You need to be ever so careful with unconscious bias training. It’s easy to get it wrong, and often doesn’t have the intended impact. Yet it’s used a lot. Why is unconscious bias training to raise awareness of diversity used so much and should you be considering it?
1. Unconscious Bias Training to Raise Awareness of Diversity seems like a great idea.
Most people in organisations seem to think that ‘the best person for the job’ also gets the job. They believe that those with the best performance get the promotion. In reality it isn’t quite like that, and it makes a real difference if you don’t look, sound or behave like current leaders at the top of your organisation. That makes it harder for anyone who is not the norm. For instance those with a different gender, colour, religion, private life, age or background. So if you are responsible for diversity and inclusion, how can you show people this is the case. How can you show people your organisation isn’t quite the meritocracy they think it is? At that point it seems like a great idea to start unconscious bias training to raise awareness of Diversity.
2. Unconscious Bias Training to Raise Awareness of Diversity uncovers the facts: bias does exist
Of course bias does exist, and conscious or unconscious bias is at least part of the reason that men often get paid more and promoted faster than women. Once women – and some enlightened men – learn about this bias it makes them angry. They believe that the world shouldn’t be like that, and something needs to be done. Everyone needs to be aware of their bias, and then they will learn! So it’s not just a great idea that seems to solve a problem, it’s morally the right thing to do.
Okay, so it’s easy to choose unconscious bias training to raise awareness for diversity, and it seem the morally right thing to do. Yet, we know unconscious bias training to raise awareness is often not very effective to raise awareness.
What can you do instead of Unconscious Bias Training to Raise Awareness of Diversity?
- Get leaders involved – Ask leaders in the organisation to share that they are keen to get diversity right, and need others to help them. When people see it is important to the leadership in an organisation they often join in.
- Show the numbers – Get people to think about what those numbers mean. Are women leaving more than men? Are women less engaged than men? Are women less likely to be promoted than men? Do you have a large gender pay gap, also within job roles?
- Start a dialogue – Create panel events, invite speakers and invite people to contribute their personal experiences.
- Share stories – Consider reverse mentoring, show role models of women moving up and how they are succeeding and show senior leaders that work flexibly. Ask senior leaders to share their story of gender diversity. Why are they passionate about it? What did they have to learn?
- Talk about benefits – Make sure everyone can see how gender balance could have positive impacts, not just on the business, but on them. Talk about better team cultures, better results for clients, and a culture of flexible working for all. Make it tangible.
- Talk about risks – Show people the cost of not getting it right. The cost of a team member leaving, the cost of a law suit.