Unconscious Bias and People Strategy: Challenges and Opportunities

Many organizations want to be more diverse. How do you translate good intentions and desire into everyday actions? Here are a few ways you can build greater inclusion and diversity in your organization through every step of your recruiting, retention, and development process.


  • Diversity of slate/pool of candidates—is there a conscious effort to bring in diverse slates? What is the outcome or success rate of those interviews? Are search firms expected to provide diverse slates?
  • What is the comfort level of interviewers with people different from themselves, e.g., verbal and non-verbal interaction with candidate, ability to make small talk?
  • How do biases about names play out?
  • What is the image of qualified candidates?
  • What assumptions are made about fit for positions? Do people look for/talk about finding “qualified” women or people of color, but don’t use same language about whites or men?
  • Do people question a woman’s ability to travel and work early/late without asking men the same question or expressing the same concerns?


  • Are leaders held accountable for developing people?
  • What is their track record in terms of retaining diverse talent? Promoting diverse talent?
  • Who is getting coaching? Mentoring? Sponsorship?
  • Who is getting “stretch” assignments? Who is defined as “not ready yet”?
  • Who gets benefit of the doubt? Expected to sink or swim?


  • Looking at engagement scores and other surveys, are there differences related to identity groups? Levels? Other demographics?
  • Are people willing to speak up and make problems visible with respect to achieving business goals?
  • Is it safe to raise issues related to inclusion and diversity (and unconscious bias) in the organization?


  • How is performance described? Is style a factor? e.g., Are women more likely to be described as “too soft” or “too aggressive”? Are people of color described as “articulate”? Does “fit” come up more often related to women and people of color?
  • How honest is feedback across differences? Are people getting ongoing feedback and benefit of the doubt?
  • If biases are expressed in talent reviews, is someone willing to call them out and are others open to hearing the feedback?
  • How diverse is the succession pipeline? Are some roles stereotyped more frequently as “women’s” or “men’s’ roles?


  • Are managers-leaders rewarded (bonuses, performance discussions) for hiring, coaching, and developing diverse individuals and teams?
  • When individuals are considered for promotion, is their ability to attract, develop, and retain diverse individuals and teams considered?


  • Do leaders at all levels reflect the diversity the organization needs for success?
  • Are leaders developed to successfully attract, retain, develop, and energize diverse individuals and teams?
  • Are leaders creating the pipeline the organization needs for the future? Are they rewarded for getting results with a focus on both the WHAT and the HOW?
  • Are leaders exploring their own biases? Exploring bias within their teams and openly addressing issues?

The above was created by Grainger and adapted and used with permission by The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc.


Alison VanDerVolgenComment