Overcoming Bias to Create a Powerful & Happy Team

Today celebrate International Women’s Day, a day we reflect on how far we’ve come and what we need to do to reach equality. Gender bias is still a huge issue in business, even after the all the progress that has been made. However, if you ask most people they would claim they don’t see gender, that it doesn’t affect their decision making. When hiring, promoting, assigning projects… gender plays no role. If only this were true. Welcome to unconscious bias! We all have them, and they are affecting our choices and not just about gender. 

It is a proven fact that diverse teams make for better business. Racially diverse teams out perform others by 35%, companies with more women on their boards see a 42% higher return on sales, diversity reduces employee turnover and the costs related to this and a diverse team breeds innovation and creativity. Being able to overcome biases isn’t just the right thing to do it is also the smart thing to do for your business. 

Affinity, conformity, beauty, gender, race, sexuality, religion biases are informed by your own background, history, experiences, stereotypes and the environment/culture you live in. Do they look like you, have the same ideas as you or the rest of your team, are they attractive… these are the thoughts that are informing your choices and when it comes to building a happy and powerful team it just can’t happen. 

So how do you overcome biases that are affecting your judgement without you even knowing about it? Of course, many organisations are looking These are some tips that you can apply to interview potential candidates, assessing promotion opportunities and even when making decisions about who to give a project to. 

  • Be aware of your own biases 

Learning and understanding what your own unconscious biases are is the first step to overcoming them.  

  • Diversify the interview panel 

Have a mix of ages, genders and opinions on the panel. If everyone thinks the same way then they will look for others who also think that way or look that way. If  

  • Incorporate blind applications into the process 

Remove gender, race and age from the mix by asking for blind applications. This only works for the initial application, but you will find that you get a more diverse shortlist if you can’t see their names and age.  

  • Standardise processes 

Interviews, applications, promotions… Having a standardised approach to questions, tasks and assessment criteria will help keep your biases in check. So often free-wheeling leads to choices bases on who you like more and that is usually determined by those pesky biases that you don’t realise are at work. 

  • Set a task 

Whether it is for a promotion, a project or a job set a task for applicants to perform so that you can make decisions based on the outcome of that task rather than the person completing it. 

Unconscious bias doesn’t just affect businesses and teams. Each of us takes these biases into our lives away from the office… our friendship groups, networking groups, family and can extend to our children’s lives. Obviously, the tips above can’t help you interview new friends… blind applications just aren’t possible… but you can take some time to look at yourself and how your unconscious bias affects your choices. Being aware that you are biased and trying to eliminate these biases from your decision making is a great goal to strive towards.  

So, today as we celebrate International Women’s Day, perhaps it is a chance to not just renew a commitment to gender equality but also to equality and diversity across the board. Opening your organisation, your team, your life to a wider group of people invites change, innovation and creativity that can only strengthen your organisation or team and enrich your life.