Implicit Bias and How It Impacts Your Company
If you are in a leadership position, you regularly need to make quick decisions. The same process our brains use to consider possibilities quickly, weigh pros and cons, and come to a particular conclusion is also used unknowingly in social interactions and personal decision making. As is often the case, a strength in one area reveals a weakness in another. This is referred to as implicit bias.
While every individual has varying degrees of implicit bias, it has proven to be present within everyone. It is simply impossible to completely halt our brain’s tendency to judge situations and individuals quickly. The effects these subconscious judgments can have on our organizations can be dramatic and damaging.
THE EFFECTS OF IMPLICIT BIAS ON HIRING AND PROMOTING
Specific types of implicit bias, such as affinity bias, make individuals more likely to hire or promote others who resemble themselves. It is highly likely that individuals with more experience, training or job skills are being passed over by decision-makers who are unconsciously preferring individuals that they can better relate with because of their similarities. With the importance of hiring exceptional talent, employers who unknowingly turn away those most talented for those most familiar put themselves at a disadvantage, and are set up to fail.
One method to help ensure such trends do not develop within a company is to have hiring completed by diverse committees rather than individuals. Another process for accountability might be to require blind reviews of resumes and test results before hiring. These procedures can reduce the adverse effects that implicit bias can have on the hiring process.
Mentoring and promotions are also shown to be affected by bias. To ensure all individuals have an equal opportunity to be groomed into leadership positions, work to make results-driven decisions instead of those based on opinion or gut instinct.
THE EFFECTS OF IMPLICIT BIAS ON CULTURE
Implicit bias can also have detrimental effects on a company’s culture. An exclusive, closed-minded or divided culture can erode trust and create an atmosphere where turnover is high, and where communication is ineffective or nonexistent. Such a culture not only prevents a company from obtaining and retaining top talent, but it may also create a downward spiral of costs. These costs are associated with rehiring and retraining individuals mixed with lost revenue as inexperienced team members fill the space left by their experienced predecessors.
Recognizing these effects on a company’s culture before such a spiral can begin is of the utmost importance. Look for healthy communication, regular disagreement (evidence of high trust), and diversity within your teams.
TIPS ON TRAINING
Though we can never remove implicit bias from individuals within our companies, or even from within ourselves, we can work to reduce the effects that implicit bias can have. To begin, you must understand and be able to explain several types of implicit bias that will undoubtedly occur. Knowing these tendencies can help you recognize when they are happening within your organization. In a recent Forbes article, Dr. Pragya Agarwal outlines several bias types, including:
- Affinity Bias – the tendency to be warmer towards people like ourselves
- Halo Effect – the tendency to think everything good about a person because we like them
- Perception Bias – the tendency to stereotype certain groups without being able to make objective decisions about them
- Conformity Bias – a person is most likely to lean towards a particular decision if they sense that more than 75% of their group has a specific view
- Beauty Bias – a person’s looks, height, and body mass index can cause them to be either preferred over another or looked over
Helping your leaders recognize and overcome their own implicit biases can help your company thrive and grow, fostering greater diversity and growth opportunities. Check out the new online lesson on “Implicit Bias” from A Better Leader, HERE.