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Stripping Away Bias, One Avatar at a Time

Stripping Away Bias, One Avatar at a Time

What will the future of the workplace look like post COVID-19? This is the million-dollar question on everyone’s minds! While the logistics of returning to work are the primary focus, a beautiful opportunity is arising within diversity and inclusion.

For the first time ever, most everyone has become an avatar. Avatars have no color, no gender, no sexual orientation, no height, no weight. And yes, while we are asking people to turn on their cameras, the small image behind the screen leaves much unseen.

For the first time ever, we can evaluate a person’s performance based on their productivity and quality of work, rather than their performance under the influence of conscious and unconscious biases.

How will this shift in culture affect the future of the workplace? While it’s too soon to tell the long-term effects of COVID-19, I believe the effects of the virtual workplace will create an opportunity for compensation to join the other progressive fields of human resources.

How has human resources progressed in creating a personalized and transparent experience for employees?

It’s as I explained to Nima Veiseh, a notable scientist who challenged me throughout this article. Nima uses math and memory to tell human stories in a visual way. I am flipping the script and using human stories to show the financial impact of more intangible factors, like personalization, to the more tangible factors, like compensation.

[Related: Three Ways to Use Storytelling in Your Technical Communications]

Talent acquisition.

Applicant Tracking Systems offer personalized experiences for candidates when they apply to a job posting. When a pilot applies to an opportunity, their process is tailored specifically to their role. This includes everything from photos to assessment questions.

In terms of transparency, job descriptions are used to outline a role’s requirements and expectations. Additional resources, such as Glassdoor, provide a platform for candidates to read reviews about employee experiences to ensure the company practices what they preach.

Learning and development.

When an employee is hired, and throughout their tenure, they are required to take various compliance and training courses. Although some training is required across the board, these trainings are now widely personalized based on the employee’s role and requirements.


The Benefits Exchange Platform now provides recommendations on which health benefits an employee should select based on their life choices. A single skydiver’s plan will look different than a married new father’s plan!

Pricing is transparent throughout the process, and employees get to see how the recommendations change based on their selections. Check out Jellyvision’s Alex, who engages with employees as they make their selections.

[Related: Five Reasons Reviewing Your Company is the Best Career Move You Can Make]


Overall, compensation has kept a standard and streamlined structure. We have seen a few additions for hard-to-fill positions and executive levels, however, compensation is designed as a “one size fits all” structure.

The Coronavirus effect of a virtual workplace is providing us an opportunity to flex our traditional structure to the needs of our workforce. How can the effects of a virtual workplace lead us to a path of compensation equality, a more engaged workforce, and a decrease in turnover costs?

A 2017 Mercer trend study showed the following:

  • 97% of employees want to be recognized and rewarded for a wide range of contributions.
  • Fair and competitive compensation ranked #1 for employees in Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States.
  • Transparency on pay calculations ranked #1 for employees in Japan.


Organizations run market data on open roles and provide market ranges for hiring managers and recruiters to use when they discuss and extend offers. The challenge is, numerous external factors influence an offer. External factors can be everything from budget limitations and internal equity concerns to conscious and unconscious bias.

Additionally, many hiring managers are not well-versed in the art and science of market data and best practices around compensation. Humans have a tendency to gravitate to what Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow as cognitive ease:

Anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs.

Rather than using market data, hiring managers tend to offer candidates compensation based on their own past compensation or a person’s previous compensation, which is the cognitive bias of anchoring.

If organizations post roles and ranges internally and externally, employees and candidates can then have authentic conversations to fine-tune where they align within the market range, based on their experience and education. This makes the compensation conversation data driven vs. emotionally driven.


Progressive organizations are moving toward a “total rewards” model where their employees now receive a package of benefits. As younger generations enter the workforce, these packages continue to expand with requests for unlimited PTO, casual attire, and flexible work schedules, to name a few.

With the virtual workforce driving organizations forward during COVID-19, personalization has never been more relevant. Employees are starting to look at how the future of the workforce will accommodate their needs to be productive. What might be of value to one person is completely different to the next.

Flexibility to personalize each employee’s experience is key! What an awesome opportunity for organizations to evaluate what their employees need to thrive and allow them the ability to design their own compensation to drive productivity. Organizations can then quantify each request and allot a compensation amount to each factor.

The effects of Coronavirus are providing organizations an opportunity to gather data to better understand how productively their employees are performing and align their employee’s compensation with data. Adjusting to this new normal is an opportunity to end compensation inequalities, increase productivity and retention, and decrease turnover costs.

As Willis Towers Watson says in Evolving the Employee Benefit Mindset & Strategy: The Future Arrived Yesterday:

To evolve, benefit leaders must explore the need to move their programs beyond the status quo. They must consider how benefits align with a) organizational purpose, brand and value proposition; b) workforce strategy; and c) personalized Total Rewards.

[Related: 10 Ways to Improve Your Company's Diversity Results]


Rebecca Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of Laugh Thru LifeShe is an award-winning keynote speaker, certified coach with the International Coaching Federation, and published writer.

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