Awareness is key to resolving unconscious bias in the workplace

How to create an inclusive and accessible workplace for all

Unconscious biases are judgements and opinions that are subconsciously built up over a lifetime.

Unfortunately, they have the power to negatively influence the recruitment process and dissuade employers from choosing the best person for the position.

“This issue affects a wide range of demographics including those living with disability who have been subject to a significant and persistent gap in employment over the past three decades,” says Debbie Brooks National Diversity Employer Manager, atWork Australia.

“In my experience, business leaders want to create open and inclusive workplaces and simply want to find the right person for the job. Unfortunately, the data indicates that this simply isn’t happening, as those with disability are less likely to land a job than the average Australian. As such, we see unconscious bias playing an underlying role in recruitment choices.”

While unconscious biases can be damaging, it is important to understand that they are not malicious in their intent, continues Debbie: “Unconscious biases are social stereotypes that we all create to help us to understand and categorise the world around us, based on our past experiences. They are
useful when they work, but can be detrimental if not properly scrutinised.

“In terms of disability, this could be an unconscious assumption that it will be harder to work with someone with disability, where in fact data shows, that in nine out of 10 cases (90%), employees with disability, injury or health condition are as, or more, productive than their peers and almost the
same number (86%) show superior attendance. What’s more, they generate less turnover and fewer workplace injuries than other workers.”

As EAs can be involved in the recruiting process, it’s critical that you remain open-minded, particularly when reviewing applications and CVs to avoid limiting their accessing a broader talent pool.

Tools such as atWork Australia’s recently launched disability awareness online training, empowers businesses to build a more accessible and inclusive workplace and confidently support their
employees with disability.

Debbie suggests employers adopt the following strategies to remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process:

Make data driven decisions
Making decisions based on fact and data, and not personal opinion is vital.

Standardise the interview process
Structure interviews, so candidates are asked the same set of questions to minimise biases and focus on the factors that matter to the role.

Remove Gendered Wording
With recent years showing only 49% of women with disability participating in the labour force, compared to 57% for men with disability, deep rooted beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes are still prevalent. Employers need to encourage more females to apply, which can be done by
writing gender-neutral job vacancies, removing gender specific job titles and any masculine words.

Build an interview panel
Involve other team members in the interview process so there are varied perspectives.

Change up the processes
Blind interviews for instance, are a great example of removing identifying information from job applications, such as name, gender, age, disability, and even schools, in favour of focusing on skills, abilities and experience alone.