Unconscious Bias

I am sure many of you have come across the term unconscious bias in recent times, but do we all know what it means, the affects it has on our people and what we can do to overcome it to improve business performance?

Unconscious bias occurs when people make decisions based on implied prejudices regarding race, gender, age, social class, educational achievement and accent, amongst other things.  It is likely that people will recruit based on people who are like themselves – this can include proximity to their own age or similar academic backgrounds, rather than an individual’s capability and suitability to perform a role – affinity bias. There can be a tendency to believe that a person can fulfil a role simply because you like them – halo effect. Or, judgements can be based on stereotypes and pre-conceived assumptions about a particular group of people – perception bias.

Such decisions become more prevalent when people are multi-tasking and/or working under time pressures – an environment most project managers will be familiar with!

It is important to recognise that unconscious bias is a natural phenomenon and often unintended, but the impact on affected groups can be unfair and demotivating for individuals, as well as leading to narrow minded and sub-optimal business decisions. It is also recognised that innovation and creativity flourishes when team members come from a variety of backgrounds with a wealth of differing experiences.

According to McKinsey’s ‘Delivering Through Diversity’ report, companies with the most ethnically diverse teams are 33% more profitable, outperforming groups of people with high ability, but from similar backgrounds.

It is also proven that diverse teams will have greater empathy towards a broader range of team members and clients with differing cultures and beliefs.

At CPC. we are conscious of the changes we need to make to improve in this respect, but we recognise that such changes cannot happen overnight.  In the past 12 months we have seen significant improvements in our gender mix, with women now representing 25% of our business overall, compared to industry averages of between 8%-16% in engineering, rail and construction.  We have also increased our BAME representation to 1 in 7, which compares to 1 in 5 for London, the region with the largest BAME population in the UK.

We will continue to improve on these numbers with a focus on promoting more people from diverse backgrounds to senior and leadership positions.

Looking to the future, we must ensure that we apply fair and objective practices to recruit and promote people from all backgrounds based on their capability to do the job and strive to encourage diverse, inclusive and high performing teams that will develop our business and continue providing exemplar services to our clients.

Date: 31/10/2018
Category: Steve's Blog