5 tips to fight unconscious bias at work

Mar 18, 2017

Thousands of opportunities exist to do things differently and to do things right in the workplace. And we have a suggestion, or five…

We all have unconscious biases. While you might deny this, science will prove you wrong.


Biases are mental shortcuts – they occur outside of our awareness and simply put, they are our ‘people preferences’. We naturally favour those who look like us, sound like us, and are interested in the same things as us.


Biased views can involve a number of people categories; gender, race, sexuality, age, weight, political views, and many more. The business adage that ‘people like doing business with people like themselves’ is a result of unconscious biases at play – with both positive and negative consequences.


On the positive side, you’re comfortable with and drawn to like-minded others; on the negative side, you’re more likely to overlook someone who could make a significant difference in your organisation.  Your biases block your vision.


Unconscious biases impact hiring in a major way, but there’s a lot you can do to stop bias before it becomes a barrier to diversity and inclusion. Here are five bias-busting strategies you should use.


1) Blind resume screening. Studies show that by removing names and addresses from resumes, HR professionals and hiring managers can eliminate unconscious biases that may pop up around gender, race, nationality and/or socio-economic status. Large companies like Google are starting to use this tactic in “blind” coding challenges to screen for technical competencies.


2) Use focus groups. Focus groups can be a great way to identify unconscious bias in your workplace. They allow for open discussion within a group to raise awareness and identify solutions for unconscious bias without singling out particular individuals. You want to make sure that these discussions – and solutions – are rewoven into the fabric of your corporate culture.

3) Include unconscious bias training in your anti-harassment and discrimination training. Your organisation most likely includes anti-harassment and discrimination training, but these programs focus on more obvious forms of discrimination. Unconscious bias awareness training will help your employees uncover their personal and cultural beliefs, which are the root causes of most harassment and discrimination complaints.


4) Use metrics to identify potential bias in hiring and retention. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. In order to identify strengths and weaknesses within your organisation you need to start tracking the percentages of diverse candidates who’ve applied, been offered jobs, accepted and have been successful after a period of six to twelve months.

5) Use stereotype-busting images in your company’s internal and external materials. Make sure your company’s website, newsletters, marketing materials, ad campaigns and other forms of text-based communications are reflective of the diverse workforce you have or are trying to achieve.


The team at Behave Yourself possess the specialised skill-set to identify and minimise any unconscious biases operating within your organisation.  Our training programs provide psychological insights into how organisational behaviour might be affected by prejudice and looks at what can be done to reduce or eliminate its influence in the recruitment process and larger workplace culture.  Suitable for teams of all types, our training has been designed to help people at all levels including operational managers and staff, HR managers and trainers and senior executives and business leaders.

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