Recently, the words diversity & inclusion have been on everybody’s lips (we also talked about it in a previous article) as people are trying to fight against racism, sexism, etc. When you hear these terms, it’s likely that you’ll feel they don’t apply to you – and that’s normal. Cognitive biases are deeply anchored in our brains and are a kind of mind reflex that exist in order to simplify the information we get from our environment and process it in a more efficient way. They are necessary to our survival, especially when interacting with society. It is an unconscious and automatic process.
Cognitive biases can be varied, we could for example talk about the halo effect, that consists in emphasizing somebody’s characteristics from only one of their traits that we would consider positive. We can also talk about the selection bias, which is the one that gives us the impression that suddenly everybody drives the same car as us whenever we buy a new car.
Cognitive biases are shaped by our education, our environment, our experiences and our culture. We can see it in our language for example by comparing the adjectives chosen to describe a bridge by someone who speaks French – for whom the word is masculine – or someone who speaks German – for whom the word is feminine. The French speaking person will tend to describe the bridge as “strong” or “robust”, while the German speaking person will use words like “pretty” or “elegant”.
During a recruitment process – but also in many other HR processes like performance management – cognitive biases are also present, and it is crucial to be aware of them because they can have important consequences. For example, one might hire the wrong person, resulting in insufficient performance and the necessity to dismiss and re-recruit … All of these elements are costs potentially generated by the biases that have to be taken into account (more information about this here). We naturally function in a biased way, but this often impacts our judgement and can lead to wrong decisions.
If the cognitive biases are automatic and unconscious, then how can we avoid them?
Firstly, we have to become aware of our biases and accept them. They do not define our value, nor does the fact of changing our mind by acquiring new knowledge. It does not make us weak. We will all make mistakes at some points in our lives, but we have to see them as learning opportunities.
It is also important to regularly question ourselves and try to get other points of view by asking others what they think about different situations. Finally, rather than thinking that “curiosity kills the cat”, we can see new interests as something positive and a way to learn more. In this way, we can open our minds , progressively remove the filters that blur our vision and see the world as it really is.
In a hypermobile and connected world like ours, it is essential to open yourself to other cultures, especially when you work daily with people from all origins, like we do at AIMS Switzerland with one of our team members based in South Africa.
« If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. » (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Your AIMS Partner
At AIMS International Switzerland, we support our clients with different HR processes (recruitment, team planification, performance management, promotion, internal development, succession planning, etc.) to allow them to become aware of where the biases can have an impact. In this way, we can help to promote diversity and inclusive practices. We can also organize cognitive biases workshops or use tools like assessments that can shed a new light upon someone and help understand them better. It can be during a recruitment process, for a promotion or as part of an internal development process. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.