As the saying goes, “to err is human.” Luckily, today there is technology to help keep our biases in check – and help us leverage diversity and drive inclusion.
Cognitive neuroscience tells us that there are over 150 different bias types humans are susceptible to unconsciously and unknowingly applying. While we cannot prevent these unconscious biases, we can learn to address it through a wide range of resources at our disposal; these resources help to mitigate the effects of unconscious biases whenever possible.
Through this use of new, innovative technologies, we can help remove that “human element” of bias to make better decisions. Addressing bias at all stages of the employment life cycle is essential. Here, however, we’ll tackle the ever-crucial initial stage: recruitment.
Unconscious bias may affect recruitment efforts even before the first interview gets scheduled. The problem? Biased language in the job description.
A recent research study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology detailed that how an employer or recruiter crafts a job description has an impact on who decides to apply. The language that recruiters or employers use may speak to one dominant group. It may also rely on the “status quo” norms rather than attracting the most qualified candidates.
For example, Americans tend to place importance on “action-oriented” words to describe hard skills, words traditionally associated with a male audience. However, this style may not address the more “people-oriented” capabilities that could attract a more diverse gender group.
Let’s take a look at what the average job description for an engineer might look like. Here’s an example.
Self-sufficient, independent worker, with an ability to perform in a competitive environment. Confident in ability to manage customer expectations and meet company goals.
A more gender-neutral description that could attract a more diverse range of employees would be:
Understands team dynamics. Proficient at managing expectations and collaborating to ensure team success. Maintains great client relations.
Note the change in tone. It goes from “action-oriented” words like “self-sufficient” to “people-oriented” terms like “team dynamics.” This change results in a more gender-neutral description with the ability to attract both male and female employees.
Like our unconscious biases, it’s often difficult to notice when we use gendered language. One way to combat these biases? Try one of the many “gender decoder” software options in the marketplace. These valuable tools will help to create more inclusive job descriptions.
After the applications come in for a role, there may be a temptation to “screen out” employees that don’t fit our mental image of a role. Instead, we should all be looking to “screen in” the best fit for the job.
Sometimes, our unconscious biases may prevent us from making those best decisions. Those biases span a broad spectrum – name, age, physical characteristics (if a photo comes with the resume), and other factors. To remove these unconscious biases, try out some of the “anonymize” software available on the market. This software removes all information that helps to identify an individual.
Odds are there will be more than one person involved in the interview process. That creates even more opportunities for bias to impact our decision making. One proven way to help reduce bias in interviews is to have a standardized process applicable to all candidates.
Try using software to build a structured interview process. There, all applicants have an opportunity to shine by experiencing the same questions and experiences. From there (and when necessary), we can assess capability by using blind assessments to judge specific skills.
New and innovative technology continues to help us address our unconscious biases to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Technology, though, is only one part of the effort. It is also crucial to educate HR professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers about unconscious bias. Armed with that knowledge, they can go into recruitment with an open mind and awareness of the impact of biases on decision-making.
This article was originally published on the Association for Talent Development blog
Anthony Greco serves as the Director of CORE Learning Services at Aperian Global. Anthony’s role focuses on instructional design and leading the creation and rollout of global training programs and materials. He collaborates with Fortune Global 100 companies in developing highly customized solutions.
Additionally, Anthony’s work extends to Aperian Global’s web-based learning tools. In this capacity, he focuses on eLearning initiatives and is currently working on developing integrated learning modules on the GlobeSmart platform. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in East Asian Studies, with dual minors in Japanese Language & Literature, and Business Administration & Management from Boston University.