Understanding the cost of bias within an organization

July 27, 2021
July 27, 2021

Bias can have a devastating impact on employees in any workplace, whether in terms of how they feel about their work environment, or how much of themselves they put into their jobs. This blog post taken from the HealthStream article, “Understanding the Cost of Bias at Your Organization,” based on a webinar presented by Jeremy Short, a HealthStream subject matter expert on bias, diversity, and inclusion. When thinking about bias in the workplace, Short shares how it is important to realize and acknowledge that we all have some bias. Bias is a prejudgment that occurs to help your brain sort and categorize the world around you. It creates shortcuts for faster decision making based on past experiences and upbringing, or on information that your brain has told you ahead of time. Biases can be positive or negative. A fundamental step in understanding bias is to accept its existence.

Bias can conflict with assumptions regarding your workforce

When bias exists within an organization, it can wreak havoc on employees and the effort to create and support a workforce that functions well. To understand how bias can cost an organization, let’s examine a few generally accepted truths about organizations.

  1. Talent, within your workforce, is a critical differentiator between competitors and a crucial contributor to competitive advantage
  2. Every organization wants to hire the best people possible. It is important to refresh the talent pool regularly with the very best talent available.
  3. Leaders want their people to give their very best at work. Once employees are in place, leaders want to give them all the support and resources they need to succeed in their jobs.
  4. For employees to give their best, they have to be engaged. Engagement involves discretionary effort above the minimum amount of work necessary to be successful, as well as the intent to stay. Discretionary effort is anything somebody chooses to give you.
  5. Every organization wants to retain high performing employees as long as possible.

The impact of experiencing bias

Allowing bias to exist unchallenged in an organization poses a risk to productivity and innovation. It can also lead to a reduction in profit, whether for a hospital, business, school system, or foundation. Bias affects an organization in critical areas necessary for innovation and growth. Below are some statistics that demonstrate the impact of bias on operations and the workforce:

  • Those perceiving bias in their organizations are 2.6 times more likely to withhold ideas about improving market solutions over the previous six months.
  • Bias is a prejudgment that occurs to help your brain sort and categorize the world around you... A fundamental step in understanding bias is to know and accept we all have some.
  • Employees in large companies who perceive bias are three times more likely to be disengaged at work. Disengaged employees are far less likely to offer extra insights about innovation and growth.
  • Active disengagement costs U.S. companies $450 - 650 billion annually.
  • Turnover costs employers as much as two times the departing employee’s annual salary. Employees leave because they feel frustrated, disengaged, discriminated against, or they feel there is no opportunity for advancement.
  • Those who perceive bias are three times more likely to leave their current job within the year.

If bias is identified without being addressed in an organization, it can result in fines, lawsuits, and claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Create an inclusive culture to manage and address equity

A workforce and organization that understands the importance of recognizing unconscious bias, diversity in the workplace, cultural competence, and health literacy not only improves peer-to-peer and caregiver-to-patient relationships, but also has the power to influence your organization’s culture, place in your community, and bottom line. Explore HealthStream solutions that support workforce diversity and inclusion.