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6 Ways to Have a More Inclusive and Diverse Workplace Today

by Sandra Jenkins

As a recruitment professional, you know how important diversity and inclusion are in the workplace. If you’re still not prioritizing D&I efforts for your workplace, not only are you not contributing towards a more equitable economy, you are also missing out on its many benefits.

Diverse workplaces perform better – they have better cash flow per employee, see an increase in revenue, and are better preferred by potential candidates than their competitors.

Because of this, it’s only within your best interests to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace – but how can you do that? Diversity training is the first recourse, but a meta-analysis found out that it doesn’t actually do much to impact workplace behavior.

The good thing is, there are many more methods to be more inclusive and diverse in the workplace. That’s what we will discuss today.

Building an Inclusive Workplace

Understanding Unconscious Bias

Before we dive deep into the steps to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it’s crucial that we first understand exactly what unconscious bias is and how it affects our workplace.

Types of Unconscious Bias at Work

The human brain is an amazing machine, but it’s not perfect. Unconscious bias is an example of one of its imperfections.

Unconscious biases are mental shortcuts engraved into our minds by our social environment. These mental shortcuts are what we use to fill gaps in our experiences.

In other words, biases are lazy ways for our brains to answer questions that we otherwise don’t know the answer to.

Due to our tendencies to create mental shortcuts for our everyday lives, we all have unconscious biases.

And not just one or two – the human brain is incredibly capable of forming many, varied forms of unconscious biases. Here are some examples.

Affinity bias

Have you ever felt instantly close to someone you thought was very similar to you? That might have been an instance of affinity bias.

Affinity bias is our propensity to gravitate towards people similar to us in certain traits, whether by appearance, background, beliefs, etc.

However, the flip side of the coin is that affinity bias also tends to distance us from people who are different in the aspects we choose.

At first thought, this is a handy mental shortcut to have. After all, when approaching strangers whom we know nothing about, banking on similarities can be a safe bet for making connections.

However, this doesn’t hold well in meritocratic scenarios like the workplace.

In hiring, for example, affinity bias might lead us to overlook objective merit and instead make us focus on trivial similarities. It’s a dangerous trap to fall into, as you are not making the best decisions for your company that way.

Confirmation bias

If you’ve ever thought ‘I knew it!’ in response to someone’s behavior, that might have been your confirmation biases talking. Confirmation bias is our tendency to focus on information that confirms certain beliefs we already have.

This type of unconscious bias relies on us already having preconceived notions about people we meet, and when something happens that seems to confirm those notions, we zoom in on that and say, ‘I knew it!’

Confirmation bias is bad for the workplace. This ‘zooming-in’ effect that we display will make us overlook objective facts to confirm our beliefs.

Halos or Horns Effect

The halo and horn effect are two sides of the same coin. These also involve forming preexisting beliefs; these biases occur when an initial assessment clouds our perception of other behavior.

In the ‘halo effect,’ our initial positive impression of a person clouds other character traits.

For example, research has proven that we often believe that beautiful people are kind and intelligent. Physical attractiveness creates a powerful first impression that color the rest of a person’s actions.

In the ‘horns effect,’ an initial negative impression clouds other actions.

For example, if your first impression of a person was rude, you will most likely see them as a bad person for the rest of your interaction.

The term ‘first impressions matter’ applies more heavily than you think, especially when considering these unconscious biases. 

These are not good practices for the workplace; they can lead to bad hiring decisions and ill-fitting team members because, obviously, our initial assessments are no way to judge a person’s merit.

Steps Businesses Can Take To Improve Diversity

Impact of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

When we are faced with situations that we know little about, our brain falls back into preconceived notions to make sense of the world.

For example, when we are faced with interviewing unknown strangers for a position in our company, we might find it easier to be swept along by our biases. However, being carried along by these biases will have observable adverse effects in our workplaces. For example:

Lessens the effectiveness of the hiring process.

The hiring process should be impartial and objective; it’s the only way to evaluate the merits and fit of a person regarding the job they are applying for.

However, our unconscious biases get in the way of that. Even when we’re not thinking about it, we become less objective, and our hiring decisions might lean towards basic, erroneous instincts.

This can all too easily lead to bad hires, and the cost of a bad hire can be greater than you think.

Impacts employee experience negatively

Unaddressed biases lead to workplace conflict and bad morale. When the hiring managers display overtly biased decisions, the workplace can all too easily devolve into a place of intrigue and suspicion.

A biased workplace that lacks diversity can take a considerable toll on employee morale. In turn, employees with low morale will begin to drive turnover rate and negatively impact your employer brand besides.

Wastes Employee Potential

Hiring or promoting based on biased assessments will have far-ranging effects on the organization as a whole.

If your assessments are not made for objective reasons, you overlook more qualified employees working harder for your company.

This seals off the door for them to advance further in your organization, wasting their potential, and they might even be demoralized and quit.

Problems of Traditional Solutions to Bias

The adverse effects of unconscious bias have been long known to business researchers, and many standard solutions have arisen out of a desire to address these issues.

However, unsurprisingly these solutions fall short of the needed results to sufficiently address unconscious biases in the workplace.

Some answers must be changed entirely, while some only need to be complemented by more rigorous measures to improve their effectiveness.

Corporate Diversity Policies

Diversity policies have earned the reputation of being a showy, ineffective approach to diversity and inclusion. Diversity training, especially, has not been found to produce any desirable changes in employee behavior.

One of the main reasons for this is that these policies make your employees feel a loss of autonomy.

There have been reports about forced diversity programs causing backlash towards minority employees instead of alleviating the symptoms. Diversity policies are broad brushstrokes that don’t address anything significant.

Blind Shortlisting

Some companies use blind shortlisting procedures where they anonymize resumes. Information that might elicit biases such as gender, names, race, and others, is redacted during the shortlisting process.

While this is an excellent effort to address the main contributors to biases, it’s not enough.

There are resume items necessary for employment but might nevertheless elicit unconscious biases. Some examples of this include college education and employment gaps.

Compliance-based Reporting

The US Department of Labor collects information on the diversity and inclusion efforts of companies that operate in the US. However, it’s unclear how many companies publish that data to the public.

At the very least, we know the percentage among Fortune 500 companies: only 3% publish the full results of their diversity information, while only 20% share partial results.

Compliance-based reporting might be used by the government to inform regulatory practices, but this lack of connection to the public doesn’t inspire much confidence towards the whole process.

Have a More Inclusive and Diverse Workplace Right From the Start

6 Tips to Have a More Inclusive and Diverse Workplace Right From the Start

The standard methods of addressing workplace bias aren’t sufficient in impacting change. If you want to create a more diverse and inclusive workspace, you need to start from the ground up.

Recruitment is one of the main areas that decision-makers should focus on regarding diversity and inclusion.

After all, a diverse workplace can only be created by well-placed, diverse hires. Here are six ways to enhance your company’s D&I efforts through the recruitment phase.

Diversify Your Hiring Teams

Your hiring teams are the linchpin of your recruiting operations – you can’t afford to put it on the shoulders of just one or a few people.

More than that, the smaller the number of your hiring team, the greater the chances for them to be affected by their own unconscious biases. Diversifying the team solves that issue.

When creating a diverse hiring team, make sure that you place people with varied backgrounds, skills, ages, genders, and more. Each of the team members must have something unique to contribute to the dialogue, something that the others might miss.

Diverse hiring teams make candidates feel better about your D&I efforts, and they will also be less likely to be biased.

Make Inclusive Job Descriptions

One of the ways that companies unconsciously propagate bias is through their job descriptions.

Remember the halo or horns effect? Your job descriptions are one of the first things that potential candidates see about your company, so their first impression of your job posting can affect their overall impression of you.

Wording sends a subtle signal, and you’re sending the wrong message if you don’t do it right. Here are a couple of tips to improve your job descriptions:

  • Use gender-neutral pronouns in your adverts
  • Write your job description simply and concisely
  • Always run your job posting through your diverse hiring team
  • Be professional; avoid alienating terms such as ‘ninja’ or ‘rockstar.’

Hire From Multiple Sources

If you want to have a diverse talent pool, you need to cast your need to a wide variety of places. While job boards and professional social networks like LinkedIn might attract your cookie-cutter job applicant, diversifying your choices takes more effort.

Here are a few unique places that you can take your recruitment efforts to:

  • Alternative but popular social media sites.
  • Niche-specific forums, message boards, and networks.
  • Organizations for minority demographics, such as people with disabilities, special needs, etc.
  • Local organizations that focus on underrepresented groups.

Use Virtual Recruitment

The traditional method of face-to-face interviews has taken a backseat due to recent events. While that removes the personal aspect, one of its more desirable side-effects is that employers can now expand their reach.

You’re not limited to people within your geographic area with virtual recruitment. Virtual hiring lets you source diverse candidates from around the world.

This is especially true for fully remote positions. Individuals from different time zones and countries are more incentivized to work remote jobs, so you can expect a wide variety of candidates.

Be More Data-centric

The opposite of hiring bias is complete objectivity, which you can only attain through advanced algorithms that you can find in recruiting platforms such as HireNest.

Instead of relying on our faulty human brains to decide which person is more effective for the job, software tools can crunch pure data and come up with a more logical estimate.

More than that, biases are also minimized when you only consider the data about the individual.

Granted, software tools can never replace the authentic relationships that recruiters seek to build with their candidates, but it helps you focus your resources and minimize instances of human errors.

Automate With Software Tools

A study by LeadershipIQ reveals that recruiters often make preventable mistakes during the recruitment process simply because they are pressed for time and are thus distracted.

As important as it is, recruitment is not the only role the hiring team has in the company. They are also charged with other administrative HR tasks that can eat up their time and distract their focus.

Using software tools such as HireNest to automate most of those tasks will free up precious time and resources, which allows your hiring managers to focus on what matters the most.

Specifically, software tools can automate:

  • Job posting
  • Compliance reports
  • Communication with candidates
  • Administrative functions such as record creation and keeping
Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace This 2022

Diversity and inclusion is an important metric to pay attention to in the workplace. Doing it right means a more equitable, just, and profitable organization while doing it wrong can have bottomless negative consequences.

As an HR decision-maker, it’s your job to enhance company D&I company efforts even during recruitment. If you want to have a more inclusive and diverse workplace right from the start, you can try the tips we mentioned in this article.

One of the easiest steps you can take to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace is to use software tools such as HireNest.

HireNest provides various recruitment and HR tools that can free up time and allow you to focus your attention on more critical tasks like nurturing your company’s work culture.

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