Unconscious bias is a tale as old as human civilization itself, yet, it still rears its head in the 21st-century workplace. Unchecked unconscious bias in an organization can limit your company’s growth and development…and detract from a positive work culture.
The good news is that you can overcome unconscious bias through a combination of natural intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI) in what is known as collaborative intelligence.
What is Unconscious Bias, and Where Does it Come From?
Unconscious (or implicit bias) is a naturally occurring cognitive function that exists on a deeper level.
That’s why in most instances, we remain unaware of unconscious bias until the damage has been done (e.g., offending someone or overlooking a talented hire because of their background).
Unconscious bias develops through learned behavior. Life experience, learned stereotypes (e.g., media coverage), and interactions usually shape these biases over time.
Although the thoughts, attitudes, and actions associated with unconscious bias aren’t intentional, they compromise your hiring efforts. Removing unconscious bias from the workplace requires consciously identifying and taking active steps toward implementing prevention tactics.
Identifying the various types of unconscious bias in recruitment practices is a good first step toward creating a more inclusive and collaborative work culture. Here are some examples.
Ageism is a form of unconscious discrimination against team members based on their age. These practices apply to both ends of the age spectrum.
For instance, we see ageism at work when a company won’t consider fresh high school graduates and when recruiters skip the applications of older candidates, despite having decades of relevant experience.
Common Signs of Ageism
Common signs of workplace ageism may include:
- Overlooking team members for challenging tasks or burdening them with excess work duties due to age.
- Providing younger or older employees with more training and career development opportunities.
- Passing on promotion opportunities for team members from a certain age group.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 offer older workers some legal protection but a high incidence of ageism remains. The ADEA rulings have resulted in companies paying hefty fines over the years due to age discrimination.
Confirmation bias occurs when people selectively seek and apply the information that validates their beliefs. These result in a self-confirming mindset that ignores alternate perspectives, hindering a person’s ability to learn and grow in their career.
Common Signs of Confirmation Bias
Some common signs of confirmation bias in a workplace include:
- Expecting team members to repeat stellar performances and results without considering the immediate environmental challenges.
- Segregating team members by mentally labeling them lazy or ineffective based on past oversight and setting low expectations accordingly.
- Modifying a candidate’s interview answers to match an ideal job profile.
Recruiters and employers can avoid confirmation biases by standardizing interview questions. Doing so can prevent discussions from going off-topic. Also, fixed questions prevent interviewers from narrowing down to a specific candidate due to personal preferences rather than qualifying them based on merit.
Market research shows that women tend to lose out as they age and progress through their careers when it comes to pay equity. The differential treatment of women in society has led to wage differences across multiple age groups and roles. For instance, mothers aged 25 to 34 earn only 85% of the earnings of fathers of the same age range.
The gender pay gap in the United States has remained an issue for the past two decades, and gender bias practices may have played a role.
Common Signs of Gender Bias
Your organization faces gender bias if it contains the following scenarios:
- Team members of a gender receive more promotions and pay raises than others despite similar contributions.
- Individuals are assigned fewer tasks and responsibilities due to their gender.
- Team members of a gender receive less support and resources from leadership.
Workplace flexibility, DEIB training, and pay transparency are effective ways for your company to eliminate gender bias.
Authority bias is at play when a person follows the directions and beliefs of a superior without question. Workplaces with authority bias may experience ineffective communication practices, like the highest-paid person’s opinion (HIPPO), where employees rely on the highest-paid contributor when making important decisions.
Common Signs of Authority Bias
Some recognizable signs of authority bias in the workplace include:
- Nobody ever challenges the perspective or ideas of a supervisor or top management.
- Entry-level employees never get the opportunity to voice their concerns or perspectives.
- Employees generally provide positive feedback or reserve comments when asked for their thoughts.
You can minimize the risk of authority bias at work by promoting a psychologically safe workplace. These work environments provide the support and resources for encouraging individuals to contribute their unique thoughts and opinions without fear of ridicule, censure, or career issues.
Perception bias occurs when an individual makes assumptions about another person’s character based on stereotypes and snap judgments. Employers and recruiters with perception bias tend to make hiring decisions based on personal beliefs and emotions rather than serving organizational needs.
Common Signs of Perception Bias
The distinct signs of perception bias at work include:
- Dismissing a candidate’s application because they don’t fit the perfect image of an employee.
- Assuming a team member offers superior performance because they have a relevant degree.
- Discrediting a team member because they have a different communication style.
Since perception bias relates to all manners of unconscious bias, the solution involves recognizing its signs and consciously correcting them. You can prevent perception bias by removing a candidate’s identifiable information, such as age and gender, from their applications.
Alternatively, consider using transparent scoring cards in interviews for a consistent rating system. Cards can also streamline candidate selection to suit your company and its needs by checking for traits such as the ability to express ideas and the extent of participation.
How Modern Technology Combats Unconscious Bias
The rise of AI technology makes it possible for modern employers to detect and remove the earliest signs of unconscious biases. AI algorithms objectively assess talent so you can manage interactions without triggering unconscious biases.
AI, Machine Learning, and Objective Recruitment
An effective data-centric AI solution can help recruiters and employers bypass unconscious bias and drive objective decisions. These models work on data points to evaluate candidates strictly based on their merits and suitability for a role.
You could effectively apply the technology across candidate interviews, follow-ups, and onboarding to achieve a fair and smooth process for every qualified talent pool member. AI’s scalability makes it extremely convenient to process large volumes of candidates without biases and oversights.
With AI in your corner, you can:
- Run cloud-based human experience management platforms for monitoring inclusive experiences at work. A comprehensive AI-driven system enables you to align talent with the right opportunities and gain insights into potential biases in HR management.
- Conduct career history and reference checks while following the latest privacy practices and guidelines. AI tech can also help employers generate reference forms.
- Automatically source and screen candidates based on predefined points, removing extra details (e.g., socio-economic status and age) to eliminate subconscious bias.
- Optimize JDs by removing sensitive words and phrases that convey subconscious biases.
How Ongig’s Text Analyzer Can Help
The Ongig Text Analyzer empowers employers and recruiters with AI capabilities to recognize the most prevalent unconscious biases in JDs. Since JDs are the gateway to your organization, it is essential to eliminate all biased language that could deter top talent.
Ongig’s technology vets your JDs for biases. These include gender, ableism, racism, ageism, and more. The platform automatically identifies the instances of biases and provides neutral and engaging replacements so your JD leaves the best impression on prospects.
AI Limitations and The Need For Collaborative Intelligence
Although AI technology has taken the world by storm, it still has limitations. For starters, AI algorithms depend on core machine learning models like large language models (LLMs) to operate.
LLMs are a type of AI that generates text-based content, creating content based on multiple parameters and variables. The inherent bias in an LLM could result in AI solutions producing exclusionary content.
For example, Amazon had to scrap its automated recruitment tool in 2018 because it favored male candidates. As such, companies need to monitor and revise AI use to avoid technical issues that could perpetuate a bias rather than fixing it.
On top of constant AI monitoring and management, teams must develop a positive work culture toward overcoming unconscious biases. Some effective strategies include:
- Organizing off-sites: Off-sites are casual meetings conducted away from the regular workplace. These enable team members to learn more about each other in a relaxed setting, which could drive team dynamics and reduce biases. Consider organizing off-sites at cafes, beaches, parks, or any location that promotes conversations without distraction to help team members foster a sense of togetherness.
- Implement regular diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) Training: DEIB training keeps teams well-informed about the best practices for working with individuals of diverse backgrounds. DEIB training is especially crucial for recruiters and HR professionals responsible for talent acquisition and onboarding to establish an inclusive work environment. Effective DEIB practices can help optimize employee engagement and prevent significant productivity loss.
The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey shared that 44% of employees are passive job seekers due to workplace disengagement. Through collaborative intelligence, humans and AI can unite their strengths to elevate organizational structures and keep employees engaged regardless of background.
Why I Wrote This?
Ongig aims to replace dull and biased JDs through the power of advanced technology through Text Analyzer. Companies can consistently access the workforce’s full potential through collaborative intelligence by combining empathetic HR strategies with AI accuracy.
- Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Research Center – The Enduring Grip of the Gender Pay Gap
- Capterra – HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion, Highest Paid Person in the Office)
- U.S. Department of Labor – Age Discrimination
- US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Age Discrimination in Employment Act (Charges filed with EEOC) (includes concurrent charges with Title VII, ADA, EPA, and GINA) FY 1997 – FY 2022
- Jeffrey Dastin, Reuters – Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women
- Sean Michael Kerner, TechTarget – Large Language Model
- Power to Fly – 7 Keys to Impactful DEIB Training, From a Director of DEIB
- Jim Harter, Gallup – Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement
- WTW – Global Benefits Attitudes Survey 2022
- Sourabh Gupta, Forbes – Is Collaborative Intelligence the Future of Work?