On Tuesday 2nd October, Kinetic hosted 70 people from across OOH at the second #BalanceOOH event, Understanding and Overcoming Unconscious Bias. Nicole Lonsdale, Kinetic’s Chief Planning Officer and Chair of Balance, kicked off proceedings with a roundup of the priorities and initiatives the Balance Board has achieved so far. We then heard from Kinetic’s Head of Talent, Jo Williams, about how unconscious bias training has had a positive impact within Kinetic.

Keynote speaker, Emy Rumble-Mettle, Head of Talent EMEA at GroupM began her brilliant and educational talk by explaining how unconscious bias exists within all of us. How it happens automatically without us even realising and how our brains make quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experience, triggering different unconscious bias in us all.

“unconscious bias exists within all of us… it happens automatically without us even realising”

She referred to Daniel Kahneman who describes two independent systems in thinking; Automatic System (FAST) and Reflective System (SLOW). Our brain is wired to operate in the FAST way 90% of the time which equates to intuition, involuntary control and speed. Whereas the SLOW system, accounting for only 10% of our decision making, has more patience, is more considered and more analytical. If our brain therefore is optimised for quick decisions then having a bias is part of our normal development process – it is natural and intuitive – but often it can be problematic.

Thinking then about how this translates into the workplace. We usually make our minds up on a candidate who we are interviewing within the first seven seconds – often directed by an unconscious bias or the need for familiarity. Does that person look like me? Speak like me? Is the same gender? Would fit in with the team? Emy urged us to use the PAUSE technique both before and during the interview process:

P – pay attention to the moment

A – acknowledge our own interpretations, judgements & reactions

U – understand other reactions that may be there – where have the beliefs come from? (Note the word belief not fact!)

S – select what is the most empowering approach

E – execute something to start changing your bias

emy rumble mettle

Unconscious bias can prevent individuals from making objective decisions. Another technique that can be applied in the workplace is to ‘Flip it and Switch it’. For example, staff in an un-named company were asked to name traits associated with male and female leaders. The most common traits for female leaders (from both men and women) were supportive, emotional, helpful, sensitive and fragile, whereas for male leaders it was assertive, strong and driven. Rather than thinking of someone based upon their perceived gender stereotype, ‘flip it and switch it’ and instead look at the person themselves. Otherwise this can be equally damaging for both men and women at work.

“Unconscious bias can prevent individuals from making objective decisions”

To conclude, Emy spoke about the top six ways of managing unconscious bias during recruitment and when building high performing teams in 2018 and beyond:

  1. Ask yourself should I make the decision alone or do I need support? (self-awareness is important)
  2. Ensure high quality dialogue
  3. Check the data and facts
  4. Practice empathy
  5. Look back at previous evidence
  6. Focus on the goal

Wise words and advice to create a more diverse workforce and an OOH for the future.



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