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Running with blinders on – reducing unintended bias in the workplace

Sometimes lessons present themselves in unexpected places. During a recent live BBC interview with international relations expert Professor Robert Kelly, on the possible impeachment of the South Korean president, two children suddenly burst into view. [...]


Sometimes lessons present themselves in unexpected places.

During a recent live BBC interview with international relations expert Professor Robert Kelly, on the possible impeachment of the South Korean president, two children suddenly burst into view.  Despite the interruption, Professor Kelly tries to continue with the interview, but it is clear that the news anchor has lost all interest in the subject and instead can’t help but focus on the source of the interruption.

Within hours, the clip went viral.

The video raises several questions about parenting styles, working with children, and perhaps most significantly, why everyone assumed the woman who followed the kids into the room and frantically rounded them up was the nanny?

This assumption, has everyone pointing fingers at one another and some commentators going so far as to suggest that we are all guilty of stereotyping. The family themselves aren’t too bothered, and when interviewed, en masse this time, they simply laughed it off. But it does serve as a stark reminder that no matter how open minded or non-judgemental we may feel, we do tend to categorize people.

In the workplace, this can lead to manager bias whereby a person is treated differently because of their age, race, ethnicity, or gender. This bias, or “blinder,” can be a huge challenge for organizations around the globe.

The question therefore is what measures can an organization take to ensure that the “blinders,” whether conscious or unconscious, are removed from workforce decisions?

The answer is technology. We all need to be using smart, common-sense technology to connect ‘people’ data to ‘numbers’ data and then basing decisions on this, rather than human instinct.

A simple example of this is to leverage a workforce management capability like occurrence tracking. Occurrence tracking gives managers, at their fingertips, objective data that removes subjectivity from tasks like performance reviews by including information like number of absences, how many times they helped their peers with shift trades and so forth.

Another example is scheduling. From within scheduling, managers can leverage capabilities to assign tasks by seniority, skill, and certification rather than selecting an employee because the supervisor is friends with them.

Additionally, providing employees with the self-service capability allows them to indicate their availability and therefore have a say in the schedule, rather than leaving it to a manager’s assumptions. Such assumptions can lead to bias if, for example, a manager decides that a student cannot do an early morning shift because of school.

With “blinders-free” data, managers can not only make decisions that are unbiased and based on fact rather than opinion, it also provides them with tangible evidence for any decisions. As the BBC video shows, we have a long way to go before we can completely and accurately say that bias no longer exists. But in the meantime, we can continue to use technology to progress and move toward a “blinder-free” workplace.

Read about some other trends and continue the conversation with us by requesting a demo.

5 Talent Technology Trends that Matter in 2014

So many talent technology “trends,” so little time. Wasn’t technology supposed to give us more time?

So many talent technology “trends,” so little time. Wasn’t technology supposed to give us more time?

The rapid pace of technology development can make it difficult and time consuming to keep up with the latest and greatest and understand what’s really going to help you achieve your HR and talent management goals. To help (and give you back some of that mythical “time” you were promised) we’ve identified five HR technology trends that will really matter in 2014 and beyond.

    1. Global, Virtual Work – Reports of the death of “work from home” have been greatly exaggerated
      Virtual work is here to stay. Though some organizations (Yahoo, HP) made news last year by eliminating the work-from-home option, many others are increasing their virtual workforce. Benefits of supporting a virtual workforce include significant cost reduction ($11,000 per employee, per year), less absenteeism, and retention, as, according to PWC’s 2013 NextGen: A Global Generational Study, many employees would choose work flexibility over pay.
    2. Collaborative Productivity – More than social for social’s sake
      A 2012 McKinsey study found that implementing social, collaborative technology can increase productivity by 25% and those organizations that don’t are missing out on their piece of $1.3 trillion in untapped value. And just having a discussion forum doesn’t count.
    3. Context-Aware User Experience – Tools that people use because they want to
      Context-aware HR solutions deliver hyper-personalized information and recommendations that increase the productivity of every employee, where and when the employee needs it. So instead of one-size-fits-all learning or talent programs, your employees get a unique experience personalized to their needs, and managers get the in-context information and recommendations they need to better manage their teams. The result? People will actually USE your HR systems and programs – and not just because you make them. When adoption rises, so does productivity and ROI.
    4. Analytics – Big data doesn’t have to be complicated data
      Organizations that use workforce analytics to effectively leverage their workforce see higher quality, productivity, customer satisfaction and market share, according to a recent Harvard Business Review survey. Unfortunately, most organizations have employee data siloed in 3 or more HR systems, as well as other internal and external systems, making effective workforce analytics seem like an impossible dream. New technology is available now to help you solve this without the expense and risk that comes with HRIS consolidation projects. Just read the whitepaper.
    5. The Cloud – Still unsure? You’re not alone
      The Cloud – specifically the public Cloud or SaaS has been a strong trend for a few years now and will continue in the future. The potential cost savings, scalability and flexibility make it the right deployment choice for many. However, there are some organizations that aren’t ready for the public cloud yet for a variety of reasons.CedarCrestone found that less than 18% of HRMS deployments are in the cloud, so if you are still on the fence – you’re not the only one. If you aren’t ready yet, be sure that your HR solution provider offers a choice of deployment — public, private (hosted), a combination (hybrid) or on-premise. The choice should be yours, and your vendor should support your needs today and have the ability to adapt as your requirements change.


To learn more about each of the above trends, read “Cut Through the Noise: 5 Talent Technology Trends That Matter.”