Too often important business decisions suffer from ‘cognitive bias’ when better people information is what they need

TRUMBULL, CT USA — September 23, 2020 — Questionmark, the online assessment provider, has identified five ‘watch out phrases’ that suggest employers may be affected by cognitive bias, making important decisions without sufficient rigor or information.  A new report, ‘beyond decision bias’, explores how crucial decisions around managing the workforce must be informed by real and robust data. 

Too often, decision making is vulnerable to ‘cognitive bias’.  Without realizing it, employers may be failing to seek the information they need or ignoring crucial data.

Five common ‘warning phrases’

In isolation, none of these pose a problem on occasions.  But if these are regular phrases at work, they should be scrutinized.

  1. “We tried that before.  It didn’t work.” – Everyone must learn from experience.  But when this phrase becomes the standard response, alarm bells should ring. Stasis is rarely an effective business strategy.
  • “If it doesn’t come off, we’ll look really stupid.” How individuals and teams are perceived internally matters.  However, if fear hinders innovation, huge opportunities for growth could be missed.  Innovation needs to be nurtured.
  • “It doesn’t matter what we do – we just need to do something.” – Activity for the sake of it often means that the time has not been taken to make the best decision.  Knee jerk responses can be as bad as getting stuck in the headlights.
  • “If it worked for them, it’ll work for us.” – An assumption that all the variables and circumstances are identical must be challenged.  Rarely are two situations entirely identical, especially when the first mover has already made a mark.
  • “If it’s good enough for the boss, it’s good enough for me.” – The boss’s judgment should be trusted and respected.  But the most effective decision-makers welcome challenges.  Inspiration can come from any angle.

Lars Pedersen, CEO of Questionmark said: “Some decisions have to be made quickly and a leader has to rely on the information they already have.  But for crucial decisions around managing the workforce, employers must seek out information that challenges assumptions and cognitive bias. 

“Online assessments of the workforce give employers the information they need to make the best possible people-decisions.  It helps them ensure they recruit and promote the right people.  It supports the onboarding of new starters and ensures that the money invested in training is well spent.”

The report demonstrates that cognitive bias remains a problem.

  • It explores the impact on people-based decisions. 
  • It outlines strategies for tackling it. 
  • It details how obtaining new information from online staff tests and assessments can help address the situation.

The report also shows how assessments can be used to confront ‘unconscious bias’ in the recruitment process.  This is when factors other than who is best for the job, subconsciously influence the hiring decisions.  By assessing candidates before hiring them, employers can see who has the skills for the job.  They can confront unconscious bias, select the best candidate and nurture a more diverse workforce.  

Download the full report ‘beyond decision bias’.

The report forms part of the ‘Questionmark Viewpoint’ series which explores the challenges that Questionmark customers face, and how Questionmark helps address them.