The trial of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s death reminds us: individual biases may have serious consequences for Employers and Employees.
Harboring Biases is Bad Business
Employers do their best to establish policies that reduce the chances of illegal discrimination – the kind that results in unfair or unequal treatment based on who / what you are: race, color, national origin; gender or sexual orientation; religion; disability; age; pregnancy; marital status; etc.
Addressing people’s deep-seated biases is a sensitive topic, because the mere implication that someone is racist or discriminatory may, in itself, become a liability for the employer or the company.
So, how can companies protect their organizations, reputations and customers, while enabling employees to get a grip on biases they may celebrate, at one extreme…or possess unknowingly, at the other?
Clearly, mistreatment of employees, colleagues, customers or suppliers, based on deep-seated biases is bad for business and just perpetuates bad karma.
Cringing at Our Own Voice
Most of us hate to listen to our own voices, partly because we sound different in a recording than we think our voices really sound. But there is another, more substantial reason we don’t like our voices on playback – we are able to listen to what we say and how we say it.
At home, for instance, family members often speak to each other callously, ignoring that our tone of voice may be excessively accusing or punishing. Yet, if we were recorded during such episodes and had the opportunity to listen to ourselves, without the fear of embarrassment or scolding, we likely would develop our own critical understanding of our extreme behavior.
The same applies to listening to our own voice in a professional setting. We don’t like hearing ourselves messing-up on a sales pitch or unwittingly passing on misleading information. By listening to ourselves and analyzing what we say, our tone-of-voice and how we respond to various situations and people, we can increase our awareness and improve during our next interaction.
Only through self-awareness are we able to modify the way we relate to people and find better ways to communicate.
Analytics and the Art of Self-Awareness
With new, innovative technology now able to capture and analyze Face-to-Face (F2F) interactions among employees, and between staff and customers, employers can help their staff become more self-aware of their biases and how they are expressed in the work environment.
Using Reveal’s F2F.AI “face-to-face artificial intelligence” solution, captured dialogue is processed into a playback, a transcript, “key words” frequently mentioned, speaker sentiment, and various cross-references providing actionable insights. These objective products offer insights into a single conversation, as well as collective data on hundreds, thousands or millions of conversations.
By making these tools available to employees, as part of a Bias Training and Management program, employers can help individuals identify their own inappropriate responses or unacceptable behavior.
Collective information can bring to the organization’s attention problem areas that should be addressed with staff, such as a condescending tone of voice or impatience when speaking to people of a certain age, color, disability or gender orientation. Objective data produced through technology can provide organizations with a valuable tool for improving self-awareness and increasing compliance with non-discrimination policies.
Managing Bias: A Cross-Industry Priority
Bias Management and Bias Training are priorities of Compliance and HR executives in a wide range of industries, such as: Banking, Insurance, Healthcare, Hospitality and Entertainment, Retail, Telcos, Dealerships, etc. A Yahoo Finance headline shouts angrily: “Gender and racial bias restrain US economy, costing $2.6 trillion”, according to a recent Bank of America study and that is only the financial cost estimate…the human cost is far greater.
Here are some very concerning examples pointing to the urgency and importance of AI-based Bias Management Training:
Healthcare: In an academic report “Implicit bias in healthcare professionals: a systematic review”, researchers conducted dozens of analyses of published research articles and found a significant positive correlation between the level of implicit bias and lower quality of healthcare.
Retail: “Limited racial diversity across marketing, merchandise and retail employees results in exclusionary treatment before U.S. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) shoppers even enter a store and continues across their in-store journey.”
Insurance: “In ten cities studied, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) found that 40- and 60-year-old women with perfect driving records were charged more than men for basic coverage nearly twice as often as men were charged the higher rate.”
As AI becomes more ubiquitous – and it is – human behavior will increasingly be objectively judged and graded by technology. Rather than thinking of it as being too Big-Brother-ish, let’s hope it will help people become their best selves…whether they want to or not.
Even those who hold biases, will be held accountable for their behavior and treatment of others, particularly in the work environment, where they represent an organization, as well as acceptable cultural standards.
Change in acceptable professional behavior is being defined today. Technology can be employed immediately to increase self-awareness and improve Bias Management training, while reducing the potential friction between companies and their employees in effecting this change.
 The Racial Bias in Retail Study Commissioned by Sephora; published January 2021. https://www.sephora.com/contentimages/belong/january2021/Sephora_RacialBias_eBook_DES_12-23-20_V12%20(1).pdf