How to break the cycle of unconscious bias in the workplace

Grasp

Unconscious bias

They say a first impression is a lasting one. However, it is the lasting ideas, formed in our unconscious minds that make the biggest impression. While silent snap-judgements may appear to be relatively harmless, they can gradually feed into recruitment and our capacity to cultivate an inclusive and diverse workspace. Whether it’s the faces in the boardroom, the gender of the CEO, or the age of your superior, our unconscious biases will dictate who we perceive in these roles: we’ve seen them before we’ve met them; we’ve hired them in our heads; we’ve heard them speak before they’ve uttered a word. Furthermore, when our preconceived ideas are reflected back at us, it may even appear to validate them; creating a vicious cycle where our biases are continually reaffirmed. So how do we break this cycle? And how do we actively ensure that our workplaces aren’t unwittingly built on bias? 

Unconscious bias is our mind’s response to the 11 million pieces of information it receives per second. While we’re able to understand about 50 of them, only 7 are remembered in the short-term. As our survival is predicated on filtering the vast amounts of information we constantly receive, our unconscious mind will make a series of quick decisions based on bias rather than reality. These biases are longstanding and were formed by our unconscious mind creating patterns and categories from our life experiences and the media we’ve been exposed to. Put simply, prejudice is hard-wired into us and is so instinctive, irrational and insidious that we barely even recognise it.  

Our unconscious biases run the risk of completely overlooking the diverse voices and experiences that drive creativity. If we have an inbuilt tendency to surround ourselves with people who look and sound like ourselves, the friction required to challenge old ideas and generate new ones will be completely absent. Meanwhile, if we’re promoting the same faces and ignoring diverse voices, we will only cultivate a divided workplace. If unconscious bias is driving our recruitment decisions and ideas of leadership, how can we create an inclusive working environment? How do we prevent our obscured worldview from being replicated in the workplace?  

Objective decision making 
Unconscious bias is formed by our subjective experiences and implemented by swift decision-making based on gut reactions. Therefore, mitigating it will largely depend on some much-needed objectivity and our ability to slow down the decision-making process. We must initially accept that we are all governed by inbuilt prejudice. Once we understand that our worldview may not necessarily be an accurate one, we will be in a position to create the language needed to define our biases and to discuss them. We may then be prepared to pause before making quick fire decisions and to seek a second opinion from someone whose experiences differ from ours. 

Celebrate well-represented media 
The media informs our perceptions. Consequently, avoiding any media that reinforces our biases will help us to reinterpret our worldview. This can also be applied to the workplace through book clubs or group film reviews that focus on work by diverse artists. Group activities will also help to expand your employees’ networks and to create an atmosphere of openness across your organisation.  

Identify silos 
Silos are synonymous with a divided workspace, and eliminating bias is central to promoting inclusiveness. However, your approach cannot be a tokenistic, PR gesture driven by the current political climate: employees will always see through a superficial attempt to create a collaborative culture. However, a data-driven system that can pinpoint where the silos lie will enable you to directly engage with employees on the periphery of your organisation. A key aspect of reducing bias is to encourage communications between people from different backgrounds.  
 
 
Unconscious bias in the workplace is our unwitting attempt to mould an organisation in our own image. However, that image doesn’t have to remain a negative one. If we can recognise our biases, we may then be able to recognise them in others and effect change across our organisation rather than just in ourselves. Understanding why we thought a certain way and how we changed will enable us to influence more people for the better. A renewed perspective doesn’t just create great leadership and organisations, but also, fantastic mentors. 

Grasp enables you to evaluate the level of inclusivity in your organisation, and to bring people from different ages, backgrounds, races and abilities together for mentoring opportunities and cross-company collaborations. If you can create diverse mentors and mentees across your organisation, you’ll have the capacity to uproot your company’s culture and to build a new, unbiased mindset for the next generation of employees. 
 

5 essential skills needed in the
post-pandemic workplace

Grasp

Skills needed in a post-pandemic workplace

As we begin the push to a ‘new normal’ and think about what the future workplace looks like, we also need to think about what skills we should bring to the table. While technical skills and competencies will be under high scrutiny, let’s not forget the skills that companies will be needing from employers no matter what career path you are on. 
 

  1. Adaptability 
    The world was changing rapidly before the pandemic, but now, change is a super-charged part of everyday working life. Not only has this launched adaptability to the front of most desired skills in employees, but it has also made it a critical skill. Adaptability is not just about being able to put up with change, it’s about thriving in the face of it. 
     
    With adaptability comes resilience and flexibility, not only are these required for current times, companies will want to see these qualities present in employees to make sure they have a workforce that is prepared for any future events and disruptions the world throws at us. 
  1. Critical thinking  
    As the world becomes louder, critical thinking and the ability to pull out credible data and information becomes imperative to helping companies cut through the noise and make informed effective business decisions. Employees that can evaluate, explain and restructure their thinking tend to have a more thorough self-awareness and are more aware of unconscious cognitive bias making them naturally more inclusive leaders. 
  1. Intrapreneurship  
    Ok so we’ve cheated a bit with this one, the term ‘intrapreneurship’ involves a lot of skills in itself – creativity, problem-solving, proactiveness. People who have an entrepreneurial spirit can overcome short-term crisis’s and can create effective long-term strategies. Intrapreneurs are solution-orientated and open to ideas and opportunities, making them an essential employee in the post-pandemic workplace. 
  1. Communication 
    Being a good communicator will not make the cut in the post-pandemic workplace, companies will need effective communicators to steer teams in the right direction while making sure everyone is on the same page. Remote working is not going anywhere soon, making effective communication even more important to keep teams on track and boost employee engagement.  
  1. Emotional intelligence 
    Part of being a good communicator and a good leader is high emotional intelligence. The ability to listen and to understand others is an essential skill, especially post-pandemic where anxiety and mental health will be instrumental in guiding employee engagement and wellness. 
     

    Do you have all the skills needed for the post-pandemic workplace? Are you lacking in some of these areas? Now’s the time to reach out to your connections and help each other upskill for the future workplace. 
tips for building an effective remote workplace culture
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Video-conferencing, online collaboration, instant messaging. Although our colleagues have shifted from a meter away to the click of a button, our capacity to connect has never been greater. But prior to lockdown, how effectively were your employees actually communicating? Whether working remotely or together inside an office, your workplace culture will define your employee engagement, productivity and retention. So how do you create a strong working environment, regardless of distance?

1. Make people visible

Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working in isolation. Enforced isolation has emphasised our need to connect, but it’s vital to connect with the right people. So how does a large organisation, with thousands of employees, create that vital connection between two individuals? The first step is to make everyone visible to each other at all times. Use a search function or a company directory to help make those anonymous individuals in your workspace accessible to everyone. Make the right people reachable.

2. Provide the right tools

Effective communication relies on effective technology. We’re blessed to be in an era that surrounds us with intuitive and efficient solutions to a whole host of problems. The downside to this is that the number of apps, platforms, logins and technologies becomes overwhelming and using them all individually can actually harm efficiency and productivity, the very reason we use them in the first place. Technological solutions are only truly effective when implemented well. Look for technology solutions that integrate with your existing systems and think about how you can streamline the technology your company uses to make sure it’s working for you, not against you.

3. Cultivate connections

In large organisations, silos are inevitable as people retreat into the spaces they feel most comfortable and these can become even more apparent when working remotely. What measures do you have in place to eliminate them? Diversity and inclusion are essential to healthy workplace culture, but they are also reliant on the elimination of bias. Is your workplace culture constructed by pre-conceived notions of who you think might work well together? Try setting up remote collaborative projects which allow employees to choose to work with someone they don’t normally work with. By trying to connect your entire organisation, you’re democratising the workplace. You’re empowering individuals to directly choose their connections in their organisation while making sure those connections are inclusive. If done well, you will enable individuals to subvert bias and forge inclusive and diverse relationships on their own terms.

4. Show recognition

Do you truly value your workforce? If so, what measures do you have in place to identify who is helping who? A truly engaged and productive workforce means extracting the potential of everyone and this can be particularly hard while working remotely. During this remote working period, make sure you are able to identify your introverted achievers as well as the extroverts. An extroverted personality will always have something to learn from an introvert, and vice-versa. Use this principle to encourage an open dialogue through recognition where every voice is heard. A knowledge-sharing environment that openly connects people will have visibility over everyone’s contributions.

5. Promote personal connections

Connections in the workplace shouldn’t simply be fixed to the workplace. Creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued also means bonding on a personal level. While meet-ups and mentoring are often framed around work projects, it’s vital to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to thrive. Identify the common interests within your team and host virtual events around these interests. Online art clubs, yoga sessions and book clubs are a few of the many ideas you could try to weave into a Friday afternoon to encourage personal connections while working remotely. An environment where people actually like each other will always be a more productive one. Does your workplace culture breed colleagues or friendships?

Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working in isolation. Use this period of enforced isolation to understand the type of culture you’ve instilled and take appropriate action. If necessity is the mother of invention, then use the present crisis to upgrade your workplace culture. Whether we like it or not, remote working has forced us to interact, so let’s not waste this valuable opportunity.

Mentors are 6x more likely to be promoted

Grasp

Benefits of being a mentor

… and other great reasons you should mentor.

The benefits of being a mentor

In a fast-paced workplace, mentoring a colleague doesn’t seem as important as that looming deadline. It’s hard to focus on someone else’s personal development when trying to develop your own career. But what if your career progression and a colleague’s personal development could be connected? What if the process of ‘mentoring’ was actually mutually-beneficial? As our working environments evolve, traditional ideas of ‘mentoring’ are becoming increasingly outdated. Mentoring is no longer an onerous, homogenised process, but a data-driven, carefully-tailored exercise that attends to the needs of the mentor and mentee. Here are 5 reasons why becoming a mentor could be integral to your future…

1. Career Development

You’re experienced. You have the respect of your colleagues. You’re comfortable in your role. But can you take your career to the next level? A 5-year survey by Sun Microsystems on 1,000 employees found that Mentors were 20% more likely to receive a pay-rise than those who didn’t participate in mentoring. In addition, the study also highlighted how mentors were 6 times more likely to be promoted to a more senior role. Mentoring won’t add to your workload, but it will have a tangible impact on your career.

2. Ideas and inspiration

The workplace is the centre of innovation. However, great ideas can only be developed through communication, and key changes can only be implemented when senior employees are made aware of them. Mentoring enables two individuals, at different stages of their careers, to collaborate and build a lasting creative relationship. Not only will you be able to transfer your knowledge to the inexperienced mentee, but the mentee will have the opportunity to share their fresh perspective. Moments of inspiration won’t be lost on the ground but described, distilled and put into practice.

3. Highlight potential problems early

A relationship between a mentor and mentee can benefit the entire organisation. By connecting with your less-experienced colleague on the ground, you’ll be able to ensure that operational issues are recognised before they become genuine problems. Your assumptions about what is or isn’t working can be confirmed or challenged with direct experience from the frontline. Unseen issues can be acted upon and eradicated. Furthermore, building these symbiotic relationships across your organisation will ultimately upskill the entire team.

4. Expand your network

A trusted support network is essential at any stage of a career. Your mentees will eventually become mentors themselves and evolve into highly successful colleagues. As your former mentees thrive in their careers and create new relationships, you’ll be able to draw upon these valuable old contacts for potential support in your own career. A bond between a mentor and mentee isn’t simply remembered retrospectively but creates a network that can be a constant source of inspiration and support in the future.

5. Personal satisfaction

Assisting a colleague’s personal development can help a mentor to recognise their own individual worth and enhance their mental well-being. You’ll be given the opportunity to impart knowledge you may not realise you have, while your capacity to teach could be a hidden talent. You’ll be understanding yourself as much as helping someone to understand their role in an organisation. Relating to another colleague, feeling valued and being heard are integral to our mental health. At its heart, mentoring is about creating the conditions for these vital connections to take place.

Mentoring will drive communication in the workplace, upskill the workforce and establish lasting connections. However, this is all predicated on the mentor making an active choice over the mentees they wish to help. Mentoring shouldn’t be an onerous task and the connections must be genuine. Grasp enables mentors to choose their mentees from a list of requests based on recommended criteria. The mentoring process is as flexible as you want it to be. You decide the terms. You decide the time. The connections are ready to be made and the benefits are right at your fingertips.

Why you should respect your youngers

Grasp

Reverse Mentoring

Do we need to show our younger employees a little more respect? Research from Unily and YouGov suggests we absolutely do.

Always respect your elders. They are wise, they are experienced, and after riding the wave of multiple economic cycles, they can develop a long-term strategy better than a genZ can execute a TikTok dance. But, as technical skills become premium career capital in today’s workplace, we enter a unique point in time where the younger generations can give back just as much, if not more, wisdom in the workplace.

The use of technology in business isn’t just increasing, it’s imperative to the foundations of almost every industry in the world. But the increasing speed at which technology continues to develop is leaving more and more employees behind. The YouGov study found that 1 in 3 employees over the age of 40 requested support for simple technology queries at least once a week from younger employees. Not only are these findings indicative of the widening gap in knowledge between junior and senior employees, it also indicates a threat to productivity; over one third (37%) of junior employees aged 18-34 who believe that senior employees are not tech-savvy believe that this results in disrupted productivity.

Reverse mentoring is not a new concept, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, popularised the concept of reverse mentoring more than 2 decades ago. In 1999 Welch piloted a project where he paired 500 senior and junior employees so the latter could teach the former about technological advances and tools; “We now have the youngest and brightest teaching the oldest”, he exclaimed. But while the term ‘reverse mentoring’ is not new and has been widely discussed in the mentoring and L&D space, is it being taken as seriously as it should be in the workplace?

The biggest barrier to the adoption of reverse mentoring comes from hierarchy. While many progressive companies have tried to fly the flag for flat structure, the results are always the same – chaos. Less hierarchy is needed for an optimum knowledge-sharing environment but flat structure leads to a destructive lack of purpose, place and direction for its workforce. Finding the perfect balance of hierarchy and autonomy is integral to creating the right environment for successful reverse mentoring.

While increasing your employee’s technical skills is an obvious win from reverse mentoring, we can also learn a lot by looking at why younger employees are able to keep up with technology better than their senior colleagues. Just as years of industry experience makes senior employees valuable, younger employee’s experience growing up alongside technology has enabled them to develop a valuable and instinctive skill set that helps them consume and understand new information quickly while constantly adapting to change.

At Grasp, we’re a big believer in everyone being able to learn from everyone else. This two-way knowledge-sharing relationship is the core principle of the Grasp mentoring platform. While the mentee may be looking for specific guidance and development, the mentor should always seek to find what the mentee can share and ever increasingly that mentee is a senior employee. This is why our platform has been designed specifically to take away the friction from connecting and finding a mentor, making mentoring more accessible to all employees.

Ed Beccle, Founder of Grasp, says; “while working with one of Ireland’s leading banks and one of the world’s largest FMCGs, we’ve seen a big uptake on reverse mentoring during the COVID-19 period, and this comes down to the frictionless environment our platform creates for employees, whether working from the office or remotely. By catalysing strong cross-silo collaboration and levelling the playing field for all, employees can thrive on reverse mentoring and mentoring alike”.

Reverse mentoring doesn’t have to be limited to technical knowledge and skill. A mentee is able to give their mentor insight to fresh ideas which, together with the experience of the mentor, can lead to great collaborative innovation. A mentee can also present problems and issues that may take longer to reach the mentor’s awareness through a traditional hierarchy, this allows the mentor to address issues before they escalate into real problems.

The YouGov study found that more than 7 in 10 (72%) of senior employees aged 41+ believe they actively learn/could actively learn from more junior members of staff, which helps them with their own work.

As economic challenges and remote work continues to push forward the value of technical skills, now is the time to review your skill gaps and start building a company structure that fosters knowledge-sharing between all generations and give both elders and youngers the respect they deserve. 

Forget everything you know about mentoring

Grasp

Mentoring but not as you know it

We’re transforming the way people learn and connect

The colleague 12 yards away or 12 floors up. The person at the start of their career or the experienced employee reaching retirement. Everyone knows something you don’t, they just haven’t found a way of sharing it yet. Everyone wants to interact, they just haven’t broken down the communication barrier. A life-changing connection between two people in one organisation really shouldn’t have multiple hurdles. These are the founding principles of Grasp.

Grasp is a mentoring solution that drives communication. We remove the pain from that awkward first introduction by sparking the conversation. Unlike more traditional mentoring programs, Grasp has the flexibility to pinpoint how your employees can help each other, and we bring them together. When facing problems with productivity, staff turnover, and employee engagement, the answer isn’t a short-term quick fix. The answer is a long view that prioritises knowledge-sharing and interactions. You have to change the narrative and embrace a more inclusive, diverse new culture.

Your employees’ personal development will always benefit the company as a whole, but before you can reach that undervalued, uninspired individual, the first challenge is to identify where the silos lie. Knowledge is power, and while everyone in your company has knowledge, they must be empowered to find it. Through a simple search, Grasp enables individuals to locate their potential mentors and build a network based on mutual knowledge-sharing. This isn’t standardised e-learning, this is a highly-tailored mentoring program that prioritises people’s individual needs and puts human connection at the forefront.

As we juggle our time between work, stocking up on essentials, and caring for loved ones, the current crisis has brought into focus the question of ‘time’. This isn’t simply the amount of time we have left, but how we choose to spend it. The post-pandemic landscape will urge us to rethink how we communicate and to identify the aspects of our daily interactions that we value most. How can we improve our connections with each other and what can we learn from this experience to improve performance?

But while the outside world changes, we must also view this crisis as a chance to change how we operate right now. How can we improve our culture by improving the people within it?  Whether it’s the urgent morning meeting or the casual lunchtime chat, imposed isolation has highlighted our need to communicate. The surge in online video-conferencing suggests that knowledge-sharing is a necessity that won’t be hindered under any circumstances. How can you use this to your advantage today? Is there someone within your network that you could be reaching out to right now? Don’t sit in silence. Don’t upskill alone. Embrace the connected culture by simply looking around you, and making contact.

Podcast:
The Mentors Who Made Me

Grasp

Podcast The Mentors Who Made Me

Grasp talks to a variety of successful individuals about the mentors in their lives that made them who they are today as well as covering relevant topics in the learning space.

Subscribe to the podcast today to keep updated with the latest episodes.

Where to listen

Spotify
Radio
Public
Breaker
Google
Podcasts

The Mentors Who Made Me – Episode 1: Lucy Mullins

Published on: June 17, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Join us as we speak with Lucy Mullins, an executive coach and Co-Founder of Ride The Wave, an exciting new professional coach training programme. We’ll be talking about the mentors in her life as well as the differences between coaching and mentoring and what we can take from coaching techniques to become better mentors ourselves.

The Mentors Who Made Me – Episode 2: Ed Beccle

Published on: June 26, 2020 at 11:30 AM

Join us as we speak to our very own founder Ed Beccle about what role mentoring has played in his career and how it helped him create the Grasp mentoring platform.

The role of mentoring in diversity and inclusion

Grasp

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion should be at the centre of any thriving workplace culture, but they are often disparate elements. Diversity and inclusion are policies that seek to promote diverse voices within a workspace and ensure these voices are actually heard. It’s a two-part strategy that must include both representation and active participation to be successful. A diverse workforce isn’t an inclusive one if they aren’t playing a key role at every level of your organisation. So how do we ensure that mentoring initiatives don’t simply reinforce the cultural boundaries already in place?

In an increasingly data-driven world where quotas are a focal point, it can be very easy to pay lip-service to the notion of diversity and inclusion. But what if we were to use data to help facilitate inclusion rather than use diversity to meet quotas? Mentoring presents an ideal opportunity for this and can help create a workplace culture that actively values the diversity within your organisation. An effective mentoring program will bring individuals of any age, gender, race or physical health together and drive interactions between them. It has the capacity to break down boundaries and open up your organisation to every voice within it. But mentoring initiatives will only have a transformative impact on workplace culture if the entire organisation has access to them. Mentoring cannot create a diverse and inclusive environment if the same voices from the same backgrounds are communicating with each other. It is imperative that mentoring within your company is adapted to ensure that every employee from any background are actively encouraged to reach out to each other. 

When a mentee and mentor are brought together, they have the potential to share knowledge from different perspectives. When these viewpoints are discussed, challenged and implemented, an employee evolves from ‘another member of the team’ to a truly engaged and connected part of the workforce, thus driving innovation and talent. When diversity is set as a core part of an actively inclusive mentoring program, it has the capacity to instil a lasting culture of diversity and inclusion.

When mentoring initiatives are implemented effectively, the net benefits on diversity and inclusion are self-evident: mentoring programs have boosted minority representation at management level from 9% to 24% and increased promotion and retention rates for minorities and women from 15% to 38% source.  But we can and need to do more.

A superficially diverse workplace will never maximise its diversity if employees remain in silos. Genuine connections between different individuals in the workplace cannot be formed through forced initiatives. Grasp enables companies to see where the communication barriers lie. It provides complete visibility over silos, ensuring that knowledge is being shared between colleagues rather than withheld. Key collaborations and career-changing connections are allowed to flow organically. When applied correctly, mentoring is an intrinsically diverse and inclusive process; Grasp facilitates this.

A workspace where diverse groups actively influence company strategy isn’t superficially beneficial; it will improve every aspect of your organisation from talent retention to team performance, creativity and engagement. Most importantly, it will help us overcome systemic discrimination in the workplace.

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