Emtrain Blog

Top Questions HR Professionals Are Asking About Workplace Bias

Posted by Sam Keshavarz

July 16, 2015

How do I stop workplace bias?

During our latest webinar, we gave attendees the opportunity to ask the former Dir. of the DFEH, Phyllis Cheng and Eileen Carey (co-founder of Glassbreakers) any questions they had about preventing bias in the workplace. Here are the top attendee questions with answers from our illustrious experts.

Questions HR professionals are asking about workplace bias:

Disclaimer: Phyllis and Eileen's answers are intended as general guidance only and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice.

1. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to legally gather information in the workplace about the protected characteristics of your employees (e.g., gender, race, national origin, etc.)?

How can I legally collect employee data?

Phyllis Cheng: Yes. As a best practice, you should clearly communicate that self-identification is optional and is not a required activity. I've included a sample self-identification form here. Also, ensure only those people who need to know have access to this sensitive information, as you don't want this information influencing managers' perceptions or evaluations of the people reporting to them.

2. Do you have suggestions on the best way to market a new mentoring program to get adoption?

How do I encourage mentorship in my company?

Eileen Carey: Yes. You need to drive engagement in order to get adoption. The best way to engage is to get people thinking and talking about what it means to be more inclusive.

Emtrain has a great free bias video designed to spark the dialog (we'll be sending it to you soon). I suggest publishing that video or any other video to get people thinking and talking about these issues. If you don’t end up using a video, try to use clever images and text.

After you've started the dialog, you should introduce the new mentoring program as a component of an overall strategy to support each other and build a more inclusive business culture. As discussed in our webinar, a bottom-up effort of support and mentoring is more sustainable than a centralized top-down approach.

If sponsoring or facilitating a mentoring program, encourage people to connect with different types of people to broaden their networks. In the webinar, people discussed the importance of evidence-based decision-making to minimize the impact of subconscious bias. 

3. Can you provide any tools or framework to help my managers make better decisions?

What are some tools I can give managers for better decision-making?

Phyllis:  Yes. The key is to ask whether each management decision is based on objective facts or if it’s based on feelings or hunches.

Feelings are emotional and often tied with our comfort level (or lack thereof) with certain people. Typically, we feel more comfortable with people similar to us since shared characteristics (interests, communication styles, and perspective) can make it easy to connect.  

But just because it’s easy to connect with someone doesn’t mean you’re making a sound business decision that will foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Therefore, you should always:  

  1. Focus on business requirements first, and whether someone’s skills and ability meet your business requirements before assessing personality.
  2. Have at least a second or third person independently assess the situation and provide their opinion (and explanation for their opinion) as to the best course of action. Compare the other opinions and explanations.  
  3. When assessing a particular situation, always ask yourself how much your evaluation is or is not influenced by a specific personality versus specific abilities and job performance? Self-correct and adjust to focus inquiry on job performance.  


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Topics: HR Compliance, Talent Management, Business Compliance, People Skills, diversity training, diversity