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Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is a term that describes the associations we hold, outside our conscious awareness and control. The University of Edinburgh adds to this definition noting that unconscious bias can make us ‘act in ways that are prompted by a range of assumptions and biases that we are not aware of’. 

‘Unconscious bias is triggered by our brain automatically making quick judgments and assessments. They are influenced by our background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes and cultural context. It is not just about gender, ethnicity or other visible diversity characteristics – height, body weight, names, and many other things can also trigger unconscious bias (Imperial College London)’.

In essence, our unconscious bias, which everyone is effected by, can influence our decision making. In the UK, employers should be keen not to fall foul of the Equality Act 2010; therefore, in this blog we will consider what employers can do to mitigate against making decisions which are influenced by unconscious bias.

Develop and Use Policies and Procedures

HR are known for creating and suggesting policies and procedures; it is our bread and butter as it were. However, there is a good reason why we are keen on these documents. Developing tailor-made policies and procedures are helpful because:

They create consistency and standardisation. They establish clear guidelines and expectations, ensuring everyone knows the rules and processes they need to follow. Consistency helps maintain order, reduces ambiguity, and promotes fairness in decision-making.

They aid the organisation to comply with laws and regulations. As discussed earlier, UK employers are regulated by the Equality Act 2010, by having documents in place which provide clear guidance on the legislation and how to stay within it, employers are able to mitigate against making any unconscious bias influenced decisions.

They offer a structured approach to decision-making. They provide a basis for consistent evaluation and assessment, helping leaders and managers make informed choices.

Evidence-Based Practice

As noted by the Imperial College London, unconscious bias is about making quick judgments and assessments. The best way to combat making such subjective judgments is by basing our decisions in evidence. The CIPD define evidence-based practice as ‘making better decisions, informing action that has the desired impact. An evidence-based approach to decision-making is based on a combination of using critical thinking and the best available evidence.

Be that in recruitment, redundancy situations, disciplinary or grievance processes, performance management, or reward and recognition, our decision-making should be based in fact and evidence.

For an in-depth look at evidence based practice in recruitment, have a look at one of our latest blogs. The same processes can be transferred to other HR functions.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Training

At some point or another, every company undertakes equality training. Here are some ways in which EDI training helps in mitigating unconscious bias:

Raising Awareness: EDI training creates awareness about unconscious bias, helping individuals recognise that everyone possesses biases, regardless of their intentions or values. By understanding the nature and impact of unconscious bias, participants become more aware to its presence in their thoughts, attitudes, and decision-making processes.

Challenging Stereotypes and Assumptions: EDI training equips participants with tools and strategies to challenge stereotypes and assumptions. It helps individuals question their own biases and seek out examples that defy stereotypes. This process promotes critical thinking and empathy, enabling individuals to make more informed and unbiased decisions.

Understanding the Impact of Bias: EDI training helps individuals understand the real-world consequences of unconscious bias on individuals and groups. It explores how biases can enable stereotypes, exclusion, and discrimination, highlighting the importance of creating inclusive and equitable environments.

If your company is seeking assistance in developing comprehensive policies and procedures or implementing evidence-based practice or would like equality, diversity, and inclusion training, consider reaching out to ViewHR. We offer a wide range of training to support businesses in building a diverse, inclusive, and thriving workplace that avoids unconscious bias. Get in touch with us today.