Unconscious bias: it’s a topic since years, and still relevant in 2023 and beyond.

Article by: Thorsten Eger (PhD), Partner at KennedyFitch and recognized for his work in the DE&I space (EDA nomination, D&I list in The Guardian)

I love this quote as it focuses on commonalities rather than differences among people. At the end of the day, people share fundamental traits and desires. We may, however, go about fulfilling those desires in very different ways. That is why it is essential to also acknowledge that people often, whether consciously or unconsciously, draw distinctions between themselves.

This is precisely why many companies still should prioritize (or ask for help to prioritize) efforts to overcome unconscious biases as these biases can lead to organizational and cultural challenges.

As a reminder: unconscious bias refers to unintentional prejudices and stereotypes that individuals hold against certain groups of people. Biases generally develop through socialization, cultural influences and personal experiences. They can profoundly impact decision-making processes, interactions and organizational culture. Over the past decade, significant advancements have been made to better understand unconscious biases towards conscious inclusion. Yet, unconscious biases continue to significantly impact organisations on a daily basis. Thus, it remains an important focus topic for any agenda of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) in 2023 and beyond.

Research indicates that biases can influence hiring decisions, performance evaluations, and promotion opportunities within organizations. And as a watch-out, it has also shown that technology and artificial intelligence systems have been found to reflect and amplify these biases, e.g. through biased algorithms.

Sometimes I get asked, what should we focus on when thinking about unconscious bias to be consciously inclusive. Among others, some areas could be:

  1. Awareness through continued education: Training programs that raise awareness about unconscious bias, equipping employees with the knowledge and tools to recognize, mitigate bias as well as to take action when witnessing bias
  2. Talent acquisition/management practices: Implementing diverse hiring panels, always having a diverse slate of candidates, blind recruitment processes, diversity goals to ensure fair representation at all levels of the organization
  3. Inclusive Leadership: Leaders are encouraged to be role models for inclusive behavior by actively promoting diversity and inclusion in their teams and mentoring and sponsoring underrepresented groups.
  4. Data-Driven Decision-Making: Organizations are leveraging data to identify and address disparities in hiring, pay, and promotions, thereby holding leadership accountable for progress
  5. Employee Experience: include diverse perspectives in form of a bottom-up approach when designing your compelling Employee Experience (EX)/Employee Life-cycle.

Overarchingly, anyone in any organization owns this and this is fundamental when thinking of conscious inclusion. It is not just a topic for leaders, for talent acquisition partners, for HR or People & Culture teams but for all of us. Practically, this can happen through an expanded view of DE&I regarding intersectionality (multiple diversity dimensions that make people unique), the continued support of and participation in ERGs (Employee Resource Groups)/Affinity groups or trough clearer policies and practices that articulate clearly and understandably what any organizations stands for when it comes to DE&I.

In a world where we are more alike than unalike, addressing biases and promoting diversity is not just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic advantage that fuels innovation, enhances decision-making, boosts employee engagement, expands the talent pool, and strengthens an organization’s reputation. Given our experiences in the space of DE&I, please reach out to me if you want to have a conversation, bounce off ideas, collectively think about your DE&I agenda or provide feedback on what you do to overcome unconscious bias and move to a more consciously inclusive work environment?

Do you want to contact Thorsten, feel free to send an email or reach out via LinkedIn:

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