We all make judgments about others, whether we mean to or not. Unconscious biases can profoundly impact who gets hired, who gets promoted, and who gets left behind.
For example, we may be more likely to assume a woman is compassionate and collaborative, but a man is ambitious and aggressive, traits we often associate with leadership. When we evaluate talent accordingly, the result is missed opportunities. These little, often unconscious assumptions, start at the top, can add up, and cascade throughout an organization’s talent management systems.
Catalyst has just released our newest toolkit called Break the Cycle—Eliminating Gender Bias in Talent Management Systems. Our new infographic and accompanying Supporter-only tools explain how gender bias can seep into talent management systems and provide in-depth strategies to eliminate it.
Here are five things you need to know to Break the Cycle:
- Biases Can Affect Everyone in an Organization The cycle works like this: Since senior leaders are still predominantly men, they may also tend to value and reward the behaviors and skills that helped them to be successful. Human Resources teams translate these behaviors and skills into talent management programs, processes, and tools. Managers use those tools and processes to evaluate their direct reports. Finally, all employees are evaluated with those biased tools and processes, and the ones that reflect the values built into the system are promoted. And the cycle repeats. But people at all levels can help break this cycle.
- Senior Leaders Can Take Action Senior leaders set the tone for behaviors, values, and expectations at their organizations by what they say and what they do. To reduce the impact of their own bias on talent decisions, they can assess how they’re making their judgment calls and develop an action plan to make sure they don’t fall back on instinctual or gut-reactions about how to behave, what to say, and who to give opportunities to. Put simply, senior leaders should model inclusion by making sure everyone they champion doesn’t look like them, and our tool offers an easy way to start.
- HR Experts Can Change Their Processes Our tool for HR experts asks questions at each step of the recruitment process to close the gaps where biases can seep in. Additionally, it contains templates to help eliminate bias in interviews and candidate assessments. When it comes to eliminating bias, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, but there are checks to add that will make the process more equal and inclusive.
- Managers Can Hold Themselves Accountable It can be easy for a busy manager to miss what’s not right in front of them. Some of their direct reports may have no problem trumpeting their successes, but others might not be used to doing so. It’s important to make sure direct reports are all receiving the development they need because it benefits them as individuals but also benefits teams. Our tool for managers helps them keep track of which of their direct reports are getting which types of development and how much.
- We Can All Do More Employees at all levels can benefit from the elimination of biases in their organization’s talent management systems. A truly equal organization is a place where all talent can thrive. You can start today by taking the time to examine your assumptions and ask yourself why you gravitate toward certain coworkers over others, who you haven’t tried to connect with, and who might need your support. And if you want to help eliminate biases in your organization’s talent management systems, share these tools with your HR department, your managers, and your senior leaders. You too can be a catalyst for change.