How Gamification in Business is Helping Eradicate Unconscious Bias

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Have you ever gone for a job that you felt you were perfect for but in the end found that you were overlooked for something that seemed rather trivial? You’re not alone, the number of employees that are victims of unconscious bias within business decisions whether they know it or not is staggering. This discrimination can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, religion or even disability status.

Update: Ebony Thomas spoke at Fortune's annual Brainstorm Reinvent conference about how she believes companies stumble “on execution” when it comes to hiring and how AI and Gamification can help businesses work around unconscious bias. Click this link to see


Unconscious biases are those that occur automatically, triggered by our brain making quick judgments of people and situations based on previously determined judgments or socially accepted norms while disregarding any level of rationality or good judgment.

In the workplace, this can take the form of social stereotyping, these deeply subconscious attitudes can influence decisions such as recruitment, hiring, promotion, job advancement opportunities, retention and evaluations. Consequently this hurts bottom-line business performance and organisation reputation.  

Unconscious bias has a substantial and far-reaching impact on work environment and culture, on daily interactions between colleagues around the office, and on client relationships. It can seep into any situation where individuals have the power to influence outcomes through their behaviour, decisions and subsequent actions.

A report released by Hired earlier this year revealed the worrying trend of gender pay disparity among tech workers. For starters, 65% of the time, men are offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. Traditional hiring and training practices have also been found to have discriminatory biases, which is unbelievable, considering how a growing body of research is proving that more inclusive workplaces deliver stronger results. 

That being said, diversity for diversity’s sake is not enough to effect real change and you do not want to be hiring the wrong person for the job simply because it looks better from a PR perspective. Ultimately you want the right person for the job and you want whatever unconscious biases that may be getting in the way to take a back seat. So, how do you facilitate a business culture that awards roles based on rational thought without any meddling preconceptions?

With a spotlight on this underlying issue in the workplace, there needs to be a practical way to counterculture the indifference within preconceived business decisions and the answer just so happens to be within the mechanics of gamification.


The interview process can be one of the strongest examples of unconscious bias. Conducting an unstructured interview is still very much encouraged as it is important to get to know the potential employee, however being solely reliant on fluid conversation is a half-measure.

If you are hiring someone simply after an interview, you have allowed for whatever ingrained thoughts you may have towards accents, appearance, sex, age etc take the steering wheel. Adding an element of anonymously structured games amongst candidates can allow for an AI to score each hidden identity candidate accurately.

This is a more substantial predictor of potential employee performance, so when you can marry up the results with the interview process you can have a more developed and well-rounded understanding of the candidates before you.

The Tech world has recently being pushing hard into incorporating hiring processes such as these. An example of this is through Pymetrics, an AI startup with the goal to make the world a fairer place by eliminating discrimination. The process begins by getting a company’s star employees to play a set of games. Pymetrics then determines the traits that are important for each specific role in the company. Job applicants take the same test and the AI scores their performance without taking into account a person’s name, gender, skin, colour, age or resume.


Although gamification may not be possible for all areas of corporate learning, it is possible to use it to determine engagement, knowledge, and mastery – without factoring in any trivial details about an individual.

SmartUp‘s platform allows trainers to test everyone and track their progress on a leaderboard. This is great in a number of ways:

1. Employees who are parents don’t have to feel bad for wanting to skip after-work classroom training sessions. Gamification can be executed on the mobile interface and this makes it possible to learn wherever you are.

2. Trainers don’t get to pick which student should lead discussions or answer questions. All learners have to complete modules, answer quizzes, respond to polls to score points and finish a course

3. Leaderboards at both community- and channel-level display top performers without bias and for all to see. Gamification is only focused on 3 things: validate, complete, reward – and this should be done without any “emotional” input from a manager.

To remove even more biases, administrators can consider using employee numbers to identify members within the community. This anonymity allows everyone to contribute content without the fear of being judged if they are the right “type” to write about a topic.


Understandably, gamification is not the answer for all interactions of bias in the office. At the end of the day those more subtle, small moments that take place cannot be eradicated through gamification.

Can you introduce more diversity further up the recruitment chain with a set of neuroscience games? Yes.

Can annual performance appraisal be more objective using quizzes and polls? Absolutely.

Everything else is a conversation we still need to have at work. Gamification could be the ice-breaker that gets it moving in the right direction, maybe the conversation starts over some games.

Get 30% off Gizmo for the next 6 months!

Get 30% off Gizmo for the next 6 months!

Get 30% off Gizmo for the next 6 months!