Don’t judge me, judge my output
It is in our nature to make intuitive decisions about other people. We categorise people fairly soon after meeting them based on various criteria such as age, gender, social class, education, even accent. We can’t help it – it is our unconscious judgement and it affects our attitudes and behaviours towards other people.
This is unconscious bias. And it isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can alert us to potential dangers. But not all unconscious bias allows for workplace environments to evolve and accommodate the changing demographics of those who work.
As military spouses, it is not new news that unconscious bias exists in the workplace. It impacts us in recruitment decisions, in training and development and in progression to senior levels. Our chosen lifestyle can be categorised as not being a committed employee with frequent moves or career breaks counting against us. We can be seen as not worth training investment or lacking appropriate skills or experience.
To some extent, it is true that some will have to move away from jobs, however changes within the British military means families are more settled than ever before. In reality, military spouses may not move jobs any more than civilian workers*.
Pre-conceptions about military spouses can result in the exclusion of a talented group of people, and employers cannot afford to limit the talent pool in any way*. It is important that organisations remove bias, whether conscious or unconscious. It is generally accepted that teams with a range of backgrounds, differing experiences and alternative styles will drive innovation, productivity and efficiency as well as improving retention.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes – perhaps the development of technology will aid evolution of a more balanced recruitment and selection process and encouraging a culture where everyone is treated as an individual is an essential part of the change. But it is up to all of us to acknowledge bias and work to shift mindsets so that we can encourage broader acceptance of the varied experiences, backgrounds, lifestyles or work requirements of a military spouse.
For businesses, this can translate into greater business success and potentially higher revenues, after all, military spouses can bring a raft of skills and qualities to any workplace. For military spouses, it can mean greater job opportunities, the ability of career development and an elevated feeling of inclusion.
A call to action: if you have suffered or suffering from a form of unconscious bias, Recruit for Spouses would like to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about it.
*A report by Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) in conjunction with Recruit for Spouses; ‘Employing Military Spouses A guide for employers 2018’ .