Overcoming Implicit Bias: Selecting the Top Healthcare Consultants

Overcoming Implicit Bias: Selecting the Top Healthcare Consultants

Society has made great strides in recognizing biases and moving the needle towards better healthcare hiring practices for everyone regardless of their gender, race, age, or other factors of identity. However, implicit bias still exists and has effects when it comes to hiring decisions, whether the decision-makers are aware of it or not.

It’s hard to admit it, but implicit bias is still a problem that every industry in society deals with, and the healthcare system is not free of guilt. 

Society has made great strides in recognizing biases and moving the needle towards better healthcare hiring practices for everyone regardless of their gender, race, age, or other factors of identity. However, implicit bias still exists and has effects when it comes to hiring decisions, whether the decision-makers are aware of it or not.

Implicit bias manifests itself when healthcare providers make subtle, subconscious decisions to hire or not hire advisors based on the identity factors previously mentioned. Additionally, it can happen internally within advisor groups, when they choose to hire or not hire for the same reasons.

The first step in solving this problem is to simply acknowledge it. Since it’s implicit, by definition the people carrying it out won’t consciously be choosing to be exclusionary. The issue needs to be brought to their attention so they can know what it is and how to mitigate it. 

The good news is that this isn’t completely an uphill battle, in fact, many healthcare professionals and entities who hire consultants are already taking steps towards figuring out the best way to diversify their teams regardless of any biases that might have been formed in the past. We’re moving in the right direction, so let’s keep the conversation going. 

What is Implicit Bias? 

According to the Perception Institute, “thoughts and feelings are ‘implicit’ if we are unaware of them or mistaken about their nature. We have a bias when, rather than being neutral, we have a preference for (or aversion to) a person or group of people.”

That’s where the term “implicit bias” comes into play. Implicit bias rears its ugly head when people make subconscious judgments, criticisms, or assumptions about other people based on preconceived notions about their race, gender identity, age, religion, or other identity factors. And as the term implies, we aren’t aware of the problem when we perpetuate it. 

For example, an unfortunate commonality of implicit bias is associating black people with criminality or low socioeconomic statuses. These harmful preconceived notions, whether we are aware of them or not, are ingrained into our collective subconscious through years of messaging and actions, both big and small. 

Again, this implicit bias does not recuse itself in the workplace. These subconscious judgments can tip the scales during hiring decisions just enough to sway the final decision, and the healthcare industry is no exception. 

How Does Implicit Bias Affect the Hiring Process for Healthcare Consultants?

Healthcare consultants face implicit bias in the hiring process in multiple ways. First, they may face it when being hired by a consultant group. Second, they may face it during the hiring phase when trying to land work with healthcare professionals and entities. Regardless of the location of implicit bias in the hiring process, the same themes and judgments are usually present. This is a universal problem, after all. 

There are many factors that can perpetuate the narrative of bias in the healthcare industry. 

For example, data shows that recruiters across industries tend to stay away from “foreign” or “hard to pronounce” names, making them want to hire people with similar backgrounds to theirs instead. This means that oftentimes, candidates with “white-sounding” names will have a better chance at landing the job even with similar qualifications to the person with the “foreign-sounding” name. 

Additionally, as we mentioned previously, implicit bias doesn’t only manifest itself in terms of race. Other identity factors such as gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and more can have a similar effect on a candidate’s chances of getting hired. 

However, the issue doesn’t stop there. If someone does get hired without implicit bias turning them away, they may face the same problem internally. They may be passed up for promotions, have insensitive jokes made towards them, or just experience an overall professional culture that doesn’t support them. 

This is a huge problem, especially as the healthcare industry as a whole is facing burnout and staffing shortages all while being overrun by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Healthcare professionals and entities, along with consultant groups let go of talent, knowledge, diversity, and experiences that might have been more beneficial to them when they fall prey to implicit bias. It’s an “all hands on deck” moment right now in healthcare; we can’t afford to keep letting this happen.

So, how can healthcare businesses and consultancies overcome these biases to give consulting prospects a fair chance and an opportunity to benefit the industry? 

Overcoming Implicit Bias

Understand Your Own Biases 

Acknowledge the problem to address the problem. What does this look like for healthcare providers and consultant groups, though? The answer is simple; they need to reflect as individuals and as companies. They should look to outside experts or internal diversity and inclusion leaders for help training in unconscious bias. 

This will help employees and decision-makers in these organizations, and in this case, those who are on the front lines of recruiting, to understand what their implicit biases may be. Identifying these biases helps to bring them to light during the hiring process, to increase the chance that the people perpetrating them are able to catch the problem. 

Additionally, having this type of instruction makes it easier for employees to begin talking more openly about biases—and working to mitigate them—once given the opportunity to explore and understand that everyone has them. Creating a culture of vulnerability, trust, and solidarity will lead to more meaningful conversations and actionable change. 

Examine the Selection Process 

How does your organization go from finding prospects to hiring them? What are the specific criteria that determine who gets the job vs who doesn’t? If people have similar qualifications, what helps differentiate them? For the last question, many organizations will answer that “cultural fit” is the differentiating factor that helps separate candidates who have similar qualifications.

However, this can lead to exclusion based on familiarity, as we mentioned before. Assimilation and being the same isn’t always the correct answer. In fact, outside perspectives from people who don’t have the same background or experiences as you can prove to be majorly beneficial. Instead of focusing on “cultural fit” and thinking about this as a sort of “fitting in” thing, consider how the candidates match up to organizational values. 

Do they exemplify your organization’s character? Do they do the right thing? Are they someone you’d be proud to have as a representation of your company? These are more important questions than simply thinking about if they’d be likely to be acquaintances with existing staff. 

Focusing on organizational values rather than “cultural fit” can help avoid the “like me” bias that can cloud judgment. 

Use the organizational values to help look for people who bring a different experience and perspective and who share the same values. 

Group Decisions 

When it comes to hiring a healthcare consultant—either as a healthcare provider or internally to a team of consultants—it’s best to include a range of people with different backgrounds as decision-makers in the hiring process. 

Typically, this might include a recruiter or HR representative, hiring manager, their direct respondent, etc. The more diverse you can make the hiring committee, the better.

This will help to eliminate the “like me” bias that leads to exclusion. Your organization will be able to receive better clarity about your prospects when they’re vetted by people with different perspectives who share the same goals and values. Plus, with positions as specialized and important as the ones healthcare consultants fill, it’s important to get a good amount of feedback on candidates.

Making sure that several people are part of the process will help you have people checking on their blind spots and being more open-minded about potential candidates. 

Implement New Technologies Like Perla That Help Match Consultants and Advisors with Healthcare Providers  

Searching for consultants and advisors can be difficult for many reasons, as you’re trying to fill specialized positions while pulling from a massive pool of candidates who may or may not fit the bill. That’s why it’s important to implement technology that speeds up this process and helps to reduce the chance of implicit bias. 

Perla is a platform that connects healthcare professionals and entities with pre-vetted accountants, lawyers, and other types of consultants with experience and knowledge in the healthcare industry. It helps show healthcare organizations advisors who can help them based on merit, not on familiarity or the “like me” bias that can come from organically searching. 

Here’s how it works:

First, you select your healthcare organization so we can connect you to the Perla platform on your organization’s website. 

Then, you answer a few questions so we can match you with the right type of trusted advisors who can assist you within your specialty. 

And finally, you get matched with the perfect consultants that will assist you with the specific needs of your practice. 

Perla directly interviews all reviewers to gather detailed information about projects completed by our trusted advisors and publishes the reviewers’ comments in the advisor profile. 

The process ensures that the best review information is available to users of the site about each advisor to make the process of selecting the desired adviser easier.

Due to the high quality of the advisors in the platform, you are far more likely to be matched with top-notch advisors who can help you with your specific needs, no matter their race, gender, age, or other identity factors.

However, the next steps are up to you when it comes to eliminating implicit bias. Your organization will be the ones making the decision of which matches you’ll pursue, so you’ll need to keep the factors of implicit bias we explained earlier front of mind. 

Remember to understand and challenge your own biases as an individual and an organization, examine your selection process, and make diverse group decisions.

To learn more about Perla’s free matching system and see how it can help you or your business find qualified and specialty-based candidates, request a demo today.

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