'Conventional' unconscious bias (UB) training focuses on raising awareness of biases – to do with (for instance) gender or race – in the workplace.
Its objective: to make the workplace more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
However, research points out that conventional UB training does not work.
By limiting itself to raising awareness and sending the message that biases are involuntary and widespread, conventional UB training can make people feel that these biases are beyond our control and thus unavoidable.
Effective UB training helps participants act on their awareness of bias.
To make UB training even more effective, organizations should:
"Imagine a weight-loss programme that told participants to step on the scale and left it at that. Yet that is exactly what most UB training does. Ony 10% of conventional UB training programmes give attendees strategies for reducting bias."
Francesca Gino, Harvard Business Review, September 2021
Rightly so. Two evidence-based findings:
Bias in the workplace is widespread. To deal with an overload of information, our brain uses mental shortcuts to make snap judgments on people, their talents and character. However, such snap judgments are often based on characteristics as gender and race. They result in the (subtle or less subtle) exclusion of minority groups in the workplace.
There is a large cost of employees' feeling excluded at work: a cost that can be measured in terms of increased turnover, decreased employee motivation, and so on.
'Conventional' UB training seeks to raise awareness of the mental shortcuts that lead to snap judgments on people, their talents and potential.
Its underlying assumption?
Individuals who are aware of the widespread nature of bias in the workplace, will also behave in a less biased way at work. For instance when making decisions on hiring and promoting, and when dealing with colleagues and customers.
(1) Patrick S. Forscher, et. al. (2019). "A meta-analysis of procedures to change implicit measures" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
A 2016 meta-analysis of more than 260 studies revealed that D&I-training is most effective when three conditions are met. (2) & (3)
(2) Bezrukova, K.,et. al. (2016). A Meta-Analytical Integration of Over 40 Years of Research on Diversity Training Evaluation. Psychological Bulletin.
(3) Science for Work (2017) "Does Diversity Training Work? Time For an Evidence-based Answer"
A longer diversity training - a learning trajectory involving different steps – has been shown to be more effective.
The most effective training courses have been shown to focus both on awareness and skills.
This increases participants’ motivation to actively learn during the training and to actually apply their learnings afterwards.
Think about: inclusive recruitment procedures, agreements at team level, etc.
(4) Bezrukova, K.,et. al. (2016). A Meta-Analytical Integration of Over 40 Years of Research on Diversity Training Evaluation. Psychological Bulletin.