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.


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