By Mim Minichiello

There’s a lexicon of diversity that has taken on a whole new relevance in the wake of recent and unprecedented protests across North America. Some employers may not be fluent yet with the terms, what they mean or their implications for the organization and its culture.

Learning the language of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is the first step to making it meaningful to your culture. Here are key terms:

  • Diversity: A variety of differing identities, including race, ethnicity, national origins, age/generation, thinking style, military service experience, religion, gender and/or sexual preferences.
  • Inclusion: The intentional effort of opening the door to and valuing everyone’s contributions – the “how” to make diversity work, the magic that makes it thrive.
  • Equity: Fair treatment and quality of opportunity – the access that ultimately levels the playing field.
  • Upstander: One who speaks up to support a person or cause or intervenes when another is attacked or bullied, versus a bystander. (Also see allyship.)
  • Confirmation bias: The tendency to search for and interpret information that supports our own experiences, “objective” facts and (consciously or not) what we want to hear.

Tackling the Great Impediment – Confirmation Bias

Organizations that embrace diversity as a defining, positive feature of their culture are not only doing the right thing for their diverse employee groups, but they make their businesses stronger. One study, for example, showed that companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. It takes the purposeful mix of inclusion and equity, open systems with strong upstander support to achieve success. But overcoming ingrained confirmation bias is another matter.

How does it play out in employee recruiting? The recruiter assumes a candidate who worked at a name brand company or who got a degree from an elite institution is highly qualified. Conversely, an individual may be ruled out because of a community college education or because a member of the hiring team is not impressed with his or her current employer. If that community college candidate even makes it to the interview, the screener searches for other reasons that supported the initial hypothesis that the person was not ‘bright enough’ to do the job.

Here are three ways to combat confirmation bias in recruitment:

  • Ask neutral questions. Often, even subconsciously, the question you ask depends on the answer you want. Unbiased questions will serve everyone better.
  • Enlist a devil’s advocate, especially for big decisions, for the sake of debate. Contrary evidence or perspectives give a clearer picture.
  • Develop standards and use vetted resources (not one) when necessary. Whether these are government websites or newspapers, they should be checked for indications of confirmation bias in their representations and statements of opposing facts.

HUB International’s Human Resources Consulting professionals offer employers a comprehensive range of human resource strategy and support services in such areas as human capital management, total rewards and HR technology.