How to Address Unintentional and Unconscious Bias at Work

Start with training and discussions at the top for a diverse work environment

people in blocks
Expose as many of your biases as possible so that you’re aware of them and have the tools to override them.
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Diversity and inclusion, both as a part of your work environment and your marketing efforts, are no longer nice-to-haves. They’re not something you do to show how woke your company is. Instead, promoting a work environment where people feel comfortable presenting fresh and different viewpoints is not only good for employees, it’s good for business. It’s table stakes.

Achieving authentic diversity and inclusion requires training employees on how to foster an inclusive workplace. It includes incorporating diverse voices and points of view in all aspects of your business. And it increases your potential to produce work that better represents—and resonates with—the world around you.

You must be willing to look within to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to create a diverse and inclusive culture. The work needed to authentically achieve diversity and foster inclusion is not something performative, something that you set goals for and then check off a list. It’s about setting the foundation to operate with a D&I mindset in all areas of your growing business. Here’s how to get there:

A thorough cultural assessment will inform D&I training and hiring practices and, in turn, how you present yourself externally to the world.

Conduct a cultural assessment

The best way to effectively—and objectively—assess your current environment is via an expert third party who can help you identify areas that are lacking, understand and address biases and work with you to change as a company. For example:

Employees: How do they speak to each other? What intentional or unintentional biased or prejudiced interactions (microaggressions) are happening?

Meetings: What’s being said? How are people reacting to each other’s viewpoints?

Hiring: How are candidates being sourced? Are job descriptions using inclusive language? What’s asked, what’s said and what’s covered in job interviews? And who is conducting the interviews?

A thorough cultural assessment will inform D&I training and hiring practices and, in turn, how you present yourself externally to the world. Creating an environment that represents a lot of different things allows everyone to focus on doing their best work rather than having to process and navigate the effects of being excluded, diminished or in extreme cases, disrespected and discriminated against.

Foster an inclusive and diverse workplace

Training helps ingrain a D&I point of view into company culture so it becomes second nature and is authentically incorporated into daily work life. Some steps to consider:

Create a safe communications environment. For many people, talking openly about diversity and asking questions—particularly in the workplace—can be scary. No one wants to be seen as prejudiced, biased or insensitive. So, it’s critically important that everyone knows the process will not be perfect—missteps are part of the learning process.

Conduct trainings and group discussions. Training employees to be conscious of their biases is an important next step. Start with managers and leaders to ensure they are capable of leading diverse teams in a diverse environment with inclusion at the forefront.

Onboard new employees with purpose. Ensure new employees are made very clear of your company’s stance on D&I as it relates to how to conduct themselves as co-workers in the workplace, as representatives of the company and as members of the surrounding community.

Hire different voices

When your staff is trained with a D&I mindset, they will hire with a D&I mindset, leading to a company filled with diverse points of view and novel ideas. Some general guidelines:

Understand the communities that you exist in and serve. And then connect with them. One type of unconscious bias is affinity bias—the natural tendency to connect with someone who shares something significant with us, more so than with someone who does not. We all need to broaden recruitment efforts beyond our own circles to tap into pools of potential candidates.

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