There are several biases that can affect human resources (HR) in companies. It is important to know about these biases as they can affect who the company recruits and onboards as new employees or other important moments in the employee life cycle such as ratings, raises and promotions for example.
New recruits and existing employees are the heart of any company's culture, productivity and quality of work. It is important to build a diverse and competent workforce and as such to know what biases to look for and tackle as an HR team.
Here are some common biases that can impact an HR team’s work:
Confirmation bias: This occurs when HR professionals tend to focus on information that confirms their existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them.
Example: An HR professional is reviewing resumes for a job opening in their company. The HR professional has a preconceived notion that candidates with a certain type of educational background or work experience would be a better fit for the position. As a result, they may overlook resumes of candidates who do not fit this mold, even if they have the necessary qualifications and experience for the job.
Let’s say the HR professional believes that candidates from Ivy League universities are the best fit for the job, then they may overlook resumes from candidates who attended state universities, even if those candidates have relevant experience and qualifications.
This is an example of confirmation bias, as the HR professional is allowing their preconceived notions to influence their decision-making and potentially exclude qualified candidates from the hiring process. This can lead to missing out on diverse and talented candidates and negatively impacting the company's diversity and inclusivity.
Halo effect: This occurs when HR professionals form an overall positive impression of a candidate based on one positive trait, leading them to overlook other negative traits.
Example: An HR professional is conducting an interview for a job opening in their company. The candidate is personable and makes a strong first impression. They present themselves well, and the HR professional is impressed by their confidence and good communication skills. As a result, the HR professional may give the candidate a higher rating in all areas of the interview, even if they do not have the necessary qualifications or experience for the job.
For example, during the interview, the candidate mentions that they have a degree from a prestigious university. The HR professional may assume that because the candidate has a degree from a prestigious university, they have a strong work ethic, are smart, and have the necessary qualifications for the job, even if the candidate does not have any previous experience or skills that are specific to the job.
This is an example of the halo effect, as the HR professional is allowing one positive trait of the candidate to influence their overall impression of the candidate. This can lead to overlooking the candidate's lack of qualifications or experience for the job, and potentially leading to a bad hire for the company.
Implicit bias: This occurs when HR professionals unconsciously hold certain stereotypes or prejudices about certain groups of people.
Example: an HR professional is reviewing resumes for a job opening in their company. The HR professional unconsciously holds a stereotype that certain groups of people, such as women or people of color, are less competent or less suitable for certain types of jobs. As a result, they may be more likely to overlook resumes from these groups of candidates, even if they have the necessary qualifications and experience for the job.
For example, an HR professional may unconsciously believe that women are not as good as men in leadership roles, and may overlook resumes from female candidates for a management position, even if they have relevant experience and qualifications.
This is an example of implicit bias, as the HR professional is allowing their unconscious stereotypes or prejudices to influence their decision-making, potentially leading to discrimination and a lack of diversity in the company's workforce. Implicit bias can be hard to detect and overcome, and often requires training, awareness and a willingness to challenge one's own assumptions.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: This occurs when HR professionals expect certain behaviors from certain groups of people and treat them accordingly, leading to the behaviors they expect.
Example: an HR professional has a preconceived notion that certain groups of people, such as older employees or employees of a certain ethnicity, are less productive or less adaptable to change. As a result, they may treat these employees differently, such as not providing them with the same opportunities for training or advancement.
As a result, the older employees may not have the same level of proficiency with new technologies, which may lead to them being passed over for promotions or other opportunities.
This is an example of self-fulfilling prophecy, as the HR professional's preconceived notion leads to them treating certain employees differently, which in turn leads to the employees not having the same opportunities or outcomes. This can lead to a lack of diversity and inclusivity in the company's workforce, and can negatively impact the performance of the organization.
These are just a few examples of biases that can affect HR professionals and their work… Knowing that these biases exist is already a first good step but how can one go further and proactively identify and tackle these biases in the workplace?
To tackle these biases, some steps that companies can take include:
- Providing unconscious bias training for HR professionals to increase awareness of their own biases and how they may affect their decision making.
- Implementing structured interview processes and using job-related criteria to evaluate candidates, rather than relying on unstructured interviews or gut feelings.
- Using objective measures, such as skill assessments and work samples, to evaluate candidates.
- Having a diverse group of people involved in the hiring process to provide multiple perspectives.
- Regularly monitoring and evaluating the diversity and inclusivity of the company's workforce and taking steps to address any disparities.
It's important to note that these are just some examples and more steps can be taken depending on the specific organization.
Moreover, regarding biases in the workplace, they are of course not limited to HR teams and are potentially impacting all employees and executives. This is why we believe HR teams must build a plan to protect themselves and their employees against these biases.
A good next step is to understand which are the key biases that can affect leaders and managers as they are on the frontline with employees and their decisions have a direct impact on them. From there on, HR teams can come up with specific plans to train their managers, monitor the right managerial metrics and take steps to address identified pitfalls.
At Popwork, we strongly believe that HR teams that are capable to roll-out positive and effective management rituals, monitor the right managerial KPIs and build the right culture have a huge impact on their companies and their performance.