Managing Unconscious Bias to Achieve Your Diversity Goals

As a manager, developing the team is now one of your responsibilities, and you’ve decided, based on the research, that you want that team to be diverse. From sourcing diverse candidates into your pipeline to facilitating an inclusive work environment for your minority reports, Megan Anctil, an Operations Engineer at Slack, provided some excellent recommendations at Calibrate for building a diverse team.

This is the ninth of a twelve-part series covering the sessions from Calibrate, an engineering leadership conference held September, 2015 in San Francisco.

Unconscious Bias

Even organizations with good intentions can fall short of their diversity goals. Unconscious bias affects the way we perceive the candidates in our interview pipeline and the coworkers we see every day. One manifestation of this is performance bias, where white men are evaluated on their potential for future success while minorities are evaluated on their existing track record.

This one bias can heavily contribute to hiring and promotion decisions that perpetuate a homogenous organization and make it less welcoming for diverse employees. To combat these biases, organizations like Facebook, Google, and Pinterest are providing unconscious bias training to employees. As Megan points out, being reminded that you have these biases is one way of suppressing their effect.

For the rest of us that may be trying to simply hire the first diverse engineer to the team, there are plenty of small ways to start building your team with diversity in mind.

Write it Down

Rubrics and guidelines are one way that Megan suggests we combat unconscious biases. If you’re explicit about what standards for acceptable performance are in an interview, interviewers are less likely to go on ‘gut feelings’ that may be more biased or based on the 'fit’ of your existing team. Similarly, review your policies for promotions. Make it clear what an individual needs to do in order to advance, and you’re more likely to fairly promote.

Managing unconscious bias is only one of the ways we can help increase the diversity of our teams, for more ideas on how to source, interview, and retain a diverse team watch Megan’s full talk.