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Combating thinking in stereotypes

Consciously tackling unconscious bias

  • Unconscious bias influences decision-making
  • Workshops for all associates worldwide, advanced seminars for HR associates and executives
  • Bosch CHRO Christoph Kübel: “Diversity is a form of enrichment and a necessary condition for our success. That’s why we need to adopt an attitude that is free of prejudice.”

Stuttgart, Germany – We’re all familiar with the situation: after knowing a person for just a short time, we form an opinion about them. This happens unconsciously and completely automatically – even when we don’t want it to. A person’s appearance, the firmness of their handshake, their posture, and other characteristics are slotted into categories to make things easier on the brain. This unconscious categorization influences objective perception. Bosch has been holding workshops for all its associates worldwide since 2016 to raise awareness of unconscious bias and encourage working relationships based on respect. More than 200 such workshops have been held in German-speaking countries alone. But in the personnel selection process as well, stereotyping can lead to problems.

Diversity is a form of enrichment and a necessary condition for our success.

Christoph Kübel, the director of industrial relations at Bosch

This is why Bosch developed a new seminar for HR associates and executives that is designed to tackle unconscious bias. The topic is particularly relevant to these two groups, as objective perception and evaluation of candidates is a key prerequisite for discovering and developing talented individuals at an early stage. “Diversity is a form of enrichment and a necessary condition for our success – so we need to adopt an attitude that is free of prejudice in all situations,” says Christoph Kübel, the director of industrial relations at Bosch. This makes it all the more important to become aware of unconscious bias, as this often causes valuable skills and characteristics to be overlooked.The company has introduced the seminar for executives and HR associates at some 40 locations in Germany. This year, the offer was extended to locations outside Germany.

Stereotypes are deeply rooted in the way we think

Psychologists have shown that 90 percent of the decision-making process happens rapidly and unconsciously. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Unconscious thought mechanisms enable people to handle the daily flood of information and make judgments quickly. But in some situations, they can lead to the wrong decision. “As people, we judge others by comparing them to ourselves. We tend to prefer people who are similar to us on a personal level,” says Heidi Stock, who heads up the talent acquisition and diversity team at Bosch. “However, this runs counter to the idea of diversity. Our work culture is one that lets all associates around the world feel appreciated, and deliberately encourages them to contribute their different perspectives. That’s why we’ve been thinking for a long time about ways of reducing the effect of unconscious bias in certain situations.”

Our work culture is one that lets all associates around the world feel appreciated, and deliberately encourages them to contribute their different perspectives.

Heidi Stock, head of the talent acquisition and diversity team at Bosch

Avoiding prejudice in personnel selection

Even before the interview stage, unconscious bias is a factor in personnel selection. “Unconscious bias even affects the way we write job advertisements,” Stock says. “Our aim is to hire associates who are objectively the best fit for Bosch. That’s why we developed a seminar especially for executives and HR associates that covers the whole personnel selection process.” Each four-hour training session puts ten to twelve participants to work on empirically tested exercises using interactive methods. First, they find out what unconscious bias is and what effect it has. Then, each executive teams up with an HR associate. They are then confronted with their own unconscious bias in various situations, from writing a job advertisement to the interview to the final selection decision, and reflect on this. Participants are taught methods and tricks for applying what they have learned in everyday situations. These include a checklist that helps executives and HR associates reflect on the job interview they have just given and to put their finger on possible instances of unconscious bias. In addition, the company uses standardized questionnaires that permit objective comparisons to be made. The idea is to achieve lasting change in people’s behavior that will make the selection process as objective as possible.

Unconscious bias in everyday life

A person’s gender, age, ethnicity, gestures, facial expressions, and other characteristics are what determine the first impression they make when meeting someone new. Norma Torres Suárez, a Spanish associate, used to be influenced by first impressions like these. She was a department head in Stuttgart-Feuerbach, Germany, when she took part in the training course. “I had prejudices myself, because the other department heads at the time were all men. And they were all a bit older than me,” Torres Suárez says. The seminar helped her to behave with more self-confidence and with less prejudice. “Now I know that I made things harder for myself than was necessary back then. You have to be open so you can see how multi-faceted people can be,” she says. Fouad Amor also meets all sorts of different people every day. For three years, he has been an HR associate in Abstatt, Germany. The seminar taught him a special technique to help with his day-to-day work. “If I notice that I’m stereotyping an applicant, then I’ll deliberately take the opposite position”, Amor says. He has passed on this technique to other departments and colleagues.

You have to be open so you can see how multi-faceted people can be.

Norma Torres Suárez, department head at Bosch

Diversity through standardization

For some time now, Stock and her team have been examining how to integrate digital solutions such as computer-aided interviews into the recruiting process to make decisions on filling vacancies even more objective. “Our aim is to design processes and tools in such a way that individuals’ attitudes and viewpoints do not distort the outcomes. In this way, we want to encourage diversity and respect, and ultimately to further enhance our innovative strength,” Stock says.

Tags: Diversity

About Bosch

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 410,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2018). The company generated sales of 78.5 billion euros in 2018. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT company, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, smart cities, connected mobility, and connected manufacturing. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 460 subsidiary and regional companies in over 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At nearly 130 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 68,700 associates in research and development.

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com, www.iot.bosch.com, www.bosch-press.com, www.twitter.com/BoschPresse.

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