60% of employees feel that their workplace is biased. Worse, 39% of employees say that they experience unconscious bias in the workplace at least once a month. So some employees are experiencing it really frequently.
In a world that convinces itself it’s forward-thinking and progressive, this is a saddening (and eye-opening) statistic.
But what can organizations do to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace? Especially when we don’t even notice it’s there?
Ask underrepresented team members the first question
In meetings, white men get the floor longer than anyone else. They’re also the ones most likely to speak up. And tend to be the majority in the room.
When you ask someone else the first question, it gives them the confidence to speak out more.
It also gives other underrepresented team members the confidence to speak, too.
Back up a good point, regardless of who made it
Then there’s the chance that someone else will suggest the same thing further down the line and get all the credit for their idea.
So, pay attention to who’s speaking in meetings and, if you like their idea, offer them some support.
And if someone else tries to take credit for it, point out who suggested it first.
Bad habits only change when people call others out on their behaviors. Reducing unconscious bias in the workplace requires that we step up and have these tough conversations.
Use the same adjectives to describe everyone
Unconscious bias in the workplace can show up in how we talk about people. Sometimes, we use different words to describe employees based on their backgrounds. This reinforces unconscious biases in other people, too.
So the next time you write a performance review or give feedback, ask yourself if you’d use the same language to write about an employee from a different background.
If the answer is that you would write it differently, run it through a language checker to highlight the biases in your writing. This will make you aware of how you can improve your feedback. It will also give you things to keep in mind for next time.
Praise (and criticize) everyone equally
Men often praise other men more highly, while they criticize women more harshly. So, the next time you give feedback, keep that in mind. Consider whether you’re giving feedback to everyone in the same way.
Also, be specific in the feedback that you give.
A study of 200 performance reviews in a tech company found that women were more likely to receive vague praise like “you had a great year.” In contrast, men were given developmental feedback related to business outcomes.
When women received developmental feedback, it was often related to their personalities rather than their competence and performance. When unconscious bias in the workplace shows up in this way, it can have major impacts, like affecting promotion rates.
Create mentorship schemes
Mentoring can have huge benefits for everyone involved, opening them up to new experiences and helping them grow their careers.
It’s unusual for a male to ask for a female mentor. When they do though, it can help them understand how they’re inadvertently contributing to the authority gap.
Mentoring also allows them to develop more “feminine” traits that make for better leaders, such as empathy.
Provide group training
Training is one of the key ways to start bringing unconscious bias in the workplace to employees’ attention. It’s a foundational step. But without the others in this list, it’s too easily dismissed.
So, while you want employees to be aware of unconscious biases and what they look like, it’s important that you encourage and enforce the other steps, too —such as calling out unconscious bias in meetings. Training is meaningless without actionable steps.
Hold a speed networking event
If you have a large organization, a speed networking event can offer employees the opportunity to meet people they may not otherwise come across (even if it’s done virtually).
Employees get to experience the true diversity of your organization, while HR leaders can potentially spot any representation gaps in event sign-ups or your business.
Schedule the event, then have everyone sit at tables or put them into breakout rooms if you’re doing it virtually. Everyone has five minutes to talk to the person in front of them.
Then, half the room moves on to the next table, while the other half stays seated. Keep going until you’ve reached full circle.
Encouraging employees to get to know each other better is a key step towards reducing unconscious bias in the workplace.
Host a book club
Reading, especially reading fiction, makes us more empathetic.
Men are less likely to read books written by women, yet women regularly read books written by men.
Suggesting books written by underrepresented authors introduces book club members to experiences other than their own. This allows them to see what life is like for people from different backgrounds.
Discussing the book with their colleagues can help employees meet more people, consider other ways to interpret the story, and learn new skills.
Reading memoirs may also help, as they’re based on real-life experiences and can give employees concrete examples of biases.
Create employee groups
Employee groups enable everyone within your organization to network with people who have something in common with them.
At the same time, these groups can also provide an opportunity to meet people who are different.
For example, a group focused on people who want to learn leadership skills isn’t limited to employees from one demographic.
Instead, it can provide an opportunity for everyone to share a common interest alongside experiences that impact their ability to use their leadership skills.
How a person of color demonstrates leadership in the workplace—and how it’s received—can be different from how a white person shows and reacts to these things, for example.
Learning about these differences in a constructive environment can help reduce unconscious bias in the workplace.
Track the program’s success
No program is worth the time and effort unless you can measure its success. One of the most effective ways to do this is to monitor employee feedback. How do they really feel about your organization—and its diversity and inclusion efforts?
You can also use surveys to track levels of unconscious bias in the workplace. You can then design programming to help employees spot gaps in their own awareness.
And you can identify company-wide areas that require more training/initiatives.
We may not eradicate unconscious bias in the workplace during our lifetimes, but we can reduce it and set a better example for future generations. The steps in this post will help your organization decrease the impact unconscious bias has on employees without it feeling like a box-checking exercise.
Instead, you can turn diversity and inclusion into a new way of thinking, helping employees understand experiences other than their own.
Ready to start implementing some of these ideas to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace? Workrowd has the tools you need to succeed.
Our all-in-one platform makes it easy to launch employee groups, survey team members, and track your progress at a glance with automated analytics. Visit us online to learn more or email us directly at email@example.com.