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We loved engaging with you and look forward to continuing the conversation on creating inclusive cultures within your teams. Here are a few tools to help you along the way. Feel free to share this page with others!

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Implicit Bias Test - Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.

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Tools to Address Unconcious Bias at Work

1. Leverage Data

Rather than asking leaders to take an assessment, share with them data from robust studies that demonstrate:

  • The degree to which we might be unconsciously perpetuating stereotypes.

  • The existence of double standards that are wrongly applied to individuals who do not conform to our preconceived notions.

For example, people generally do not associate women with executive leadership. Moreover, when women do act with authority, they are often called abrasive or worse, while similar behavior is lauded in their male counterparts.

With a little creativity, you can come up with participatory exercises that raise awareness of such double standards without creating potential admissions of bias.

Once we become conscious of our implicit biases, we are more likely to be able to recognize and avoid them.

But how do we do that “in the moment” we’re at risk of making biased choices?

2. Promote Self-Aware Decision-Making

  • Managers will not know if implicit bias is at work in any given moment.

  • This form of prejudice is, by definition, unconscious.

  • But if they are self-aware, they should realize when they are experiencing certain feelings.

For example:

  • if supervisors like or dislike a job candidate right away, they should make note of that.

  • Knee-jerk reactions serve as reminders to pause and be more deliberate and less reflexive; otherwise, the remainder of the interview might tend to confirm the initial impression.

  • Instead, managers should ask themselves why they are feeling as they do.

If they are not sure, they can reboot the interview so that the ultimate decision is more data-driven.

Sometimes they will get an answer once they think about it. For instance, the older applicant immediately strikes a manager as “rigid”—which he realizes on reflection is a stereotype.

So now the question becomes “What did the individual do to warrant that characterization?” If there are clear behaviors, focus on those and keep an open mind. Other times, however, it is just a gut feel. And my gut tells me that may result from implicit bias.

The same is true of evaluations. Supervisors can mitigate risk by asking themselves if they would give the same feedback if they were evaluating a man and not a woman or someone white rather than a person of color, for example.

Of course, this introspection has value only when managers are willing to be honest with themselves. And they are often more inclined to take a hard look within if they understand the well-documented business benefits that come with having a diverse workforce. Make sure that this point is strongly emphasized in training.

3. Implement Systemic Safeguards

  • Consider eliminating names and addresses (which are often associated with specific demographics) from resumes that are passed along to hiring managers.

  • Studies have shown that, without this unnecessary information, women, people of color and individuals of different ancestries are less likely to be screened out.

  • Use the same interview questions for all candidates.

  • This decreases the chances that unconscious bias will play a role in what is being asked.

  • Ponder providing decision-makers with phrases to describe an applicant based on observable behaviors rather than labels.

  • Decision-makers can pick which words apply and then explain the rationale for their selection.

  • This approach not only helps focus people on behavioral descriptors but also makes it less likely that they will write down words that suggest bias.

Finally, it is helpful, particularly with higher-level positions, to have a diverse team guiding hiring decisions rather than one that is monolithic, because the former is more likely to catch implicit biases.

Strategies to Address Unconscious Bias in Hiring, Performance, and Evaluation

Seek to Understand

  • Awareness training is the first step to unraveling unconscious bias because it allows employees to recognize that everyone possesses them and to identify their own.

  • Understand what hiring prejudices are and how they operate.

  • Provide employees with education and training on the topic.

  • The idea is to create an “organizational conversation” about biases and help spark ideas on steps the organization as a whole can take to minimize them.

Rework Your Job Descriptions

  • Job listings play an important role in recruiting talent and often provide the first impression of a company’s culture.

  • Even subtle word choices can have a strong impact on the application pool.

  • Research shows that masculine language, including adjectives like “competitive” and “determined,” results in women perceiving that they would not belong in the work environment.

  • On the other hand, words like “collaborative” and “cooperative,” tend to draw more women than men.

  • Software programs that highlight stereotypically gendered words can help counteract this effect.

  • Then you can either remove the words and replace them with something more neutral, or strive to strike a balance by using the same number of gendered descriptors and verbs.

  • The goal here is to explore and see how these changes affect your pool.

  • Learn by doing.

Give a Work Sample Test

  • These are the best indicators of future job performance.

  • They help calibrate your judgment to see how Candidate A compares to Candidate B.

  • Asking candidates to solve work-related problems or “partake in a skill test” yields important insights.

  • A skill test forces employers to critique the quality of a candidate’s work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age, and even personality.

Standardize Interviews

  • Research shows that unstructured interviews are often unreliable for predicting job success.

  • Structured interviews allow employers to focus on the factors that have a direct impact on performance.

  • The goal is for the interview to become a third independent data point.

Consider Likeability

  • One study found that impressions made in the first 10 seconds of an interview could impact the interview’s outcome.

  • This bias toward “natural chemistry or common interests” is another one to watch out for.

  • The “right fit” or likeability is perhaps the most challenging question of the hiring process.”

  • Ask yourself, “Does it matter whether you like the person you hire? And how important is it to you?”

  • If you do care about it, rate candidates as you would on their other skills during the interview.

  • By giving likeability a score, you’re making it more controllable.