Despite workplaces that include a diverse group of cultures and genders, discrimination and biases still can remain an issue. By better understanding these diversities and taking steps to enhance the inclusion of all colleagues, productivity and employee morale likely will improve.
Biases can impact human behavior and thought, both consciously and unconsciously. Five classes of bias can be found in many workplaces:
• Risk aversion – a preference for actions that yield outcomes with a low level of uncertainty.
• Affinity bias – a preference for those who are similar.
• Confirmation bias – the tendency to look for information consistent with one’s beliefs.
Groupthink – when decisions are made based on the influence of more powerful decision-makers or when people self-censor to avoid dissenting from the group.
IKEA bias – placing a disproportionately high value on products or services that one or more people partially created.
Panelist Discussion | Fran Churchill | Kansas State University
“Risk aversion bias may be the cause of inappropriate actions that remain toward women in the milling industry, as in other industries. There often is an attitude that men have more mechanical ability than women. Women may not be allowed the opportunity to learn and prove what they can do. Managers or supervisors may prefer men on a job or position because it makes them feel more comfortable.
“Whether it’s men, women, hourly workers, or members of the leadership team, all are adults and have something to contribute. Inclusion must be practiced every day. All must feel they are an equal part of the team. Team leaders should try to prevent an atmosphere where there are hidden groups who may feel unwanted.
“If possible, allow workers to use their methods of getting the job done, as long as it’s in a safe and respectful manner that meets production guidelines. An occasional use of reverse hierarchy can create better trust among the team. Have a junior leader or hourly employee take the lead at meetings. This approach can pay off in amazing dividends.”
Brenda Thornton, ADM Milling
“It’s not uncommon for women to have grown up in a home where they had to prove themselves in a job or skill more so than brothers or other male family members. Even in professional life, women sometimes are told to ‘be seen and not heard.’
“Women tend to have less confidence in taking the next step professionally. Fortunately, now there are more male leaders supporting and encouraging women to progress within their organizations. They welcome women by creating a more accommodating workplace, even it is simply providing a women’s restroom. They believe in women and encourage them to take the next steps in leadership.
“Workplaces have an array of diversities of thought and opinion. People should be encouraged to share their opinions, which helps them feel like they belong and are included. Team leaders need to create and maintain an inclusive environment. Put thought and energy in welcoming all colleagues, and make them feel welcome their first day of work. Make coworkers feel like they are part of a team.
“Leaders need to be aware that unconscious bias sometimes can get in the way. People rarely do things on purpose to make people feel lesser than they are – they are just not conscious of it. It may require taking extra care to accommodate others. If a colleague doesn’t join others for a social hour, it may because of parental or other family requirements and their partner works at odd hours. Advocate for their situation to make sure they don’t feel left out.”
Leaders need to be aware that unconscious bias sometimes can get in the way. People rarely do things on purpose to make people feel lesser than they are – they are just not conscious of it.
-Brenda Thornton, ADM Milling
Jennifer Harnish, PHM Brands
“Workforce challenges in the milling industry are not unique to other industries. The industry itself is diverse with multiple sectors. It’s important to recognize the differences in employees. Whether it’s in gender, race, religion, and overall culture, everyone has differences.
“Don’t limit inclusion to individuals or groups with thoughts similar to those of a supervisor or manager. If two or three team members have similar backgrounds and frequently discuss their values without including others, they may unconsciously make others feel left out. If several team members converse in a different language, coworkers may feel uncomfortable.
“Help all colleagues feel they belong and are valued members of the team and company. Be curious with team members. Allow flexibility regarding religious and holiday celebrations and other cultural events. Team leaders should speak up for others. Team members look up to them. They set the tone for the team, plant, or company.”
Don’t limit inclusion to individuals or groups with thoughts similar to those of a supervisor or manager. If two or three team members have similar backgrounds and frequently discuss their values without including others, they may unconsciously make others feel left out.
-Jennifer Harnish, PHM Brands
Randy Garvert, Ardent Mills
“Unconscious bias typically happens outside of one’s control. It’s triggered by making snap judgments as a result of mental shortcuts. There are methods to help overcome unconscious and conscious bias, such as:
• Creating belonging – Use introduction mixers; enhance productivity through authentically knowing one another; create opportunities to share cultures; be curious and ask questions about others; seek different points of view; and create and encourage open channels for feedback.
• Uncovering bias – Learn and understand your biases and identify ways to mitigate them; ask what team members need to help them be successful and more productive; assign a devil’s advocate in decision-making meetings; involve others from different geographies and tenures in decisions; take time to understand other perspectives and points of view; and don’t generalize.
• Ensuring inclusivity – Rotate people in roles and responsibilities; eliminate comments on anyone’s appearance; before starting a discussion, pause and allow time for introverts to process and think before speaking; notice and adjust non-verbal communications; set and follow objective criteria; and actively seek to mentor or sponsor someone from a different background, gender, or culture.”
Larry Stalcup, contributing writer