Everyone carries biases within themselves.
Some are unconscious, some are not.
The question here is not: do we have biases?
The question is: how do we get rid of them?
Biases, whether conscious or unconscious, can significantly impact workplace dynamics, people’s well-being, and overall organisational success.
So, how do we unpack people’s biases and tackle them?
While many companies will first look at implementing HR policies aimed at promoting fairness and equality within the workplace, it has become evident that these policies alone are not sufficient.
We need to look more in-depth: facing the issues once they’ve already happened is not enough, we need to stop them from happening in the first instance.
Why are HR Policies alone not enough?
→ They focus on the obvious. 👀
HR policies often focus on addressing explicit forms of bias, such as discrimination based on gender, race, and age…
However, we know that biases can manifest in more subtle ways. Sometimes people are not even aware of the biases that are affecting their actions, other times they manifest in such a subtle way that makes them go unnoticed by others.
When biases are often deeply ingrained and go unnoticed, they’re difficult to address solely through policy.
→ They don’t build the foundations first. 🧱
While HR policies may outline guidelines for addressing biases (after they have manifested), they often fall short of providing comprehensive training and awareness to employees.
Without a deep understanding of how biases operate and impact the workplace, employees (and HR representatives themselves) may unknowingly perpetuate and overlook biased behaviours and attitudes.
→ They’re only as good as the surrounding environment. 👱🧕🧔👵👩🏿👩🧔🏿♂️
Policies alone cannot ensure accountability for bias-related incidents. That’s a fact.
Companies need a robust culture that addresses discrimination and encourages calling out biased behaviours while holding individuals accountable for their actions.
What to do, then?
There are a few steps that companies can take when looking at implementing a fairer and more inclusive environment for all.
✔ Do you offer the correct Training?
Effective training programs that raise awareness, foster empathy, and equip individuals with tools to recognize and challenge biases (their own and others) are essential.
However, training alone and one-off training won’t be enough. Companies must aim to continuously update and review their training to ensure that the right culture is maintained.
✔ Do you clearly communicate and encourage open communication?
You can have the best policies and procedures in place; however, these are only as good as your communication of them.
- If your people are not aware of the channels available to them and the right procedures to follow when reporting unfairness, then they just won’t do it.
- If your people are not familiar with your training opportunities, then they won’t take up on them.
- If your people are not feeling that you’re open and clear in communicating your company culture, then they won’t know (and trust) where you stand on inclusivity and equity.
✔ Don’t just sit and wait for things to happen:
- Encourage people to take part in training and awareness.
- Encourage open dialogue about biases, privilege, and discrimination.
Creating safe spaces for your people to discuss their experiences and concerns can help raise awareness and promote empathy.
✔ Is your Recruitment programme up to scratch?
Organisations are made of people.
Culture is made by people.
When recruiting and promoting, just looking at skills and experience won’t be enough to foster a culture of inclusivity and fairness.
Look at the values people hold:
✔ Are those the values you want to see reflected in your company?
✔ Are those the values you want to see in your leaders?
✔ Are your leaders leading by example?
Culture and change start at the top.
When your leaders are implementing the right behaviours and fostering a culture of fairness and inclusivity, that naturally drips down the organisation and encourages everyone to join in and speak up.
While HR policies are an essential starting point, they are not sufficient to avoid biases at work.
Organizations must go beyond policies and invest in comprehensive training, foster open dialogue, promote diversity and inclusion initiatives, and hold individuals accountable.
By doing so, they create a culture that values fairness and discourages biased behaviour.
Let’s all aim to create a workplace culture where biases are actively challenged, and employees are valued for their unique contributions, irrespective of their background.
Only then can we truly achieve a bias-free workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.
The Motivation Agency has been supporting businesses in their Employee Engagement journey since 2006.
Our bespoke training solutions are tailored to your needs and designed to help you achieve your goals. You can find out more about our services here.
A marketer at heart, Alessandra has built her experience and skills across different industries and countries.
From launching Brands on global markets to analysing consumer behaviour to create the most effective marketing campaigns for TD SYNNEX (a global tech business working with household names such as Google, Apple and Cisco); her approach is led by data and characterised by a true passion for marketing and innovation.
Her creative approach means she will find the best solution to tell a Brand’s story and clearly communicate its values through engaging content and comprehensive strategies.