What is unconscious bias really?

What is unconscious bias really?


At 57%, Apollo Technical found that the majority of employers believe their company should be more diverse and work harder to meet that goal, but unfortunately, unconscious bias is still all too common in today’s modern workplace. But, what exactly is unconscious bias? Unconscious bias at work, also known as implicit bias, refers to the associations and judgements that are made between qualities and social categories — such as race, gender, sex or disability — that are made without conscious awareness. These automatic stereotypes are a key factor driving a lack of workplace diversity.

What are the reasons behind unconscious bias?
Biases are triggered by our brain attempting to make snap judgements and assessments. While every individual will likely make unique judgements, they are typically influenced by our background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes and cultural context.

The importance of reducing implicit bias at work
Unconscious bias can quickly have widespread effects across your organisation — making it critical to address and implement strategies to mitigate its impact as soon as possible. This is especially true for us as people managers. Business leaders, like ourselves, are always intent on seeing their teams succeed, however when implicit bias is left unchecked, it has a significant impact on morale and the overall experience of workers. In fact, a study from the IMPACT Group found that of employees experiencing workplace bias, 33% feel alienated, 34% withhold ideas and solutions and 80% would not refer others to their employer.

What can unconscious bias look like in the workplace?
There’s no shortage of examples of implicit bias at work, but a few common instances to consider include:

  • Unconscious gender bias: This can occur when a male candidate is favoured or chosen over a female candidate in the hiring process, despite these workers having similar skills and job experience.
  • Implicit bias surrounding age: An example of ageism is when older team members are passed over for a promotion, going to someone with less seniority or experience.
  • Beauty bias: Although less widely recognised, there’s also a lot of unconscious bias surrounding people’s looks — where hiring decisions are made based on physical appearance, as opposed to skill and experience.
  • Unconscious name bias: This represents a tendency to prefer or choose workplace candidates with certain names over others — typically Anglo-sounding names — which is seen most throughout recruitment and hiring.
Four business people sit and await interviews with their resumes in handUnconscious bias can have a significant impact on the hiring process for organisations.

Utilising unconscious bias training to mitigate its impact and improve workplace diversity
When it comes to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace, where employees feel safe to speak up and be themselves, mitigating unconscious bias will be a necessity. Luckily, valuable tools such as unconscious bias training exist to educate employees on the subject and ultimately reduce these occurrences at work. This training aims to help team members, including ourselves as business leaders, stay aware of biases and understand how they can affect our decision-making. Moreover, these training opportunities introduce critical strategies to help individuals actively reduce or shift these biases.

Overall, unconscious bias training will be a key factor in keeping biases at bay in the workplace — which leads to greater workplace diversity in the long run. Effectively reducing unconscious bias and improving workplace diversity and inclusion within your organisation can lead to several benefits including:

  • Being more likely to outperform competitors.
  • Improving decision-making abilities.
  • Capturing new markets.
  • Driving higher revenue.

Training from ICML can help your organisation minimise the effects of unconscious bias in the workplace — ultimately enhancing diversity and driving better business outcomes as a result. Contact us to discuss training options or learn more about our unconscious bias course today.

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