Human beings are predisposed to categorize people unfairly.
HR actions are necessary to ensure equity.
Values Differences is defined as: Recognizing the value that different perspectives and cultures bring to an organization.
Somebody who is skilled in valuing differences:
Seeks to understand different perspectives and cultures.
Contributes to a work climate where differences are valued and supported.
Applies others’ diverse experiences, styles, backgrounds, and perspectives to get results.
Is sensitive to cultural norms, expectations, and ways of communicating.
We all have biases. It’s a part of our human nature. Understanding bias is one of the keys to ensuring that we don't unfairly categorize groups of people, or hurt our diversity efforts.
When you think about the history of homo sapiens, bias makes logical sense. Humans were predisposed to be cautious of new things. One wrong move could result in death or illness. Being biased about other tribes of homo sapiens was actually an evolutionary trait that allowed for species survival. However, in 2020, this is more detrimental to society than it is beneficial to survival, so we have to be made aware of bias and actively work to eliminate it in our work.
One area of unconscious bias is the fundamental attribution error. Fundamental attribution error is the tendency for people to overemphasize positional or personality based explanations for behavior observed in others, while under emphasizing situational explanations. In other words, people have a bias to assume that a person's actions depend on what kind of person that is rather than on the societal and environmental forces that influence the person.
An example of the fundamental attribution error would be to assume that all people from a certain generation have the same level of work ethic. For instance, if somebody was born before 1980, you may assume they are hard workers because of the age they grew up in. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Next time somebody uses the term "Millennial" in a derogatory way, you will realize this is a prime example of this form of bias.
Another example of bias is something called the “halo effect”, the halo effect in simple terms, is the fact that we tend to like people who are like us. When we meet new people who share similar backgrounds, look similar to us, and think similarly to us. We tend to want to be around them, and we tend to like them more. While this is a totally normal human behavior, in organizations, it can be detrimental and hurt an organization's ability to attain their goals.
An example of the “Halo effect” would be if you are interviewing somebody for a job, and they started their career at the same company you did. You may assume that they have similar traits to you. You are likely to treat that candidate more fairly than somebody else, if you aren’t aware of the potential bias. If you aren't actively aware of this bias, you will likely make poor hiring decisions.
One of the biggest missteps I see in HR is hiring somebody for "Culture fit". This never made sense to me. Some company cultures are great, and hiring people that "fit" into that culture seems to make sense. However, if you hire for "fit", you are going to be hiring more of the same types of people. Long term, this will inhibit innovation, develop an extremely homogenous culture, and will hurt any diversity efforts you may have. I prefer to hire a "Culture Builder". This is somebody who will bring something different and helpful into a culture.
We all have implicit biases which affect the way we live and work in the world. Identifying how these biases may negatively affect workers and the bottom line is pivotal in the development of workplace equality. Implicit bias often runs counter to people's conscious, expressed beliefs.
Here is a video from psychologist Daniel Kelly describing this in more detail: https://youtu.be/OoBvzI-YZf4
I'm the Vice President - Human Resources for CPM Holdings, Inc. In this role, I oversees the aspects of Human Resources for 27 domestic and international locations in 11 countries. I've previously held progressive HR roles for Fortune 500 organizations.