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Karl Wood on Combating Bias in HR for Fairer Hiring

Karl Wood on Combating Bias in HR for Fairer Hiring
Photo Courtesy: John Ferguson

By: Hannah Scott

When people witness a company’s success, they all praise the CEO and other decision-makers. Rightfully so, ultimately, their strategy sets the tone for the company’s success. However, the role of employees and expert teams is equally important. These are the people who translate the top management’s vision into reality.

In this regard, the HR team must be thanked as well. They are the ones who take due diligence to recruit the talent that’s fit for the company. The HR team is always on the move to ensure that the company and the employees are on the same page.

That said, achieving this is far easier said than done. There are several challenges they have to overcome in this pursuit. From finding and retaining the right talent to following the company’s policies and ensuring others do, their job is pretty daunting. However, many HR professionals highlight another challenge that creates a hindrance in their tasks: psychological bias. 

Psychological biases can subtly influence judgment. And that kind of involuntary bias is the last thing you need for effective HR management.

HR expert Karl Wood shares some insights to discuss this problem and how HR professionals can navigate it. He is the founder of WINC HR and has over 25 years of diverse global experience, from HR management at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company to heading HR services at the European Olympics 2015. Wood is familiar with all shades of the HR field.

Understanding Psychological Biases in HR

Psychological biases are mental shortcuts our brain takes to make decision-making more efficient. However, in HR, these shortcuts can lead to making unfair decisions, affecting hiring, promotions, and employee relations. Common biases include Confirmation Bias, Affinity Bias, Halo Effect, and Anchoring Bias.

Wood emphasizes the importance of awareness in combating these biases. “The first step is acknowledging that everyone has biases,” he says. “It’s a part of human nature. But in HR, our goal should be to minimize their impact on our decisions.”

Strategies for Navigating Biases

According to Wood, HR professionals can follow these methods to minimize biases.

1. Structured Interviews

Professionals can ensure consistency and fairness by using a standardized set of questions for every candidate. Structured interviews focus on the skills and experiences relevant to the job, reducing the influence of irrelevant factors.

2. Diverse Hiring Panels

Involving diverse people in the hiring process can provide multiple perspectives. They can bring different viewpoints, which can help balance out individual biases.

3. Blind Recruitment

Removing identifying details like name, age, and gender from applications can help focus on the candidate’s qualifications. While this may not be suitable in some fields, it does ensure that the person is evaluated based on their merits, not their identity.

4. Bias Training

Regular training sessions on recognizing and combating biases can keep the HR team vigilant. They can also create awareness within the team and provide strategies to address the biases that might arise.

Beyond Hiring: Continuous Improvement

Navigating biases isn’t a one-time effort but an ongoing process. “Biases can creep into performance reviews, promotions, and even daily interactions,” Wood warns. He recommends regular audits of HR processes to identify and address areas where biases might influence decisions.

Feedback Mechanisms

Implementing robust feedback mechanisms where employees can voice concerns about bias can also play an instrumental role. “Encouraging open dialogue helps surface issues that might not be visible otherwise,” Wood suggests. “It’s about creating a culture where everyone feels heard and valued.”

Final Thoughts

Karl Wood’s extensive experience highlights the need for a proactive approach to navigating psychological biases in HR. Awareness, structured processes, diverse teams, and continuous improvement are key. “Ultimately, it’s about fairness and ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity,” he concludes. That’s why he pays special attention to minimizing biases among his teams of HR professionals at WINC HR.

For HR professionals, the responsibility lies in continuously striving for fairness and inclusivity. They must recognize that while biases are a natural part of human psychology, their influence can and should be managed. By adopting these strategies, HR can improve decision-making and contribute to a more equitable workplace.

Published by: Martin De Juan

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