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30th May 2023
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Understanding Unconscious Bias - Laurence Harvey

30th May 2023

This morning Macildowie hosted the latest event in our Academy Series, ‘Understanding Unconscious Bias’. In simple terms, the session was designed to get us ‘thinking about what we think!’

Hosted by Laurence Harvey, we identified why (in new situations, with new people) we make the assumptions that we do, what underpins those assumptions and how they can influence us to question the ‘truth,’ especially when the truth does not fit with what we ‘expect.’ 

We also enhanced our understanding of how the negative assumptions we have about others, can become prejudices and wherever we have prejudices, there is (more than) a chance that our behaviour towards others can be affected. 

Laurence gave insight into the importance of being aware of our first impressions. He explained that within the first 3-7 seconds of meeting someone, we make assumptions using stereotypes and attitudes and opinions that we have gained, ultimately through our own life experience of other people and previous situations.

These assumptions are also driven on a deeper level too. Our Primal brain, which has evolved over thousands of years, produces ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ survival instincts and these are often framed by whether we perceive the person we are meeting as a friend, or foe.

Flight and Freeze tend to be the natural places we go to keep us safe, which often results in us applying a ‘Halo’ or ‘Horns’ approach. The Halo Effect sees us focus on a particular great feature about the person, meaning we view everything about the person as positive. The Horns Effect is essentially the opposite of this – because we don’t like a particular feature about that person, our view of their other qualities becomes clouded.

This is of particular importance when recruiting. Some of the key takeaways I took from today that you should consider when you are next recruiting are:

  1. You have a candidate on unfamiliar ‘enemy’ territory, sat in front of a ‘panel’ of ‘foes.’ Be empathetic to the fact that they made need to be made to feel more ‘safe’ in order to give their best answers.

  2. Line Managers often recruit ‘in their own mould.’ This exposes your organisation because whether they know it or not, they will be making decisions based on the 9 Protected Characteristics; Race, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Religion or Belief, Age, Disability, Gender Reassignment, Pregnancy/Maternity, Marriage/Civil Partnerships.

  3. Biases are about YOU, not about THEM. YOUR life experiences are forming YOUR assumptions about the candidate’s answers and appearance. Your opinions don’t make you right, in fact, they’re likely to make you wrong!

  4. Hiring for people that EXPAND, not ‘fit’ into your culture, is how you will improve team performance. What you’re ultimately looking for here, is to create a team of diverse perspectives, opinions and experiences. This will cover your individual blind spots, help the team make more effective decisions and generate more creative ideas.

  5. Point 4, also stands true for the design of your interview ‘panel.’

If you were unable to make the event but would like a more detailed conversation about the subject, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or one of the HR team and we would be delighted to talk you through the insights in some more detail!