Unconscious Bias: Breaking the Habit of Hiring My Buddy


In 1985, Hasbro came out with a doll line called My Buddy. The intention was to appeal to little boys and teach them how to care for others. It is now 2016 and although adults don't carry dolls around, they do in their minds when they make hiring decisions resulting in unconscious bias.

Naturally, we tend to hire a My Buddy: someone who shares similar characteristics and backgrounds. According to Catalyst.org, women make up 4% of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 17% of board positions. "When we close our eyes and picture what a CEO looks like, too often the picture that comes to mind is that of a white man," said Deborah Gillis, CEO of Catalyst. Hiring decisions from the CEO to the janitor tend to reflect the “Like Me” syndrome, a cornerstone of unconscious bias. In addition, hiring decisions can be unfairly based on stereotypes. For example, hiring someone of Asian descent assuming they will excel in a math- or science-heavy position.

A 2015 report from the Corporate Executive Board reveals, organizations with diverse and inclusive workforces can realize a 57% and 12% increase in collaboration and discretionary effort, respectively. There are also increases in customer service, innovation, retention, adaptability which are all positive business impacts. Training leaders and hiring managers to avoid unconscious bias can lead to more diverse teams which is good for everyone. Here are ways to avoid unconscious bias:

1. Understand that you have unconscious bias. Be aware that stereotypes, habits and familiar situations mold your everyday decisions. You can get to know your unconscious bias by taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT).

2. Create structure around decision making, resume screening, interview formats, onboarding, HiPo identification, promotions, mentor programs and terminations. Your organization's talent management and business partner teams can train and inform leaders on how best to approach and eliminate unconscious bias within the talent cycle.

3. Evaluate how success is measured at your organization. Goal setting and achievement processes should be fair and all associates should be provided the right resources to achieve their goals.

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