Skip to main content

How to Audit Your Company for Unconscious Bias

How to Audit Your Company for Unconscious Bias

A strong DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) strategy is not just a tick box on your corporate agenda – it relates directly to creating customer trust and competitive advantage. Find out how to assess whether bias may be holding back progress and performance in your organization with this deep dive self-audit toolkit.

Using this toolkit, examine three key areas of your company, asking the team the pertinent questions required to uncover bias. Ingrained biases serve to favor the career development of certain team members while impeding the progress of others and perpetuating blind spots in best practice and performance. These same biases promote similar, more narrow opinions, ideas, and approaches, blocking innovation and diverse thought processes.

Our questions help to review practices, processes, and policies through a bias lens, ask if there could be segments of your employees who may be quietly struggling, and most importantly, take a good, hard look at your company analytics to validate where appropriate or drill down on the otherwise unknown.

[Related: Diversity is an Outcome]

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is comprised of the thoughts, attitudes, or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions, shaping our interactions with other people both personally and professionally.

According to Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School:

Unconscious biases have a critical and 'problematic' effect on our judgment. They cause us to make decisions in favor of one person or group to the detriment of others.

Unconscious bias should not absolve people of discriminatory behavior; we all have the ability to control and change the way we act. Our biases are activated involuntarily. It requires conscious action to, first of all, become aware of them, and then be able to discuss what is happening and take responsibility.

Self-audit questions.

Have a bias toward action - let's see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away. -Indira Ghandhi (Named among the world's 100 powerful women who defined the last century by Time magazine 2020)

[Related: These Five Cognitive Biases are Affecting Your Career and Life Right Now]

1) HR.

  • When was the last time your company policies and procedures were reviewed by the team performing the tasks?
  • When was the last time the teams were asked how relevant/productive the policies have been in getting the job done?
  • How diverse is your HR team?
  • Does your recruitment process have measures in place that reduce the % element of personal preference and stereotyping, and increase the focus on skill and aptitude assessment e.g. diverse selection panel, structured interviews, blind screening, etc.?
  • How often do you update your training plans to reflect the current, specific needs of your team?
  • What lessons from employees have you learned about what is working and what is not?
  • Does your company still expect people to be tethered to their computers in back-to-back meetings?
  • Have you taken into account distance learning, WFH, and more flexible environments?
  • When was the last time you reviewed salary structures, reward policies, and the company’s promotion/succession strategy?
  • What is your employee turnover %, and does your HR team know exit reasons and leaver breakdown?

2) Management.

  • How have employee reviews and management changed?
  • How much time is being spent by management to understand who is falling behind in the new normal and who is thriving?
  • Do old communication techniques need to be reconsidered, and what has been working?
  • How does front-line feedback reach the management team?
  • What is the structure of your decision-making meetings and processes?
  • How is informal and informal performance feedback given?
  • How have the added pressures to make up the numbers and regain market share been managed by the leadership team?
  • How in tune is your leadership with your customer demographics?
  • How are you tracking VOC (Voice of Customer)?

3) Operations teams.

  • How have your in-house teams such as finance, facilities, administration, product, IT, and marketing been handling and pivoting to meet demands?
  • Have they been working effectively remotely?
  • Have you had to bring them back to the office?
  • How are the pressures of the new normal affecting their performance, mood, outlook?
  • Do we know what demonstrable impact each employee’s work has on sales, revenues, morale?
  • How has customer behavior changed, and have you changed company behavior to match it?

Recap.

Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply. -Stephen Covey

Just because a bias is unconscious does not mean that it is not within our control. Some solutions work to counter its effect, and it is important to take the time and effort to find them. Positive relationships at work create a sense of belonging, and the importance of belonging is universal and leads to greater teamwork and enhanced productivity and innovation.

Auditing your company for bias means you'll be better equipped to start making fairer, more productive decisions in the workplace. When was the last time you audited your company? It is vital if you care about creating and maintaining an environment that your people can thrive and do their best work in.

[Related: Achieving Workplace Inclusion: Three Steps Toward a Sustainable Organization]

--

Audrey Hametner is a global leader in operations, governance, and risk management, drawing on over 23 years of experience as an international operations strategist and NED. A certified Six Sigma Black Belt with an honors degree from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Imperial College London, she has managed teams across the globe, including India, Europe, Middle East, USA, Canada, and Singapore. She is a regular keynote speaker and panelist on business platforms, specializing in best practices that are relevant and responsive to changing customer demands.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

{{playbook.title}}

Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook: