Unconscious Bias, is it thriving in your company?


Interesting two words. Many never give a second thought to being bias, some would say that everyone is bias about something in life but many don’t really understand the impact of unconscious bias can have on their actions.  Here in the UK, companies have the Equality Act 2010 legislation that they must follow especially in the recruitment process but also in the employment best practice.  

However, unconscious bias can hinder on how we see people. Biologically we are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. And this can be evident in many companies when they recruit. The company may have an Equal Opportunities statement used in their publicity material (on their website too) but take a closer look at their employees and senior management team and is diversity is not really reflected.

The world of business is fast paced and constantly evolving. Barriers to trade have been removed, markets are opening up and countries like Africa, India and Brazil are the places to be do business. We now operate on a global platform and the world is mobile. Tablets, android phones, iPhones and laptops makes it so easy for your customers or potential business interests to contact you and buy your product/services. Competition has increased as there are more choices for your customers. The consumer is now very selective who they spend their money as they have so much choice.

The essentials of price, quality and service still have an impact on people when making a decision whether to buy from a company or not. However, people want to do business with companies who understand them, have strong values, reflect them and even look like them. People by from people, this is a true fact. Before buying potential customers will do their research which could involve speaking to their friends/colleagues/family, surfing the net – twitter, Google, even YouTube and listening to what the media is saying about your industry or company. Consumers are using social media to share their stories about their experiences with a Brand with over 100,000 uploads on Twitter and Facebook per minute. People are reviewing products and even companies, making videos and uploading them to YouTube.

With the increasing of globalisation, most of companies face fierce competition including talented staff and they are competing with others in a complicated environment. Thus, the importance of diverse teams. Diverse teams refers to different characteristics such as age, gender, nationality, ethnicity or cultural background. Last week, Microsoft introduced their new Chairman, John Thompson http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/bod/thompson/. This will have a major impact of many around the world, it may not increase profits by 100%, however many people will see John Thompson as a role model (and if he can do it I can too) and Microsoft as a company that truly embraces diversity.


Managing unconscious bias is not just of benefit to others but to a company’s profits, the bottom line and brand. If you choose to ignore it, your brand can seriously be damaged. Consider where unconscious bias could have an impact in your company for example in recruitment and promotion decisions, line management and performance appraisals. Training budgets may have been reduced due to the recent recession, however it is very beneficial to train HR and staff in the company on what unconscious bias is and the impact it can have on their decision making. If the company is taken to an Employment Tribunal for discrimination evidence that staff have been trained can help in its defence.

HR professionals have a responsibility to ensure their organisation operates best practice.  A Diversity/Equal Opportunity policy in place and ensuring it is a live document, not just uploaded to the website or in the annual report. People see right through lip service. Talk the talk and walk the walk, beyond the cleaner and up to senior management level. It can be achieved.


Your CV is more than words


Your educational background does not mean that you cannot be whatever you want to be.  Too many times as a HR Professional when we are recruiting many just focus on where the person was educated, what qualifications they got and where they have worked. If they have had 3 years in one job, 5 years in another and worked for top companies then they must be outstanding. Yes, they could be but also they could have some serious issues they may come with. Like believing that people not like them or look like them are worthless, portraying a negative behaviour to others. Some of the things I have heard has shocked me but I just put it down to unconscious bias.

No path is ever straight, often with many detours.  Some people are fortunate to have a career plan that meets their goals and never face detours. Well, that’s what they want you to believe. They may not have got that promotion but they are not going to tell you that. They will just tell you that everything they have wanted to achieve they have. Well lucky them! I can sniff out phoniness a mile away. It is like a radar.

Then there are others who are like me that who are dyslexic and blessed with some many other skills and talents that many have never thought is able. Many would see dyslexia as a hindrance others like myself see it as a gift.  We don’t fit into the stereotypical idolisation of what people think we should be. The most famous dyslexic entrepreneur is Richard Branson, many would think he is wacky however look beyond the ‘wackiness’ and you’ll see a genius. Stephen Spielberg (also dyslexic), the movie maker is a genius is worth $3.3 Billion.

Going down a slight different career direction does not mean that we should right off people. When I first started on my career path, I realised that I was destined for greatness; I was and still am very inquisitive and have a passion for learning. Not the traditional way but going to business talks, seminars and attending workshops, implementing what I learn in my career. I looked at my role models and thought I want to be successful like them. I wanted greater challenges that took me out of my comfort zones. I know who I am and what I was created to do which is to make a difference in people’s life not just mine.

I sit at the table (not on the seats at the side) – executive management board – and became a board member for a housing association on a regeneration project which gave me an opportunity to work on a project based in Europe. Then the doors started opening up. I became an Adviser to a CEO and senior management team of a major security organisation in London. Other opportunities since have opened up. I take a lot of my achievements for granted, why? Because I don’t think I am doing anything special but just doing what I am passionate about.

Yet when I am looking for jobs I have been told that my experience is not relevant to my career by recruiters who couldn’t understand how the skills and experience was usually in my career. Even told me “how can a person like you get these positions”! Told to leave it off my CV too.

Come on, get real! I challenge convention, bring ideas to the table, help implement them as a ‘critical friend’ scrutinising the organisation’s performance and offering HR strategic input and advice to the executive team. Using up to date business and people knowledge able to identify and understand key commercial business issues and risks. Improve organisational and people performance, Cultural Change and Structural Change and become more commercial to meet the challenges in London and worldwide

We should not and cannot write off people because they are not ‘like us’ or because they never went to a particular education establishment or worked in a particular sector. Look beyond your reflection in the mirror and see difference is a good thing. Organisations need people from diverse backgrounds with skills and experiences and not clones.

My role models are my ‘other’ mother who lives her life using Emotional Intelligence, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.

The importance of developing yourself



You’ve completed your degree, masters and even a HR qualification and secured your first job. You may even be working in your second HR role. Well done. Many of you have spent months even years studying missed out on a social life, what social life I hear you say and now you want to have fun. Time to pack away your books and start living.  Stop right there!

Continuous Professional Development

Oh no you grown, not more studying. This phrase may hit you between the eyes with a large punch as you thought your studying days were over. The world of business is now global and if you live in a major city with a thriving business culture you will have noticed this.  Africa and India is booming and open for business. The economy of no other continent has grown as rapidly as Africa in the past decade. The tech and digital world is growing at a phenomenal rate in those countries and in America and Europe too.

As a HR professional it is important that you understand the area of business your company operates in or the company you want to work for.  HR can no longer operate in a silo, it needs to fit into the jigsaw puzzle called a business, understanding the important contribution HR makes in the business is imperative. Even if you are a HR Business Partner or HR Manager you need to understand the area of the business you provide a service to and how it fits into the wider business.

So where do you start to get more information? Go back to university/college to do another course? Can’t face that. There are plenty of other options, with smart phones and tablets you can sign up and download various sources of information. TED talks are brilliant, on Youtube you will find talks from numerous thought leaders who are sharing their insights, alternatively sign up to attend networking events and talk to people there exchange business cards/contact numbers, watch business programmes, whatever works for you but find a way to develop yourself. You want up to date information.

Reading business books is another way, either a hard copy or an eBook. Find a person you admire the most and research how they made it. Be sure to read how they failed but got back up. No story is every all pink and fluffy. Don’t wait for your boss to put you on a training course, if you can afford it find a training course locally to attend or do an online course. It is important that you help yourself in your career as waiting for someone else, it may never happen.

How about looking to help out a local charity by becoming a trustee or a non-executive. They are always looking for HR support at strategic level. Perhaps you have never considered this. Think about the contribution you can bring to an organisation, and you’ll be gaining new skills too.

I recall attending my first Management Board meeting as a non-executive. It was nerve racking verging on intimidating as I didn’t know what to expect. Of course I was felt overwhelmed but after a couple of meetings I quickly got my feet under the table and established myself. All my extra-curricular ‘continuous professional development’ activities had prepared me for this.

Learning never stops, life is about choices and opportunities. However, it’s up to you what you decide to do. But don’t get upset when you see your colleagues soaring a head of you. In life you can either suck lemons or eat the honey.

Learning never stops even when faced with rejection


Continuous professional development……

During a discussion with friends who have been job hunting for months, you could become quiet depressed if you overheard the conversation. A couple had been searching for a job for the last 2 years! Yes I said 2 years and others had been successful after a few interviews to secure a job. It may not have been their dream job but a job that pays the bills and gets them out of the house. Are they happy, well I’ll come back to that later.

The couple that had been searching for a job for 2 years have not been sitting idol mopping around and waiting for things to happen. After many unsuccessful interviews and reflecting on the outcomes, they decided to make things happen for themselves. Interviews are a two way process, which many interviewers forget.

Coming from a mix of public and private sector, they were told by recruitment agencies only the last 5 years of experience was relevant even though their experience spanned 20 years between them. Surely that is wrong. They had come from a background where they had learned best practice HR however they were told that they were not ‘commercial’ enough. Fed up with recruitment agencies (their experience maybe different from yours) and being told that they need professional services or financial services experience and the private sector won’t take people with public sector experience they decided to take life by the horns and run with the bulls.

They hitched a plan, as you know nothing happens without a plan and a goal, and a decision to keep working at it. Life gave them lemons but instead of sucking on the bitter taste they looked for honey. A decision was made to learn something new, slightly diversify their careers and even reinvent themselves. In their eyes they retrained.

Thanks to Tony Robbins (http://www.tonyrobbins.com/)  videos and books and other sources they discovered a whole new world. One was very inquisitive and interested in the global world of business and wore different hats in throughout her career. Sat on Boards and Committees, Chaired various conferences and seminars and worked with some high profile internationally known senior people on various projects. All experience is relevant, don’t be told otherwise.

They attended a business leadership course, took themselves off to seminars, workshops, read books, watch business programmes and also worked with their friends who run small businesses. Learning and using their business/people skills.  One got a mentor and the other became a mentor to young people.

Human Resources is no longer just about policies and procedures or disciplinary and grievance hearings. A HR professional must understand the business and what’s going on around it. HR no longer can work in isolation. How businesses operated five years ago is no longer relevant. Innovation and creativity is what is driving the business world and having a ‘stale’ mind which is not open to learning new things is a recipe for disaster.

Business is like a big jigsaw puzzle, for it to be successful everything in it must fit together. In this global changing world the Customer Experience is just as important as employee engagement, as a HR Professional you must understand this. The tech and digital world is moving faster than gold medal winner Usain Bolt. Time waits for no one so it’s down to you to progress your career by learning new things. Continuous professional and personal development is the key to your success.

It’s important for anyone to be constantly learning by using different methods to acquire new information.  Text books are good but by the time they have been printed and read the information can be out of date. If you want to have a successful career you need to ‘put yourself out there’. Be like a sponge, soak up the information and transfer it into your work and even your personal life. Learning never stops!

In the first paragraph I mentioned the friends who had found jobs but sadly they were not happy and now looking for new opportunities. They too have decided to be open to learn new things to enhance their current careers with a possibility with overseas jobs. Time waits for no one, not even a HR professional!