Using Unconscious Bias Training

5th December 2014

In our last post, we looked at 5 tactics that can be used for overcoming unconscious bias in the workplace, and today we are going to be following up on those thoughts with some considerations on how this training can lead to a happy, healthy and motivated company culture.

Unconscious bias is something that we all hold whether we like to admit it or not. We have built these biases up over our whole lives, and, because they are indeed unconscious, we probably aren’t even aware that we have them.

What is more, we are most likely not aware either that we display these biases in micro-inequities to some of our colleagues through eye-rolling or repeatedly mispronouncing their name, for instance.

However, the targets of these micro-inequities can, over time, become very aware of our biases, and this in turn can cause a great sense of alienation for them. If the issue persists, it can lead to quite serious problems within the company culture.

This is simply unacceptable in today’s world. We have all experienced feelings of isolation or alienation at some point in our lives, and so we all know how hard it can be to live with, especially if it is something that is on-going for weeks, months or even years on end.

Put simply, without an unconscious bias training program in place, a lot of these issues in the workplace will continue to go on unaddressed, especially due to the unconscious nature of the biases.

Making The Training Work in Practice

So, given we’ve highlighted the issues in our last blog where we looked at some of the training tactics that can be implemented to make people aware of their unconscious biases, how can you ensure that when participants are out of the classroom and back in the working environment the training they are receiving is actually having an impact?

What, can you do to ensure that the unconscious bias training is making a meaningful difference in the overall company culture?

Well, these are hard questions to answer, and the truth is that without somebody constantly overseeing the workforce and acting as some sort of micro-inequity police officer, then the chances are you will have to rely on the quality of the training to make a lasting impression.

So, let’s take a look at some of the key factors which will make your unconscious bias training a success so that it continues to have an impact throughout the workplace long after the training is over.

Set Realistic Expectations

It is extremely important that at the start of any unconscious bias training course that the goals that you set out for your participants are realistic. As with everything, it is no good over promising only to under deliver.

So, avoid starting out with an idea that your unconscious bias training will eliminate bias in the workplace completely as it simply won’t. And that isn’t the purpose of the training either.

The goal is in fact to make people conscious of their biases not to try and create an environment where people are pretending to be blind to differences that actually exist.

Incorporate An On-going Training Program

It will not be sufficient for participants to simply learn about their hidden biases. Unconscious biases unfortunately will not simply melt away following a single e-learning course or training program. Successful unconscious bias training must help participants identify their biases and then build skills over time to overcome them.

You will need therefore to schedule follow up training to constantly reinforce what was initially learnt. Ideally, to truly rid a company of unconscious bias, then the training should be refreshed and extended continuously, so that it truly becomes a part of the company’s culture.

Remember, you can actually go a long way to eliminating unconscious biases simply by making your workforce consistently conscious of them, and on-going training can play a massive part in attaining that.

Implement A Discreet Procedure For Employees To Use To Report Incidences Of Being Subject To Micro-inequities

No one but the actual targets of micro-inequities will normally be aware that they are occurring. Indeed, even the perpetrators themselves will often not be aware that they are targeting anybody such is the nature of a bias that is unconscious.

So, in order to monitor what is happening in the workforce with regards to micro-inequities and unconscious biases, it is important that there is a procedure in place that employees can use to report such incidences discreetly should they experience them.

Discretion is important because people don’t often fully appreciate that they hold any biases at all, and being confronted publicly about it will be embarrassing for everybody concerned, and will most likely cause a lot more problems than it solves.

Monitor The Metrics

You should soon start to be able to measure just how successful your unconscious bias (and other equality and diversity training for that matter) is by observing changes within the company.

Percentages of underrepresented candidates being selected for development programs, for example, should increase, and indeed these measures should be necessarily enforced as part of the follow up to the training programs to demonstrate that action is being taken.

Marshall ACM run a 1-day Unconscious Bias Training Course which acts as a supplement to our Unconscious Bias E-Learning module which is designed for professionals and employees who are seeking to gain insight into unconscious bias and workplace behaviour. Get in touch to find out more.

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