March 1, 2019

Unconscious Bias Training for the Workplace

While not a new concept, unconscious bias gained global attention last year when Starbucks closed 8,000 of its stores for an afternoon to train staff on unconscious bias, following an incident at one of its Philadelphia stores. Unconscious bias training has become part of the conversation on how to better address hidden biases and improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Here are 4 ways training can help employees understand and address unconscious bias:

  1. Raising awareness
    Unconscious bias training is an effective tool for raising awareness of unconscious bias and how it can influence decisions about hiring, recruiting, promotions, as well as interactions with co-workers, customers and others. Unconscious or implicit bias refers to hidden attitudes based on social stereotypes and it’s universal – the way our brains process and categorize millions of bits of information. And while everyone has biases, these stereotypes and generalizations can be harmful in the workplace if left unchecked. Training can help individuals recognize their hidden biases and prevent them from affecting workplace decisions and interactions.
  2. Understanding the different types of unconscious bias
    Unconscious bias training can encourage individuals to identify and explore their own biases through interactive exercises and realistic examples of different types of unconscious bias. For example:
  • Believing certain individuals are good at math or programming because of their race
  • Assuming candidates or employees with children won’t travel for business
  • Preferring applicants who attended certain universities
  • Thinking men are more capable of being CEOs or doing physically demanding work
  • Providing better service to clients with whom you share a similar work culture
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Whether unconscious biases are positive and negative, the key is “unconscious.” When people don’t realize their hidden biases they can’t address them. That’s where training can make a difference by increasing awareness and understanding of unconscious bias and its different forms in the workplace.

  1. Managing and minimizing personal biases
    The good news is that although everyone has unconscious biases, individuals can take steps to manage and minimize them. For example, employees can make better, more informed decisions when they take time to analyze a situation, rather than rush to judgment, based on stereotypes or limited information.  Training can offer ways to help employees manage their biases and minimize their influence, such as spending time in environments that are more diverse and interacting with a wider range of co-workers.  
  2. Reinforcing the value of diversity and inclusion
    As part of an organization’s strategy and initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias training provides a fresh opportunity to encourage inclusive thinking and decision making, and communicate a commitment to preventing discrimination in all aspects of the hiring process and workplace culture.

Traliant Insight
By raising awareness of hidden biases and the importance of avoiding stereotypes in workplace decisions and interactions, unconscious bias training can help promote diversity and inclusive thinking and actions, which can lead to a more positive work environment for everyone.