There’s no question that implicit bias is closely linked to multi-cultural talent management. But to explore all the ways in which implicit biases influence how we manage talent would take up far too much space in a single blog post. Still, even a few examples can help clearly frame the issue. So, what do we do about it?
A crucial first step is to be aware of how we can break our own implicit bias patterns. It’s also a good idea to catch up on the ways in which implicit bias and multi-cultural talent management intersect. But there also five key best practices you and your organization can incorporate in order to counteract implicit bias when managing across cultures – and ultimately cultivate a more inclusive and better performing workplace:
- When hiring, screen applications blindly. You can reduce implicit bias if you schedule interviews based solely on an applicant’s experience and qualifications. To do that, strip resumes and applications of names, ages and gender. All those factors may lead the reviewer to “see” the applicant in a specific way.
- Simplify job descriptions. Many modern job descriptions include a lengthy list of “qualifications” intended to define the perfect candidate. But the result is often unintended gender bias because women often don’t apply if they don’t meet all the qualifications; in contrast, many men will apply regardless. You can reduce this problem by shifting the focus to the job’s responsibilities and only the most essential qualifications.
- Practice priming. Priming is a memory activity that prompts people to focus on potential areas of bias. For example, managers can confront their own bias when reviewing resumes by asking themselves some questions: “Does this person’s resume remind you in any way of yourself?” or “Does it remind you of someone you know? Is that positive or negative?”. The idea is to bring your unconscious bias to the surface by asking yourself questions that force you to grapple with how much you are attracted to a resume because of a person’s qualifications versus how much is driven by the ways in which you may see that the person is like you.
- Rely on structure. It’s easier to avoid bias when you literally treat everyone the same. For example, if you ask all the applicants for the same position the same interview questions in the same order it makes it harder to rely on your gut or intuition, which is another way of saying it reduces the impact of implicit bias.
- Remain humble. Any time we feel certain we “know” something it should prompt us to realize that we probably don’t. Instead, it would be better to ask whether our feeling is based on real information or on bias.
Ordinarily, I’m the last one to advocate for working against our natural brain activity. But in this instance, I’m doing just that – the shortcuts that our brain thinks are making things easier are, when it comes to multi-cultural talent management, actually making things harder.