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PR pulse: What bias costs corporations—how to reduce it

by | Jul 20, 2017 | Public Relations

A new study from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) identifies key ways in which bias occurs in Corporate America’s grooming and promoting of talent, maps out which talent cohorts perceive this bias most and how they perceive it, measures its cost to corporate bottom lines, and offers data demonstrating correlations between specific solutions and a lower incidence of perceived bias.

The study, Disrupt Bias, Drive Value, seeks to determine who perceives bias in the following areas—ability, ambition, commitment, connections, emotional intelligence, and executive presence. Perceiving bias in two or more of these six areas—which together are the “ACE model”—is correlated with behaviors such as flight risk and brand sabotage that have measurable costs to organizations.

For example, employees who work at large companies (with 1,000 employees or more) who perceive ACE bias are more than three times as likely as those who don’t to plan to leave their employers within the year (31 percent vs. 10 percent.) They’re 2.6 times as likely to have withheld ideas or solutions (34 percent vs. 13 percent) in the past six months at work. And they’re five times as likely (five percent vs. one percent) to speak about their company in a negative manner on social media.

“This report is the first of its kind to quantify the cost of bias,” said Laura Sherbin, co-author of the study, CFO, and head of research at CTI, in a news release. “The hit delivered to the bottom line should be alarming for any business leader.”

The study found three solutions that correlate with lower levels of reported bias: 1) diverse leaders in senior positions, 2) team leaders who practice specific inclusive behaviors, and 3) sponsorship.

“Having diverse leaders in place, we find, is crucial to disrupting bias,” said Ripa Rashid, co-author of the study and executive vice president at CTI, in the release. “Executives who are inherently diverse serve as role models for diverse employees, demonstrating that difference is valued and that diverse individuals can thrive at their organizations.”

Disrupt Bias concludes with a tactical playbook to guide companies in training leaders to be inclusive, to sponsor talent unlike themselves, and to diversify the top tiers of management. Tactics include ways to hire and promote candidates who embody difference, codify and socialize company norms and expectations, and implement a “tone from the top” that endorses a variety of acceptable approaches to leadership. The playbook also contains a data-driven self-assessment, so companies can monitor their interventions’ efficacy and make adjustments as needed.

“When designing this research, we aimed for a fresh, constructive approach,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, co-author of the study and founder and CEO of CTI, in the release. “The move from those who harbor bias to those who perceive bias allows companies to map, measure, and disrupt bias in new and effective ways.”

The report is available for purchase on CTI’s site.

The firm surveyed 3,570 college-educated professionals. All respondents were working fulltime in white-collar occupations.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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