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Hanna Rantalainen

Promoting diversity in the workplace – identifying cognitive bias and training play a vital role

European Diversity Month is celebrated in May 2021. Recently, attention to and the promotion of diversity has become an important topic in more and more organizations. At Innofactor, we have also invested in the theme of diversity especially over the past year. In this blog post, we want to share, among other things, proven ways to increase diversity in the workplace.

Benefits of diversity in a nutshell

A diverse work community has been identified as positively correlating with the performance, innovation, and profitability of the company. Diversity has also been found to have a positive impact on the success of teams as diverse teams find more creative solutions to problems and expand the company's linguistic and cultural awareness.

Cognitive bias behind thinking and decision making

Promoting diversity is not always easy. Our thinking and decision making are influenced by numerous cognitive biases, which can make identifying prejudices and assumptions difficult. Subconscious prejudices occur when we make assessments and draw conclusions based on our previous knowledge or experience, without being aware of it. Examining and being aware of such prejudices is important as they affect the company's ability to employ and manage a diverse workforce.

Employee training plays a vital role

Training the personnel is one of the steps towards promoting diversity in the work community. The aim is to raise awareness of diversity and its different aspects, as well as the preconceived attitudes created by cognitive biases. The aim of awareness-raising is not to combat all prejudices, but to try to stop them when they try to adversely affect, for example, recruitment, promotion practices or other key activities of the company. When the entire work community becomes aware of their own assumptions, biases, stereotypes, and prejudices, they also understand how they can affect their work and what negative effects they can have on other people around them.

Training recruiters and supervisors, as well as company management, is often the first step towards a more diverse work community, as these employees play an important role in combating bias and in company decision making. Last year, we organized “Biased thinking” training led by Juho Toivola for all Innofactor managers in the Finnish organization, and we have also created “Biased thinking” training materials for those working in recruitment, focusing on identifying and combating cognitive bias and preconceived attitudes at different stages of the recruitment process. Promoting diversity and fighting bias within teams was also discussed in the spring in the Project Management Community Forum, which brought together Innofactor's Nordic project and service managers.

Every employee can contribute to the diversity of the work community

On the way to promoting diversity in the work community, the most important thing to remember is that our behaviors and actions send messages about our beliefs and influence our decision making every day. Our systems and culture affect the entire organization and, as decisions are made everywhere in the organization, training and raising awareness should also extend to all personnel. Regardless of our roles, we interact with others every day and our ways of expressing ourselves and our actions have an impact. The whole company should promote an inviting and open-minded organizational culture, which is also reflected in the company’s success and its ability to attract new top talent.