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How to Improve Your Organization’s DEI Unconscious Bias Training

Unconscious bias training, also known as implicit bias training, has become increasingly popular among companies as they try to tackle their diversity and inclusion goals in order to provide opportunities to underrepresented groups in their professions.

However, despite the growing popularity of these classes, there is a growing concern about their effectiveness.

For example, Scientific American reports that not only is there no concrete evidence that this training results in long-term behavioral change among workers, there is actually evidence that suggests it can make some people in the workplace angry and resentful. Additionally, skeptics say that implicit bias training is based on a false premise to begin with because most people are well-aware of their biases and these beliefs are actually deeply ingrained in their personality. Further doubt is rooted in the fact that there’s no effective mechanism for measuring unconscious bias, so there’s no way to know if the training has dismantled these destructive beliefs. 

On the other hand, according to Harvard Business Review, implicit bias training can actually have a positive effect on the workforce and has been shown to be fruitful depending on its content and length, as well as being offered in conjunction with other strategies designed to raise awareness about diversity.

5 Ways to Improve Unconscious Bias Training to Get the Best Results

Although the jury is still out on how effective it is, if your company chooses to try unconscious bias training to help improve DE&I, you want to make sure you offer the best training possible.

Whether you have an existing program in place that you want to improve on, or you’re just getting started, the following five tips can help.  

1. Know your training goals

Just like your diversity recruitment plan is most effective if you’ve established goals before putting it in place, you should also have goals for your unconscious bias training. What does your organization’s data indicate you need help with? Whether you want to bring in more applicants from a specific underserved community or increase diversity among your management team, you should know what problems need to be addressed so you can tailor your training to concentrate on those issues.

2. Choose the right facilitator

To ensure that employees get the most out of implicit bias training, it’s important to choose a facilitator who is both knowledgeable and experienced. But these qualities are not the only things you should consider when selecting a teacher. You should also make sure the instructor can make engaging presentations that are congruent with your company culture, whether it is casual or more traditional, so they can provide information in a way employees will be most receptive to.

3. Include relevant scenarios

Training should not just be about academic concepts; it really needs to hit home with employees to be effective. The course should include realistic scenarios that employees can relate to, as well as actionable steps on how to handle these situations, so the training really hits home and helps them change their views and behaviors. Also, training should favor realistic scenarios and role-playing exercises over lectures to keep employees interested and make the concepts feel more real.

4. Make sure learners are not put on the defensive

Although training should be as realistic as possible, it won’t be effective if it turns workers off. It’s important to strike a balance between possibly offending learners by making them feel like they’re being vilified with telling the truth in a way that will help correct inappropriate behavior. 

5. Offer training over an extended length of time

Since implicit bias training is supposed to create lasting change, it should not be treated as a single event. To ensure that employees are truly able to understand the effects of bias in the workplace and how to undo it, training should occur in multiple sessions that are stretched out over an extended period. 

No matter which bias training program you choose, it’s important to remember that these courses are just one element of a successful DE&I plan. Training should also be coupled with effective policies, accountability, and strong leadership in order to create a culture of diversity and inclusion.

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