Tackling Racial Discrimination: Training & Recruitment Guidelines



We talked in our previous blog about how employers must create a culture that supports diversity and how to demonstrate to employees that you are serious in tackling the “other pandemic”–racial discrimination. 

This week we focus on two key recommendations from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its guidelines for how to lower the risk of race discrimination in the workplace:

  • Provide training, matched to what exactly you are trying to achieve in your workplace, including training for HR offices and senior executives.
  • Establish neutral and objective criteria for recruitment, hiring and promotions to avoid subjective decisions based on personal stereotypes or hidden biases.

A significant factor in acts of discrimination is what is known as “subconscious bias.” This is the subtle discriminatory tendencies that many of us carry with us, unrecognized by ourselves, and which are difficult to spot and address. Subconscious bias can lead to acts of micro-aggression that contribute to a hostile workplace. 

Training and a culture of open discussion will help isolate specific examples to allow for intervention. Here are the key recommendations for effective training that are consistently cited by experts in this field:


  • Use an experienced facilitator who is comfortable managing difficult conversations and people.
  • If possible, make it voluntary. People who are forced to participate can become resentful and defensive.
  • Set ground rules so that participants feel safe to explore uncomfortable topics.
  • Make learning interactive and experiential – so participants are not just sitting and listening.


  • One option is to have your employees participate in scenario-based exercises around racially charged situations in which they must apply objective criteria rather than personal judgement to decision-making.
  • Another option is experiential learning for participants to sample what it is like for people of color to live in a world where they routinely face suspicion and discrimination.
  • Include “bystander training”–teaching employees what to do if they witness discriminatory behavior or overhear offensive comments.


  • Provide practical, actionable steps that people can use to help themselves overcome subconscious bias.
  • Arrange to continue the discussion–training should be the beginning of a process.

Another crucial area in the workplace where subconscious bias may be a factor, unless there are clear and consistent policies, is recruitment, hiring and promotions.

The EEOC makes these recommendations to ensure subjective decision-making in the process:

  • Recruit, hire and promote by implementing practices designed to widen and diversify the pool of candidates, including openings at upper management level.
  • Conduct self-analyses to determine whether current employment practices disadvantage people of color, treat them differently, or leave uncorrected the effects of historical discrimination in the company.
  • Analyze the duties, functions, and competencies relevant to jobs. Then create objective, job-related qualification standards related to those duties, functions, and competencies. Make sure they are consistently applied when choosing among candidates.
  • Ensure selection criteria do not disproportionately exclude certain racial groups unless the criteria are valid predictors of successful job performance and meet the employer's business needs (an example is education requirements). 

The foremost professional organization and resource for HR professionals, SHRM, has additional recommendations to help exclude any bias, whether it be sex, age or race related, from the hiring process. 

SHRM’s tips include:

  • Go blind for the resume review: That means just looking at each candidate’s experience and qualifications – without knowing their name, gender or anything about the person’s demographic.
  • Give a work sample test: Asking candidates to solve work-related problems is a truer test of future job performance – a more objective judgement than the influence on a hiring decision of name, appearance, gender or age.
  • Standardize interviews: Structured interviews in which every candidate gets the same set of defined questions is more likely to create usable independent data to help identify the most appropriate hire.
  • Bias towards likeability: Studies found that the first 10 seconds of an interview can decide its outcome. If likeability is important for the role, score it like you would any other skill – then it becomes just one of the attributes against which you are making the hire, rather than the only reason.

Nowadays, how a company complies with the laws and regulations governing racial discrimination within the walls of the organization is only one side of the issue. What is also scrutinized closely by employees, customers and investors is what the company says and does to support social justice issues in the wider community.

We will take a look at that complex, but increasingly important, topic in a forthcoming blog.

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