Are Unconscious Biases Ruining Your Chances Of Smart Working Success?
Smart working is – so the rhetoric goes – a win-win scenario…
Workers have, quite literally, a world of greater employment opportunities open to them, no longer restricted to jobs available only in their local area. The ability to work from home, often with more flexible working hours, affords the freedom to do the school run or a few household chores in a day, no longer confined to an office or tethered to office hours and the destructive forces of presenteeism.
Organisations have a far wider, more global talent pool to choose from, plus the potential to significantly lower or even remove costly office expenses. A larger talent pool opens up the potential for hiring based solely on capability, expanding perspectives and experience within the company, and – through this more diverse workforce – better serving customers in a more globalised world. The freedom of smart working has the potential to create a happier workforce, a healthier workforce and, fundamentally, a more productive and profitable workforce.
Sadly, all of these potential benefits and opportunities may never come to fruition, scuppered from the start by one of the biggest yet pervasive challenges in the hiring and recruitment process…unconscious biases.
What exactly is an unconscious bias?
We each have subconscious attitudes and beliefs – about race, gender, appearance, age, wealth, names, disability and much more – which cause us to make quick judgments and decisions about people. Because they’re triggered unconsciously without our knowledge, we often don’t know we have these beliefs, never mind that we’re making key decisions based on such deeply held, yet unacknowledged and hidden blind spots.
Don’t believe you have any biases, conscious or unconscious? Try one of these quick tests from Project Implicit by Harvard University.
Imagine if you were instantly excluded from a job you’d applied for because your name (or any other bias the recruiting person happened to have) instantly ruled you out. Most of the time you’d never know, thinking instead you’d missed out because of something more ‘fair’.
The result? The organisation misses out on a potential superstar – who in turn misses out on the perfect role – because of the unconscious bias of just ONE person at the very beginning of the recruitment process. Imagine that at every level of the process these unconcsious biases then come into play…the funnel continues to narrow, which in turn creates organisational bias. Sadly, this happens all too frequently.
How does greater diversity in the workplace benefit us all?
McKinsey’s Delivering Through Diversity report showed, “Gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide.” and that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more profitable.
A Catalyst study study also showed 37% of surveyed employees believe that gender diversity means better business results. When even employees feel that differences of opinion encourage greater collaboration and innovation, organisations need to pay close attention! Employees – particularly millenials – want to work in an environment that is more diverse, more inclusive and possibly more representative of the richer, wider online world they have 24/7 access to.
And for the customer? Having more culturally diverse perspectives and a broader, deeper range of experiences can better meet the needs of an increasingly globalised economy with more demanding, more informed customers.
Where does smart working fit into this?
Smart working – hiring remotely from a less-geographically restricted, more global talent pool, and being able to offer more flexible working practices – opens up the possibilities for a far more diverse workforce, allowing the net to be cast further and wider to find the best person for the job.
But it is human nature to go for what we know, for what feels familiar and what we’re used to…
So when those unconscious biases come along for the ride and a recruiter hires as they likely would have done anyway, choosing the same kind of people just from a larger geographic pool, that wide net is really just an illusion.
Because of the blind spots we have when it comes to our biases – we destroy the opportunity and potential for hiring differently and more diversely, in one fell swoop.
For smart working to reach its full potential, we must overcome these blind spots and biases to choose the best person for the job, no matter how unfamiliar or different from us they may be.
So how do we overcome that?
Taking the potential for unconscious biases out of the process is one way. It’s the reason Abodoo don’t reveal names or identifying features of candidates until much deeper into the hiring process.
Removing any component that could be used to disciminate more quickly levels the playing field. It allows the right person to be selected based purely on skills, capability, experience, values, passion, drive and the things that truly determine whether they’re the best fit for a role and company.
Can we ever totally get rid of unconscious biases? Possibly not – but a greater awareness that we all have them and that our prejudices and stereotypes play a critical role in the decisions we make is an important first step to endeavouring, like Abodoo, to remove their impact thereby creating a richer, more diverse workforce that benefits us all.
Guest Blogger Bio:
Lea Woodward works with folk to show up, be seen and stand out – especially online – on a “pay what you can” basis.
She coined the phrase ‘location independent‘ and has been living and working online (sometimes fully nomadically) since 2006, attracting global media attention for her work in the digital nomad space.