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Leading With Intention: Removing Bias From Business, with Ashley Marshall

Last year conversations around diversity have never been so loud and rightly so. What counts the most from these conversations is not just being an active listener but also an active participant. Businesses need to be held accountable on topics that have the potential to change the future of work for the better. Providing a statement both internally and externally is not enough; it is what you physically do that will count towards something. We spoke to Ashley Marshall, an HR Lead at NBC News, who has shared how businesses can remove bias going forward by leading with intention.Look at your hiring processesBlind resumes are needed in order for there to be an equal playing field from the word go. It is often due to bias that we have preconceptions based on someone’s name or where they went to school; which is why it would be good for both to be removed from the application process. If businesses are making their hiring decisions based on what feels familiar and what makes them comfortable, then they will not have a diverse workforce. There should ideally be a standardised interview process in which every candidate is asked the same set of questions and assigned a score based on that answer. Explicit feedback should be given for every candidate, rather than ‘just not a good culture fit’. It is comments like this that give businesses an excuse not to hire someone who doesn’t fit the standardised mould of a person that they have come to expect at the company.Connect with your employees through smaller training sessionsThere are often three different groups that people fall into when it comes to approaching bias. Those that are careless and inappropriate with their language and actions, those who are unaware as they haven’t had a reason or an event that’s given them a reason to consider bias and finally those that are too scared to say anything at all, at risk of offending. This is why putting everyone together for200 people training sessions on bias are not as effective. If people are being spoken at they are less likely to engage with what is being said, therefore it’s better if training sessions are held in smaller groups. Smaller groups require you to talk, listen and interact, to acknowledge someone else’s experiences that might be wildly different from your own. This is where learning and understanding comes in, because in small groups you cannot be silent witnesses to the conversation but rather you have to be active participants.Amplify the voices of people of colour and look at your languageWork places need to look more closely at the language they are using to address people of colour, such as using terms like BAME. BAME is used to acknowledge all employees of colour- but in doing so, it simultaneously removes the experience of people from all different descents. When you loop everyone together you are stripping them of their personal experiences. BAME is not true to a person’s experience; you have to acknowledge that you have a multitude of different employees from all over the world. A simple example of this is when companies don’t want to use the word Black as they think it is offensive; most people of Black Heritage would say calling someone Black is not offensive. If you’re having a conversation about language and how you should talk about employees of colour then talk to those people and get their opinion of what the language should be, instead of second guessing. Amplify the people of colour's voices, rather than make presumptions of your own.Acknowledge huge events, listen and take actionIn the last year alone, the world has experienced huge events that have ignited a global reaction for better action. Events such as the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Daunte Wright cannot be ignored, regardless of whether you are UK or US based; and yet some businesses have not even acknowledged them at all.The unfortunate and awful reality is that there will likely be more events that will cause your employees of colour to be upset and angry. Therefore, businesses need to provide resources and tools to help support in times of trauma and create safe spaces in which employees of colour feel listened to when talking about their own experiences. Even more importantly is that action as a result of what has been said amongst these support groups needs to be taken. There is disconnect as a result of businesses just listening to people’s experiences which are very personal, only for no action to be taken; this is where a lack of trust can come in.Looking to the future: be intentionalBusinesses need to lead with intention and find ways of inviting people of colour to apply for their roles. These processes need to start earlier rather than later. For example, businesses can be proactive by approaching institutions that specifically have spaces or organisations for people of colour. You can do this by contacting Afro Caribbean student associations at universities; in doing this you are ensuring you have diversity in your early career programs. It is all about intentionality; you are intentionally seeking out those spaces of colour that you may not have known existed and will likely find some awesome talent!​To connect with Ashley Marshall on LinkedIn you can do so here​

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Last year conversations around diversity have never been so loud and rightly so. What counts the most from these conversations is not just being an active listener but also an active participant. Businesses need to be held accountable on topics that have the potential to change the future of work for the better. Providing a statement both internally and externally is not enough; it is what you physically do that will count towards something. We spoke to Ashley Marshall, an HR Lead at NBC News, who has shared how businesses can remove bias going forward by leading with intention.

Look at your hiring processes

Blind resumes are needed in order for there to be an equal playing field from the word go. It is often due to bias that we have preconceptions based on someone’s name or where they went to school; which is why it would be good for both to be removed from the application process. If businesses are making their hiring decisions based on what feels familiar and what makes them comfortable, then they will not have a diverse workforce. There should ideally be a standardised interview process in which every candidate is asked the same set of questions and assigned a score based on that answer. Explicit feedback should be given for every candidate, rather than ‘just not a good culture fit’. It is comments like this that give businesses an excuse not to hire someone who doesn’t fit the standardised mould of a person that they have come to expect at the company.

Connect with your employees through smaller training sessions

There are often three different groups that people fall into when it comes to approaching bias. Those that are careless and inappropriate with their language and actions, those who are unaware as they haven’t had a reason or an event that’s given them a reason to consider bias and finally those that are too scared to say anything at all, at risk of offending. This is why putting everyone together for200 people training sessions on bias are not as effective. If people are being spoken at they are less likely to engage with what is being said, therefore it’s better if training sessions are held in smaller groups. Smaller groups require you to talk, listen and interact, to acknowledge someone else’s experiences that might be wildly different from your own. This is where learning and understanding comes in, because in small groups you cannot be silent witnesses to the conversation but rather you have to be active participants.

Amplify the voices of people of colour and look at your language

Work places need to look more closely at the language they are using to address people of colour, such as using terms like BAME. BAME is used to acknowledge all employees of colour- but in doing so, it simultaneously removes the experience of people from all different descents. When you loop everyone together you are stripping them of their personal experiences. BAME is not true to a person’s experience; you have to acknowledge that you have a multitude of different employees from all over the world. A simple example of this is when companies don’t want to use the word Black as they think it is offensive; most people of Black Heritage would say calling someone Black is not offensive. If you’re having a conversation about language and how you should talk about employees of colour then talk to those people and get their opinion of what the language should be, instead of second guessing. Amplify the people of colour's voices, rather than make presumptions of your own.

Acknowledge huge events, listen and take action

In the last year alone, the world has experienced huge events that have ignited a global reaction for better action. Events such as the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Daunte Wright cannot be ignored, regardless of whether you are UK or US based; and yet some businesses have not even acknowledged them at all.

The unfortunate and awful reality is that there will likely be more events that will cause your employees of colour to be upset and angry. Therefore, businesses need to provide resources and tools to help support in times of trauma and create safe spaces in which employees of colour feel listened to when talking about their own experiences. Even more importantly is that action as a result of what has been said amongst these support groups needs to be taken. There is disconnect as a result of businesses just listening to people’s experiences which are very personal, only for no action to be taken; this is where a lack of trust can come in.

Looking to the future: be intentional

Businesses need to lead with intention and find ways of inviting people of colour to apply for their roles. These processes need to start earlier rather than later. For example, businesses can be proactive by approaching institutions that specifically have spaces or organisations for people of colour. You can do this by contacting Afro Caribbean student associations at universities; in doing this you are ensuring you have diversity in your early career programs. It is all about intentionality; you are intentionally seeking out those spaces of colour that you may not have known existed and will likely find some awesome talent!

To connect with Ashley Marshall on LinkedIn you can do so here