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Eliminating Unconscious Bias: Please, No Photos!

Feature Article | March 8, 2017 by Lyndal Hagar

A picture paints a thousand words, but how many of them are biased? Research shows that “irrelevant” information like a person’s gender, age, race, or level of physical attractiveness can indeed influence our judgment and decision processes.

Furthermore, our biases tend to be in favor of those who are similar to us, such that we will rate similar individuals more positively than less similar individuals (Arkes, 1991; Wilson & Brekke, 1994).

We have all seen articles describing how photos can sway a recruiter’s decision on an applicant, but have you ever thought about the impact photos can have on other areas of the talent management cycle? At SAP SuccessFactors, we offer various options to turn off photos in parts of the application, and now with the Q1 2017 release it is not only possible to conduct photo-less calibration but also highlight gender diversity during the calibration process.

The SAP SuccessFactors calibration tool is a vital step in the performance management process that plays a role in reducing bias by getting managers on the same page when defining and measuring performance. Done well, performance calibration provides benefits to everyone involved. However, even if every effort is made to enforce these standards, bias can still be perpetuated when you allow a human being to rate another human being.

We are determined to eliminate unconscious bias in calibration in several ways this year, and the first is now available in our new set of photo-less and gender diversity features.

Instead of potentially being swayed by unconscious bias when making a decision about an employee because of their photo, we have replaced the photo with an icon to indicate the employee’s gender. Suddenly by taking away the photo and replacing it with a generic icon, we can instantly see where certain gender biases may be impacting our judgment of employee performance. Of course if you aren’t ready to turn off the photo just yet there is another view to see the employee’s name, and you can still take advantage of the gender diversity feature to show the gender distribution underneath the photos.

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To see a demo and to learn how to enable these features in your Calibration templates, check out this post in the Customer Community. We will be releasing new features every quarter specifically designed to help you detect bias and develop a more diverse and inclusive workforce, so make sure to subscribe to our Community page.

To learn more about Business Beyond Bias and the features already available throughout the SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite to help address workforce diversity and inclusion in your organization, check out our whitepaper.

To learn more about the other major Q1 updates to the SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite, check out the release video below and the release highlights blog.

Don’t miss the new resources now available here to learn more about how SAP SuccessFactors solutions are better for HR and your digital transformation journey. Plus, take advantage of the webinars in the HR Live Demo series. These expert-led demos run weekly through April and cover the full suite – talent management, core HR, etc. – and more, including diversity and inclusion. Register here.

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