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Iterating for better: Unconscious biases and how to keep them in check

Building a diverse workforce is a priority for many studios, but managing our unconscious bias during any recruitment process is a challenge.

Firstly, to be clear, we all have unconscious biases. Scientists believe that stereotypes in general serve a purpose – clustering people into groups with expected traits helps us to navigate the world. The downside is that the potential for prejudice is hard-wired into human reasoning and, if left unchecked, unconscious bias can thrive in hiring, promotions and in feedback.

Of course, the process of selection is all about reduction; exclusion is a vital part of recruiting. But bias has to be accounted for when making judgments about applicants. Here are some tips on how to avoid it:

  • – Create a job description that includes only absolute requirements. Prioritise capability as opposed to person type. Make the job description your contract with yourself, because you’re going to use that document to control yourself later on in the process.
  • – Once you have candidates at the selection stage, write down the priorities from the job description before you begin sifting through them. This will keep you on track when bias can creep in – for example, when you realise the candidate went to your university or that they like the same kind of music as you do.
  • – Create a ticklist from the job description, then take information off CVs for a blind review – i.e. name, photo, personal stuff and consider removing university too. Make a scorecard for each CV. If you look for a ‘cultural fit’, what does that mean if the starting point is not a diverse workforce? We need to stop looking at cultural fit and start looking at cultural add.
  • – Demand diverse shortlists, interview with people unlike you, use structure, scoring and notes. Do not form opinions in interviews. Your brain is powerful, so you have to outwit its instincts. Thwart it with structure, the support of colleagues, and practice over time.

We have the easy choice of recruiting in our own image, to make decisions that are quick and easy, and solve problems with a short term view. But if we recognise bias in the system and in society, we can play our part in making things fairer for everyone and give all talented people a chance to do rewarding work.

Natalie Tidey

Senior recruiter, EA

“I think there’s an element of unconscious or similarity bias in all industries, and I think many, including games, are waking up to that now more than ever. I have personally found the games industry to be a sector of incredibly passionate, welcoming and inclusive people.

Perhaps this passion has, at times, led to an unconscious preference to work with, or hire, people with similar interests, similar passions, similar preferences. But I also believe that the industry recognises that the global playerbase should be reflected within the workforce and are consciously taking steps to address gaps. Change takes time, but I’m very optimistic.”

Paula Wheelan

Head of diversity and inclusion, RightTrack Learning

“Gaining a deeper understanding of how, why and when bias can occur is a great first step. Consider taking Harvard Implicit Association tests to find out if you have any notable bias for or against any particular group of people. An increase in understanding and self-awareness will better enable you to evaluate whether your decision-making is fair and unbiased, or not.

If you are addressing promotions, performance reviews or recruitment, for example, perhaps include a panel of people or devise an approach that is 100 per cent objective; a clear set of criteria and a scoring matrix helps to ensure managers rely on evidence, rather than gut feelings or assumptions.”

Putting The G Into Gaming is a pro bono initiative founded by and in association with recruitment specialist Amiqus. To find out more email G-IntoGaming@amiqus.com or contact liz.prince@amiqus.com.

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