While you aim to be fair and non-discriminatory as an employer, you might have blind spots that could trip you up.
For instance, some employers have no qualms asking female candidates during job interviews if they plan to have children and how it will affect their work – but don’t see a need to ask men these questions.
Others believe they have valid reasons to hire people who speak a certain language or come from a similar race or nationality. Probe further, and the reason sounds less valid.
Striving for a youthful and dynamic culture could unwittingly leave out older employees, while having unclear boundaries with subordinates could cause others to believe that connections trump work performance.
There are many examples of biases that could arise in the workplace. As an employer, how can you be more aware of prejudices and put in place fair employment practices?
1. Hiring: Recognise your unconscious bias
It is natural for hiring managers to prefer candidates who mirror their backgrounds. Someone who shares the same experiences or backgrounds is assumed as a better fit.
Some hiring managers hold assumptions about potential job seekers, presuming that those with caregiving responsibilities would be less competent at work, or that only a certain age profile can blend in with the company culture.
These viewpoints form different types of unconscious bias or stereotypes, and hiring decisions based on these perspectives could be discriminatory. To prevent discrimination from taking root, it is imperative to first recognise your bias and take pre-emptive steps to guard against it.
Start by paying attention to your biases by asking yourself: Do I have any bias against a particular group? Do I tend to view them positively or negatively? What are the reasons that drive these preferences? Are these stopping me from evaluating the applicants fairly?
We all have biases or prejudices. However a fair hiring manager will recognise this and intentionally set aside their biases, ensuring candidates are given a fair opportunity to display their strengths and abilities and be assessed fairly and objectively for the job.
Standardising your interview process will also help to eliminate bias. Use competency-based questions to conduct interviews to ensure that candidates are fairly assessed based on merit, such as skills, experience, or ability to perform the job. Also, qualify candidates based on attributes that are critical for them to do the job. Appointing a diverse interview panel can also increase accountability and minimise bias during the interview.
2. Promotion: Performance counts, not connections
How do you decide to promote one employee over another if their work performance is on par? If you eventually select the employee that you are closer to, that may be a form of workplace discrimination.
Such scenarios could also create a culture of compliance, where interpersonal relationships are valued over work capabilities, and opportunities for training and advancement are a direct result of personal rapport.
This could be exacerbated when using a language at the workplace that excludes some employees due to ethnic or cultural differences, further perpetuating the idea of an inner and outer circle. Beyond that, it could affect work performance if employees miss out on essential work-related information, dashing their chance for promotion.
As an employer, assess employees based on objective standards and be transparent in communicating these standards. By doing these, you will maximise the abilities of your workforce, improve morale, and reduce turnover.
3. Feedback avenues: equal access
Communication works both ways, and it is critical to have effective redressal processes for employees to voice their grievances or concerns.
All employees should feel comfortable offering their feedback, and have equal access to channels where they can surface issues to management. More importantly, employees should be able to raise concerns without fear of negative repercussions.
When grievances are raised, they should be recorded properly. Employers should explore with the employee ways to resolve the grievance and ensure confidentiality. For more tips, please refer to TAFEP’s Grievance Handling Handbook.
Be an employer who provides fair opportunity by hiring on merit, promoting on performance and having effective feedback channels. Refer to the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices on how to be a fair employer.
This article is contributed by TAFEP. Learn more about Recruitment, Performance Management and Grievance Handling practices. Find out how to adopt the Tripartite Standards on Recruitment Practices and Grievance Handling.