Learning & Development Asia 2024
Overcoming blind spots: 3 tips to prevent workplace discrimination
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Overcoming blind spots: 3 tips to prevent workplace discrimination

As an employer, how can you be more aware of prejudices and put in place fair employment practices? Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices shares a guide. 

Most employers aim to be fair and do right by their employees. However, are you aware of the blind spots that could derail your fair employment journey?

For instance, some employers do not hesitate to ask female job candidates if they plan to have children and how it could affect their work. At the same time, they do not see a need to ask male candidates the same questions.

Others believe they have valid reasons to hire people who speak a certain language or come from a similar race or nationality. Such beliefs usually crumble upon further probing.

There are other examples of biases. Striving for a youthful and dynamic culture could unwittingly cause older employees to feel a generational gap, while forming close friendships with subordinates could cause others to believe that connections trump work performance.

As an employer, how can you be more aware of prejudices and put in place fair employment practices? Here are three tips to prevent workplace discrimination.

1. Hiring: Recognising your unconscious bias

Hiring managers may naturally 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: they will be less likely to perform as well due to their caregiving responsibilities, or only a certain age profile will be able to 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 making hiring decisions based on these perspectives.

Start by paying attention to what your biases are by asking yourself these questions: 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 preferences stopping me from evaluating the applicants fairly?

We recognise that we all have biases or prejudices. But fair hiring managers will recognise this and intentionally set aside their biases or preferences, ensuring candidates are given fair opportunities to display their strengths and abilities and be assessed fairly and objectively for the job.

Standardising your interview process will also help to eliminate biases. Use competency-based questions to conduct interviews to ensure that candidates are fairly assessed based on merit (skills, experience, or ability to perform the job) and attributes that are critical for them to do the job. Appointing a diverse interview panel increases accountability and minimises bias during the interview.

2. Promotion: Performance over connections

How do you decide to promote one employee over another if their work performance is on par? It could boil down to who you are closer to, but that may in fact be a form of workplace discrimination.

In such scenarios, it could also create a culture of favouritism, where interpersonal relationships are valued over job performance, and opportunities for training and advancement are a direct result of personal rapport.

This could worsen by using a language at the workplace that some are not familiar with, further perpetuating the idea of an inner and outer circle. Beyond that, it could affect work performance or even promotion opportunities if employees miss out on essential work-related information.

Hence, it is crucial to assess employees based on objective standards. Having open and transparent communication of these standards is important as well. By doing these, you will maximise the abilities of your workforce, improve morale, and reduce turnover.

3. Feedback: Equal access

Communication works both ways, and it is critical to have effective grievance handling processes for employees to voice their grievances or concerns.

All employees should feel comfortable offering their feedback, and have equal access to channels to raise issues to management. More importantly, employees should be able to do sos without fear of negative repercussions.

When grievances are raised, they should be recorded properly so that issues can be addressed. 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.

Strive to 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.

TAFEP provides information and resources to help employers and HR professionals keep abreast of HR best practices. Visit tafep.sg to find out more.

Lead image / 123rf.com

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