1.1.5 Audit systems and processes for bias


Every stage of the employee life cycle (recruitment, selection, performance, succession, development, transition) and the systems and processes that go with these have the potential to be impacted by bias. Some areas with bias are easy to resolve, for example, if your organisation features only young white men and women in your recruitment marketing literature. Other 'systems', such as the way promotion 'readiness' is assessed across an organisation, are harder to change.

'While quotas can be a means of incentivising change and measuring progress, they do nothing in themselves to affect the necessary improvement. A key part of the response must include systematic data gathering to measure company culture through the prevailing attitudes and assumptions. A range of targeted interventions can then be put in place to challenge the assumptions that drive behaviour and to create an ongoing cycle of improvement', 'Andrew Cocks: Cultural bias underpins the Gender Pay Gap in UK financial services', HR Review, 2019.


  • Audit the employee lifecycle (talent management, career development and reward systems) for areas where there could be potential bias and then redesign systems to mitigate against bias. Track and review engagement scores, retention rates & advancement/promotion rates to the next level to identify possible systemic biases (are there different outcomes for different groups?).
  • Identify and engage the relevant in-house specialist to partner with on each element of the employee life cycle.
  • Enable your new team members to feedback on the recruitment and onboarding process through an online survey and adapt your systems accordingly.
  • Understand if processes/procedures are being followed internally. And understand what decisions employees are making about their own career progression etc.
  • Embed 'bias interruption' into all training and business systems so it becomes a way of working at the organisation.
  • 'Measure everything. To detect and diagnose problems in your hiring process you need to know protected data from the people in your hiring funnel and how they perform as they progress through your hiring process. To assess the performance of the mouth of your funnel you also need to find out the demographic makeup of the wider talent market as a whole. If you want to truly perfect your hiring, you also need to be able to match up every point in your process with who got hired and how well they performed once they were in the role', Is my recruitment process biased?, Applied 2019.


'Take a look at your current processes and identify where they have the possibility to exclude groups of people. For example, does your place of work offer unpaid internships? These are often only accessible to those who can afford to work for free so are they excluding those from poorer backgrounds? Refreshing policies and procedures should focus not only on attracting and retaining a diverse group of employees, but also on being inclusive. That means making a commitment to providing all employees with challenging work, development opportunities and ownership of their specific jobs. You may also want to conduct surveys and create focus groups to gauge employee opinions and give staff a means to express their thoughts and concerns', 'How to develop a great diversity scheme', Chartered Management Institute.

  • The objective is that the organisation uses structure and criteria that are consistently applied across all employees (without it, people are more likely to rely on gender, race, and other stereotypes when making decisions).
  • Even if people intend to act rationally, they still make decisions based on snap judgments, shortcuts or biases. ‘Nudges’ can be incorporated into people processes to tame this innate human characteristic. These have the effect of steering – rather than coercing – people towards making more inclusive choices. Consider 'just-in-time' tools to prime de-biasing behaviour at the moment key people decisions are made. Offer tools that focus on specific audiences, for example, all employees; senior leaders; people managers.

More info

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