias requires using all your available resources. If you have the means, technology can be a great resource for improving hiring equity because the right tech doesn’t have the unconscious biases that humans do. To understand if your tech is bias-free, it’s important to understand how it comes to its conclusions. Technology doesn’t inherently have biases but the people who create it do—and those biases can seep into the technology.
Any technology that claims to be bias-free shouldn’t be a black-box so it can be scrutinized and verified. Be thorough whenever you evaluate and implement new technology to make sure it will produce the results you need.
Strategies for combating post-hire bias
1. Place a variety of voices in decision making roles
Many organizations attempt to attract diverse candidates to open roles and hope they stick with the organization long enough to move into a leadership role. However, a lack of diversity in leadership is not conducive to building a diverse organization. Building a diverse leadership team needs to be one of the first steps.
A diverse leadership team provides more perspectives and helps eliminate confirmation bias. This shouldn’t be your only strategy for combating diversity since individuals can still perpetuate bias against a group they are a part of and a single individual can never fully represent an entire group. However, a diverse leadership team shows commitment to organizational diversity.
2. Promote open communication
No matter how hard you try, you won’t always recognize your biases. Fostering a culture of open communication allows employees to speak up when they recognize biases that leadership may have failed to notice. Not only does this improve bias recognition, but it can also improve retention as employees who feel biases are being perpetrated against them have options before simply leaving the organization.
Promoting a culture of communication involves more than just an “open-door policy.” It requires consistently reaching out for feedback on the employee experience. Create multiple outlets for employees to provide feedback rather than keeping feedback strictly between managers and those they manage. Allowing employees to provide feedback in-person or anonymously can improve their comfort level with providing honest feedback.
3. Build a culture of inclusion
Building a workplace culture that accepts all employees as they are stifles discrimination and bias and helps retain underrepresented employees. The two strategies above, promoting open communication and building a diverse leadership team, are vital components of fostering an inclusive culture. However, creating an inclusive organizational climate goes beyond management and communication. Inclusive workplaces also:
- Encourage their employees to be their authentic selves
- Hear and invite all employees’ ideas
- Recognize all employees’ achievements
- Support all employees’ career development
Develop strategies to address each of the above and seek your organization’s feedback to ensure the culture you’re developing is truly inclusive and does not have any biases baked in.
Combating bias in your organization can’t be solved by a single initiative or strategy on its own. To build equity you must remain flexible and constantly reimagine all pre-and post-hire practices that have any evidence of bias. With continued commitment and continuous review of your practices, you can minimize the role of bias at your organization.