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Unconscious bias - who me?

 May 08, 2014

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Ever heard of the term "group think"? It's when all the members of a group think and act the same. It's generally caused from a lack of diversity. Group think can seriously hinder innovation. 

Sometimes groups believe their unified thoughts, ideas and actions are "the norm" and they set a precedence of acceptable and desirable behaviour and further thinking.

But what if there are different perspectives? What if there are other unconsidered influences? And how do companies guard against their employees maintaining buried prejudice and biases when making decisions?

One of the first steps is 'awareness'. Many people do not even know they hold deep seated biases, so part of addressing this is to help employers understand what "unconscious bias" means, then help them articulate and understand any bias thoughts they may hold and help with actions to address this.

Ensuring company work cultures, policies and behaviours do not favour bias is also critical. 

Companies like M&G Investments are very committed to ensuring the work culture remains free from bias. Recently their recruitment team completed "Unconscious Bias Assessments" with an external expert, Sasha Scott from Inclusive Diversity, to understand how unconscious bias can impact the workplace.

It's important that companies and recruiters do recognise that specific bias often exists. Recognition is a beginning stage to enable it to be overcome. Admitting bias is very difficult for most people to do honestly because it is somewhat of a humbling act. But acknowledgement helps bias be explored more openly.

The whole process of overcoming a bias is to understand what a bias is, why they exist and what steps might be taken to eradicate them. Companies that constantly employ diverse people can often find it easier to break down barriers caused by bias. Diversity challenges any status quo and forces everyone to understand there are always multiple perspectives, backgrounds, cultures and ways of thinking.

The more diverse an organisation, the more difficult it becomes for personal bias to influence the culture.

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