By Jasmine Brennan, Manager of Diversity & Inclusion, Allegis Group
Having a diverse workforce is a clear, competitive advantage, and effectively leveraging different thoughts, perspectives, and ideas allows us to better support our clients and compete in the marketplace. However, we are also aware of some impediments that exist in sustaining inclusive workplace cultures. The negative impacts of unconscious bias, also known as cognitive blind spots, are a central focal point for diversity and inclusion (D&I) practitioners like me, as well as my colleagues.
“I believe there’s tremendous power in proactively creating opportunities for our employees to ‘see others.’ Doing so helps us expose and explore our automatic patterns of thinking, our unconscious biases, so that we can address potentially discriminatory behaviors that could inadvertently undermine our inclusive culture”, says Mary Beth Crawford, director of human resources at Allegis Group.
The human brain is hardwired to leverage cognitive shortcuts to make decisions quickly. In fact, humans receive 11 million pieces of information per second but can process just 40 pieces of this information at a time. It has been demonstrated that unconscious biases and cognitive shortcuts sometimes hinder our ability to make the best decisions and may influence behaviors and actions.
At Allegis Group, our approach to combating unconscious bias is rooted in our organizational commitment to “seeing everyone.” The principle of “Ubuntu,” derived from the northern Natal tribe in South Africa, states that each of us has value as individuals, and our community of individuals needs all of its parts in healthy working order to thrive. This belief aligns closely with our workplace inclusion strategy: we subscribe to the belief that seeing, celebrating, and sharing identities positions us to leverage diversity and maximize the impact that we make for our clients.
The “See Everyone” video, featuring Allegis Group employees, was developed to further dialogue on the effects of unconscious bias. By sharing elements of themselves not visible on the surface, many of our team members were able to “meet” the most authentic versions of their colleagues for the very first time. The video also positioned us to consider some of the assumptions that we might have made about individuals whom we interact with regularly and reflect on the source of these preconceived notions.
“If you truly want to build an inclusive environment, everybody plays a part,” says Director of Human Resources at Major, Lindsey & Africa and Allegis Partners Jacki Wandrey. “It's important for management to role-model the behavior and really outline expectations, but if it's not also a part of your culture, it's never truly going to be an inclusive environment. Across all Allegis Group companies, everyone is involved in building our culture and creating an environment where everybody feels welcomed, needed, and valued.”
A collective call to action for employees across the organization is to not only see others by building genuine relationships founded on trust, respect, and a shared purpose to advance Allegis Group’s marketplace impact, but also to allow themselves to be seen. A workplace culture of belonging starts with developing connections and having this kind of dialogue. Providing our employees with a platform on which to tell their stories and educate us on their unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives is one of the key components of our D&I strategy.
A Starting Point for Shaping a D&I Conversation
Allegis Group has seen first-hand how the dynamics of a competitive marketplace and shifting demographics are reshaping the landscape of D&I. Whether you are just now embarking on a diversity initiative or are looking to mature your approach, you need to understand today’s D&I opportunities and issues. So be sure to download our report, “Talent, Business, and Competition: A New World of Diversity & Inclusion.” D&I is a journey of continuous improvement, and the research provides a valuable resource for exploring issues that should be atop all talent and business leaders’ radars today.