Is Unconscious Bias Training effective?

Unconscious bias training courses are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. More than ever, Executive and HR leaders appreciate the need and value of understanding how employees, both individually and collectively, can harm the organisation’s reputation and ability to perform efficiently. Here, we discuss the effects of unconscious bias training, and how it could benefit your business.

The need for unconscious bias training

The Black Lives Matter movement is the most recent situation to bring unconscious bias to the mainstream, and understandably so. But it is not the first.

A few years ago, global coffee house brand, Starbucks hit the headlines when an African-American customer was treated unfairly. As a result, Starbucks announced that every employee would participate in unconscious bias training!

Starbucks’ intention may have been honourable, but I have yet to see any report or published article demonstrating that: the value of their unconscious bias training was measured, any genuine value was realised by the company, or that the employees who participated in this mandatory training programme actually applied their learning afterwards. And there lies a serious problem.

Problems with common unconscious bias training programmes

Unconscious bias training courses are often booked as a ‘we have to do this’ initiative, rather than a ‘it’s right for us to do this.’ All too often, a ‘let’s cover our backs in case a problem arises in future’ mentality can lead decision-making for such a training programme.

Of course, it is prudent for an organisation to expose employees to this important learning, but unconscious bias training is rarely transferred and embedded into the workplace successfully.

How to make unconscious bias training successful

All is not lost. There are some practical ways you can enjoy worthwhile unconscious bias training and achieve lasting value for your workplace.

1. Be clear on the specific aspects of unconscious bias your organisation wishes to explore; it is a big subject and a general overview is unlikely to deliver anything more than an information overload.

2. Be clear on what value your organisation wishes or needs to realise as a result of your investment in unconscious bias training. Is it making more objective recruitment and selection decisions? Challenging ‘Group Think’ and the dangers it can bring? Creating a more consistent and fair approach to performance management?

3. Design the training programme content to deal with actual workplace situations, issues and challenges. Steer clear of complex theory and psycho-babble. Stick to the reality of your workplace and learners are far more likely to engage and immerse themselves in learning.

4. Choose an external training partner who actually understands the subject of unconscious bias and has a strong track record of delivering not just enjoyable and relevant learning, but real value. Many training companies offering this training have done little more than Googled the subject, copied/pasted content (that they may not have permission to use), and then presented it as their own.

5. Consider what structures can or need to be introduced in your workplace to successfully embed what you learn. If you want decision-making to be more objective, build 15 minutes into a team meeting to objectively, even passionately challenge assumptions and possible biases. Your organisation could save an immense amount of time and money using this easy-to-implement approach.

6. Build awareness of unconscious biases into your employee induction and succession planning projects. Everyone can benefit from greater awareness of personal and collective biases. It is an important subject that deserves attention and exploration.

7. Invite colleagues to take the Harvard Implicit Bias Assessment as part of leadership, management and team development initiatives. The Harvard assessment can be quite an eye opener for employees at all levels. It’s also free to take too.

Take a look at unconscious bias training and learn how it could benefit your business today!

Posted by on November 30, 2020

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