Are You An Employer Who Provides Fair Opportunity?

Prevent workplace discrimination with these three tips.

10 Nov 2021 Articles Grievance handling Performance management Recruitment Best practices

While employers aim to be fair and non-discriminatory, you might be unaware of blind spots that could trip you up.

For instance, some employers have no qualms asking female candidates during job interviews if they plan to have children and how it will affect their work – but don’t see a need to ask men these questions.

Others believe they have valid reasons to hire people who speak a certain language or come from a similar race or nationality. Probe further, and the reason sounds less valid.

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?

1. HIRING: RECOGNISE YOUR UNCONSCIOUS BIAS

It is natural for hiring managers to 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 a fair hiring manager will recognise this and intentionally set aside their bias or preferences, ensuring candidates are given a fair opportunity to display their strengths and abilities and be assessed fairly and objectively for the job.

Standardising your interview process will also help to eliminate bias. 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 COUNTS, NOT 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 you closer to, but that may in fact be a form of workplace discrimination.

In such scenarios, it could also create a culture of compliance, where interpersonal relationships are valued over rocking the boat, and opportunities for training and advancement are a direct result of personal rapport.

This could worsen by using a language at the workplace that excludes people due to ethnic or cultural differences, further perpetuating the idea of an inner and outer circle. Beyond that, it could affect work performance if employees miss out on essential work-related information, dashing their chance for promotion.

So, 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 redressal processes for employees to voice their grievances or concerns.

All employees should feel comfortable offering their feedback, and have equal access to surfacing issues to management. More importantly, employees should have a safe channel to raise concerns 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.

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.