Did I Get It Wrong? Does Unconscious Bias Training Work after all?

Unconscious Bias Training Work

If you know me, you will know my answer to does unconscious bias training work?  I am not a fan of unconscious bias training, and I even wrote a much quoted and shared blog about it ‘Why Unconscious Bias Training doesn’t work‘.

However, it turns out I had something to learn.  Recently I ran a series of focus groups with D&I leaders in organisations.  Many of these D&I leaders had found ways to make unconscious bias training work.  They found that it did have an impact.  So I will just have to admit, in public, that I was wrong.

Here’s what I learned on how to make unconscious bias training work:

1.   Don’t expect unconscious bias training to move the numbers on gender diversity.

I was right, just doing a sheep dip approach, i.e. putting all your employees through a half-day on unconscious bias training, doesn’t mean they will suddenly start hiring and promoting more women.  Here’s a great article with more detail.

2.   Make unconscious bias training relevant to the work situation

Rather than talking about unconscious bias in everyday life, tailor it for specific groups to their work situation.  Give concrete actions people can do to avoid bias, and be open to difference in that situation.  So for instance, offer programmes on inclusive recruitment for hiring managers, inclusive talent management for people in HR and L&D, inclusive design for engineers and inclusive supply chains for procurement staff.

3.   Use unconscious bias training as a support for wider measures

Make it part of a wider diversity awareness programme and support it by changes in recruitment, hiring, promotion, design, procurement and development processes.  To make unconscious bias training work for leaders, follow it by training on the value of difference, with lots of practical tips on leading gender diverse teams.

That goes to show that you are never too old or too expert to learn.  Do let me know how you get on, and how you make unconscious bias training work, or get in touch if you would like to know more.

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Author: Inge Woudstra

Would you like to know more or have a question? I am always happy to have a chat to discuss your needs. Why not drop me a line or pick up the phone? Call me at 01372 457 907 or Just contact me to discuss your requirements by e-mail.

I can help you recruit, retain and advance women, and typically work with organisations in tech and engineering.

Or just check out my book 'Be Gender Smart - The Key to Career Success for Women'

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