Decision-making

Focus on the process: reducing bias in decision-making

Decision-making experts suggest we move from the individual to the collective,  from the decision maker  to the decision-making  process  to reduce the impact of unconscious bias.

Decision-making experts suggest we move from the individual to the collective, from the decision maker to the decision-making process to reduce the impact of unconscious bias.

If we’re serious about building fair, inclusive workplaces, mitigating bias - both conscious and unconscious - is well recognised as an important step. As individuals, many of us are now aware of actions we can take to challenge cognitive biases in our workplaces.

But the reality is it’s hard to control our automatic or default judgements. That’s why decision-making experts suggest we move from the individual to the collective, from the decision maker to the decision-making process.

These new processes and adjustments can help us evaluate information more objectively and make sound decisions. They can also contribute to greater diversity - in thinking approaches and demographic background. (And a quick scroll-through of our blog leaves you in little doubt that’s a driving force and passion for us!)

This can include creating processes to track and measure the diversity of people hired and promoted, and using this data to identify and address issues. Another proven way to reduce unconscious bias is to undertake what is known as “blind hiring”, where CVs are received anonymously, with references to name, gender, age, disability, schools, hobbies and ethnicity removed because information often impairs our ability to make fair judgements.

Creating checklists, such as agreed criteria for decisions or structured questions for interviews, also helps to reduce bias in decision making.

The reality is it’s hard to control our automatic or default judgements. That’s why decision-making experts suggest we move from the individual to the collective, from the decision maker to the decision-making process.

When organisations work at reducing the effect on bias in their decision making processes, a study by McKinsey of more than 1,000 major decisions – including investments in new products and M & A decisions – showed higher returns on investment.


Here’s a few more tips to help mitigate bias in decision-making processes:

  • In team meetings, appoint a ‘leader of the opposition’ or ‘devil’s advocate’ and rotate the role

  • Introduce a protocol at the end of team meetings where team members can provide anonymous feedback (perhaps on a post-it note) on how included they felt (via a score of 1 - 5) and one thing in the next team meeting that would help them feel more included.

  • Use different communication channels to receive inputs on a project - some people are more comfortable providing inputs via email or direct phone call rather than in a team meeting.

These are the types of actions we discuss with leaders in our education programs to encourage good decision-making. We also conduct reviews of key HR policies and processes to reduce the potential for bias.

If you’d like to know more, please email info@diversitypartners.com.au or chat with us on 1800 571 999. Having worked with tens of thousands of leaders in more than 300 organisations, the team is well equipped to answer your questions or design an appropriate solution to help your organisation challenge unconscious bias, improve decision-making, and progress diversity.