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May 11th, 2020

How Does Bias Affect Recruitment and Retention?




Among the many consequences of unconscious bias, company morale may be the most important – for both current and potential employees. Employees who perceive bias are not likely to stay on long, and recruits who perceive bias aren't likely to join the company at all. And according to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers say diversity is an important factor when they evaluate job offers.

According to a 2019 Gartner study, hiring decisions are among the top areas within the talent lifecycle most susceptible to bias. Although a majority of companies aim for a diverse, inclusive workforce, many hire applicants who do not fit these criteria. "In hiring decisions, people tend to gravitate towards those who are inside our own group," says Dr. Dolly Chugh, Professor & Author of, "The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias" and an implicit bias expert who has shared her expertise in BiasSync’s educational content. "We automatically feel comfortable with people who think like us, act like us and look like us."

These hiring decisions have real consequences for companies, their employees, and ultimately, performance and profits. According to the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit that drives research and business strategies across the divides of gender, generation, geography and culture, employees at large companies who perceive bias are nearly three times more likely to be disengaged at work and 2.6 times more likely to withhold ideas and market solutions.

Additional data worth noting from The Center's research:

• 48% of employees have looked for another job while on the job

• 33% feel regularly alienated at work

• 75% say they are not proud to work for their companies

• 80% have not referred people in their networks to work at their companies

Clearly, employees and job seekers value diversity, both an important factor in their overall satisfaction in their day-to-day job and with their employer, overall. Yet, many companies are missing opportunities to recruit and hire workers that would constitute a truly diverse workforce.

Part of the challenge may be the tactics companies use to attract employees. For example, job descriptions may put off some candidates simply because of their wording. According to a survey by ZipRecruiter, another job posting site, job listings that contain "gender-neutral" words receive 42% more responses than ads that have (usually inadvertent) more gender-specific language. Masculine words include "leader," "aggressive," and "ambitious," while more feminine words include "support," "understand," and "passionate."

Financial Performance

Related to the negative effects unconscious bias can have on employee recruitment and retention efforts, research shows companies that lack diversity shows weaker financial performance. These poor earnings can, in turn, have negative consequences on overall employee engagement and morale.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, companies with the least diversity by gender and ethnicity are 29% more likely to underperform in terms of profitability than their peers. Additionally, the study found, companies with more diverse leadership in terms of gender are 21% more likely to outperform their peers and 27% more likely to create greater overall value for the company. Similarly, the study also pointed out, companies with more ethnically diverse teams are 33% more likely to outperform competitors in terms of profitability.

How to Avoid Bias

Given what's at stake by failing to recruit and retain a truly diverse workforce, what can companies do to mitigate potential issues and avoid non-inclusive practices?

• Ensure your recruiting practices are truly gender and ethnic neutral. For example, review job postings carefully to ensure they don't contain any language that may appeal to a limited specific demographic.

• Ensure your teams understand what unconscious bias is and how to recognize it and its potential consequences.

• Offer regular unconscious bias training and assessments across the entire enterprise, including leadership.

True diversity and inclusion should be woven into the fabric of a company's essence and be reflected in everything it does. From a recruiting perspective, inclusiveness should begin from the moment a prospective employee applies for a position and continue throughout their tenure at the organization. Companies that take measures to continually and actively address unconscious bias will find higher levels of employee engagement and greater success in the marketplace.

BiasSync. Our purpose is to create more fair and respectful workplaces. For more information on BiasSync – training, unconscious bias assessments and measurements - visit:

Not just diversity. Inclusion.

Diversity is not just about numbers. It’s about people’s experiences in the workplace. If you’re ready to understand how bias impacts your company—with data to make effective changes, contact us now.