Unacknowledged personal biases in the workplace can quickly spiral, leaving employees feeling alienated and disengaged. This has far-reaching implications that can also influence external brand experiences with target stakeholders. In the healthcare industry, this is especially concerning as it can contribute to health disparities and impact progress toward health equity: better health and well-being for all.
But we can take four simple steps to create a more inclusive environment.
1. Mitigate Personal Biases with a Growth Mindset
Healthcare leaders are in a unique position to make a meaningful impact on their workforce, their communities, and the overall healthcare system. But when it comes to advancing health equity and achieving better patient outcomes, implicit biases can stand in the way of progress. Recent research has found that leaders who believe they’re highly effective in their roles not only tend to value diversity and inclusion less but actually perform worse overall. The Dunning-Kruger effect is especially dangerous for healthcare leaders because it can lead to an unchecked sense of superiority or ignorance when making decisions. Many feel they are doing enough to support an equitable and inclusive workplace, when in fact, their biases may be preventing progress.
2. Educate Employees and Encourage Accountability
Biases also hinder the team’s ability to make fair, informed decisions. Individuals who exhibit confirmation bias or affinity bias jeopardize fact-based decision-making by giving more weight to information they already know and people similar to themselves. Overconfidence bias and the halo effect can lead to unjustifiably prioritizing one’s own ideas or unfounded preferential treatment of certain individuals. DEI-based education and training on the importance of diversity and inclusion, as well as the behaviors and mindsets that contribute to them, can equip employees to address their personal biases and practice organizational values.
3. Build Trust to Foster Engagement
Empowering employees to bring their authentic selves to work without fear of judgment or discrimination can only occur in a trusting climate. Leaders can build trust through open dialogue, self-reflection, expressing appreciation, and taking accountability for steps toward progress and missteps alike. Inclusivity is measured by the beholder, and negative experiences erode trust. Failing to address instances of unconscious bias may make employees less likely to speak up in the future. Establishing clear objectives, consistently working towards them, and responding to emerging needs are key to creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
4. Celebrate Diversity and Health Equity
The health equity movement is gaining traction and support from healthcare organizations and leaders around the world. By recognizing how micro and macro differences in social determinants of health contribute to disparities, it’s easier to understand why investing in diverse teams is critical for innovation, creativity, engagement, and profitability. One way to do this is by auditing marketing materials for non-inclusive language and imagery that can be interpreted as offensive or unrelatable. This allows organizations to build trust with their audiences, creating a safe space where healthcare information can be shared without fear of judgment.
By recognizing and addressing implicit bias, healthcare organizations can create an environment where employees can reach their full potential and better serve their communities.