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A win for the Blind Date by Lindsay Roberts

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Who knew a blind date could be an instant success? A connection you search for but know you may not ever find. That’s what happened to me when a mutual friend set me up on an interview with Christina and Drew (Praxis). Like any interview I had done my research, laid out my clothes the night before, made sure I didn’t have any toddler breakfast on my top and held my head high as I walked out the door… but this was different. I didn’t know what to expect, there hadn’t been a job opening or a formal recruitment, just one person, setting us up on a quasi-blind date. Yet, from the first conversation rally (often defaulting to sports terms) the spark was evident.

I suppose all interviews are like blind dates. Meeting people for the first time, hoping to impress them while learning more about the prospect, hoping you’ll get a call once the time spent together ends. What set this meeting apart was that spark. I like to think I have only taken jobs where I could see my future; however, this was bigger than that, it was a future I had dreamed about but I wasn’t completely confident existed (yet), especially on the Sunshine Coast (where we were moving our family to). Talking with Christina and Drew felt like talking to myself but in action. Ideas were flowing, pens were moving and I walked away with a huge smile on my face. This was it. They had done it, and I wanted to be a part of it!

Since then, it has been exactly as I hoped, working to put ideas into action just as our namesake eludes, and with another new team member (Erin), who was seemingly our missing link! Writing now, my plan was to contribute a blog about my transition into Praxis, but it wouldn’t be right without starting from the beginning…shedding light on the first day we met, the spark that just continues to grow, the revival of the blind date. With no finish line in sight, I am so grateful to be apart of this super star team. 

Unconscious Bias by Drew Stewart

Unconscious bias is a term that came into my vernacular only recently. I was exposed to it through a discussion during a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade presentation and immediately it clicked for me. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, unconscious bias refers to a bias that happens automatically, is outside of our control and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and firsthand experiences.

Now, my awakening to this terminology is not one of an early adopter. The philosophy and neuroscience behind unconscious bias has been around for while, with a considerable number of high performing organizations leading the charge in addressing it within their training programs and filtering into their work culture. Perhaps being an able-bodied, straight, white male, who has not been subjected to the likes of exclusion that the disabled, visible minorities, LBTQ2 and women are subjected to daily, contributed to being unaware of this phenomenon. As part of the GVBOT presentation, we completed a quiz to see how biased we were within our work lives. Thankfully, I didn’t find out that I shove people into subjective boxes all over the place. I did however realize a few blind spots that could be improved on and I found out that I sometimes utilized unconscious bias as a decision-making/time saving process.

For the most part, my biases are innocuous and do not have serious repercussions. For instance, when I am scanning the checkouts at the grocery store, I quickly dismiss ones that I think will take the longest based on who is already in them. Senior? Nope, I know they are going to be overly chatty and maybe even pull out a coin purse. Parents with kids? I know from experience that those kids are not going to leave them alone enough so they can efficiently bag their groceries. Young couple? Bingo! They have other things to do and places to go so they will be tossing things into bags without even thinking about it. This is an extremely trivial example, of course. Unconscious bias can have much more serious outcomes and negatively impact your business and culture. A few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

· Affinity bias: The tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.

· Halo effect: The tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.

· Perception bias: The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make it impossible to make an objective judgement about members of those groups.

· Confirmation bias: The tendency for people to seek information that confirms pre-existing beliefs or assumptions.

· Group think: This bias occurs when people try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking others or holding back thoughts and opinions. This causes them to lose part of their identities and causes organizations to lose out on creativity and innovation

As you can imagine, relying on one of the above biases to make objective decisions is fraught with pitfalls. Having a more diverse team opens all kind of new possibilities and ideas that you might not have been exposed to before. Not a single one of us has all of the answers and the key to success. It requires knowledge and experience that can be found within the under represented groups of people. The time is right to stop listening to our own voices and step away from the echo chambers and hear what other people have to say.

 

 

 

 

Blind Hiring by Christina Stewart

The idea of Blind Hiring is that a Hiring Manager looks only at a candidate’s qualifications and abilities – absolutely no personal characteristics are considered. When we consider personal characteristics in hiring it leads to subjectivity and subjectivity means bias – and usually unconscious bias.  Which means that we base whether or not to read a resume/interview/hire someone on our instant gut response to a bit of information about them as a person. Information that we are unaware of and largely has nothing to do with their ability to do the job.   What?!?

Let’s use an example. In a recent study a researcher sent over 300 fake resumes to law firms to see if privilege really got people hired.  Privilege meaning: from a well-connected family, often wealthy, often elite, and of course, white. One of the most interesting tidbits from the research is that when the researcher wrote “Sailing and Polo” in the hobbies and interests section of the resume, it lead to a quadrupled call back rate for the privileged men over women.  So, yes, we can see that privilege leads to jobs – but only for men, women, not so much. (Read more here: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/10/privilege-helps-men-not-women-get-lucrative-jobs/504497/

If you have a brain you have bias.  We all do it – we make micro decisions about people when we scan a resume – we see the date they graduated (age), we see their name (gender and race), we see the school they attended (good neighbourhood or bad?), we see the clubs they belong to and where they volunteer (sexuality, intelligence, family status, athletics.)  We think we see someone before we actually do.  We have a need for blind hiring – which eliminates all the ways we might be able to identify and judge someone and focuses simply on their ability (12 years of as an Account Manager and $12M in sales year over year, as opposed to Peter Lee from East Vancouver.) 

The process of submitting a resume is an antiquated one, fraught with all kinds of pitfalls. We need a new system and we need it now – Hiring Managers spend about six seconds looking at a resume (http://www.businessinsider.com/hiring-recruiters-read-resumes-2014-5) and in that six seconds they are gathering superfluous information. It isn’t enough that we try to be aware of our biases, they will show up anyway.  I for one would rather hire an Account Manager with a proven track record than a race, gender and status.