In recent reviews of evidence by Harvard Business Review in the US and HR Magazine in the UK, significant bias is still present in the US and UK working populations, with BAME groups and women still suffering the most from lower average pay and underrepresentation, particularly in leadership positions.
Workplace bias has many faces and manifests itself in different ways, but there are two broad types of bias:
- Conscious bias - where deliberate, specific actions result in discrimination, usually to minority groups
- Unconscious bias - where bias manifests unconsciously, but still percolates through to hiring decisions and workplace dynamics
In the US, there are numerous Federal statutes established under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which prohibit both willful, intentional and unintentional employment discrimination. However, Bellevue Law points out that in the UK the law doesn’t differentiate between types of bias that result in discrimination. Both forms of bias are illegal under the Equality Act 2010.
Tackling bias is an ongoing issue that businesses need to take seriously to collectively transition to a fairer, more virtuous workplace environment for all.
Bias: a socioeconomic issue
The socioeconomic impacts of bias are far-reaching, both inside and outside of the workplace.
Of course, it’s crucial to not conflate tackling bias for its personal, social and emotional costs with tackling bias as an economic problem, but both are factors.
Alienation, undermining behaviors and neglect are all common results in businesses that fail to tackle bias - ending the personal impacts of discrimination should be the first priority.
But bias also has an economic impact. Forbes highlight how employees that experience bias and discrimination are more likely to become disenfranchised, disengaged and partake in brand sabotage, rebellion and active mismanagement.
When you feel disrespected, pigeon-holed or otherwise held in an unjust or negative light, your trust for your relationships erodes, which is an entirely natural response.
Needless to say, this type of environment doesn’t foster workplace success.
A burgeoning body of research into workplace productivity and bias found that truly diverse companies are more likely to be productive, successful, efficient and robust.
Diversity drives value and productivity, not just in the individual, but across an entire company or organization.
Diverse companies are more successful because they franchise and empower employees based on their skills and talents.
They’re composed of a more representative workforce, a workforce that has a more nuanced understanding of the world - a key driver of success.
Tackling bias in the hiring process
The first port of call for tackling workplace bias is in the hiring process.
Traditional hiring techniques involve manual screening, face-to-face or webcam interviews, personality and skill questionnaires, focus groups or group interviews, aptitude tests and more.
Workplace research conducted by Bendick and Nunes (2012) found that focus groups and group interviews often result in competitive tensions, stress and anxiety, thus failing to bring out the best of candidates’ abilities. They also highlight how stereotypes are amplified in time-pressured environments, a major contributor to bias.
Since ascertaining the skills of individuals in these environments are difficult, tasks are often organized as per bias and stereotype rather than skill. For example, surveys highlighted in Forbes found that Asians felt instantly pigeon-holed as ‘math-nerds’, or ‘good with numbers’, rarely selected for their leadership qualities.
The scientific and sociological explanations for unconscious bias are complex, but in short, it’s clear that even when companies perceive they have a robust process in place for hiring fairly and not introducing bias into the screening process, this is often not enough.
Departing the traditional interview methodology
Whilst modern HR teams are often trained in tackling discrimination and bias, traditional interview methodology clearly still falls short of the mark, or else we wouldn’t see prejudice, discrimination and bias still represented so strongly in the stats.
Newly developed techniques and methodologies for screening candidates are on the rise and are helping tackle bias with transparent, scientific methods.
Psychometric tests are one such hiring method that provides robust transparency to the hiring process.
Psychometric tests for tackling bias
Employers and HR managers need a method to retain high hiring standards without imposing any form of bias on the hiring process.
Tests need to be fair, just and unbiased towards differing conceptions of what an answer should be. Lower the bar and anyone can pass. Narrow the focus too much and bias is a likely outcome.
The experts at Arctic Shores highlights how psychometric tests provide employers with a third way to hiring candidates. By measuring behavior, psychometric tests analyze and highlight the naturalistic, true-to-self qualities of individuals in a stress-free, relaxed and non-environmentally-biased environment.
This methodology terminates the key markers of hiring bias, and the results are mutually beneficial for candidates and employers.
As well as ending bias, the benefits of psychometric testing for your clients is threefold:
- Cut hiring costs
- Boost candidate quality
- Improve the candidate experience
Modern hiring methods combined with a modern conception of workplace bias provide ample hope that the future of business will be the diverse, successful arena that it can be.