by Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP | June 11, 2018
We all acquire biases in our upbringing, culture, education, and life experiences that impact us in the workplace. These learned judgments can sometimes help to protect us. But if we start assessing people based on characteristics they cannot change, this leads to discrimination. Fairness in recognition giving is essential for people to feel truly valued and appreciated. Learn from these Top 10 Ways to Overcome Bias and Give More Equitable Recognition.

1. Educate about unconscious or hidden bias and its effects. You can't totally eradicate biases that happen automatically based on your upbringing and life experiences. But building awareness of how it impacts valuing and appreciating people today can surely help recognition giving.
2. Develop open communication channels for employees to express themselves. Have various "contact us" methods on your recognition portal for employees to describe exemplary recognition stories. Invite them to share negative occurrences where recognition was not fairly given. Find out if there are employee groups who are feeling neglected.
3. Acknowledge and challenge any biases you've operated by. Call it out and discuss with others for guidance. Watch out if you treat employees with different ethnic sounding names differently. Do you only recognize employees from one department who always produce high results?
4. Start looking at recognition program data from an inclusive view. Examine who is giving and receiving recognition from the perspective of gender, age, role positions, and work groups. How well is recognition represented across these and other diverse employee groups?
5. Analyze your employee engagement survey data more narrowly. Dig deeper into your engagement survey results. Look at the recognition related questions and check out feedback, trust, respect, transparency and communication. These are foundational for good recognition.
6. Ensure your recognition criteria are explicit and easy to use. It's important to eliminate as much subjectivity and bias as possible for any level-based recognition and reward program. Determine both quantitative and qualitative rules for what actions merit which kind of recognition.
7. Facilitate inclusiveness in projects you assign to diverse teams. Inclusive workers embrace diversity and respect individual group members. They are more naturally inclined to share different perspectives and are more likely to value and appreciate each other's contributions.
8. Evaluate how your leaders are doing and hold them accountable. So much of what we want to change starts at the top. Solicit employee input on their perceptions of diversity, inclusion and bias with recognition. Incorporate awareness training and coaching to improve leadership skills.
9. Transform people's thinking through careful transitioning. With whatever biases you have you can never be expected to change your thoughts and prejudices overnight. Plan in discussions, training, and communications that acknowledge changes will happen and will take time.
10. Develop recognition practices that promote diversity. Build in opportunities for recognition that acknowledge and show appreciation to work groups that are often underrepresented. Not from a quota mindset but from a place of genuine and planned inclusion. Recognize everyone!



Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is the author of "Giving the Real Recognition Way." The Vistance Institute chief learning officer at Rideau Inc., Saunderson provides consulting, learning, and thought leadership services focused on helping leaders and managers give real recognition the right way. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter (@RoySaunderson) and at his blog.