The need for unconscious bias and the misunderstanding behind it

While many businesses in the UK have signed up for Unconscious Bias training, there have been some parties that have criticised the move.

The UK Government for example announced late in 2020 that they were going to stop providing Unconscious Bias Training for their civil servants based on an internal report that they carried out.

We commented at the time that we fundamentally agreed with this because Unconscious Bias Training is not, and has never been, a ‘silver bullet’ that UK Businesses can simply sign up for and wish away all of their problems.

And because there is this mixed understanding of Unconscious Bias, it is delivering mixed evidence as to its effects and this has led to a general misunderstanding of its overall role in delivering a lasting effect on the workplace.

What is Unconscious Bias?

Put simply, unconscious bias refers to deeply rooted prejudices, assumptions and beliefs about others in society.

An easy example of this is the assumption that all nurses are female.  What makes unconscious bias so wide spread is that we all have unconscious bias buried deep within us. Deeply subconscious attitudes that cover race, gender, appearance, age, wealth, fashion and style tastes and much more are all reasons for unconscious biases.

Sometimes this can affect simple purchasing choices and other times it can affect how and who we work with in an office environment.

Why is it important to address unconscious bias in the workplace?

In UK business, unconscious bias is important to address in order to create a stronger workforce.  For the hiring of new employees, a better understanding of unconscious bias can help a business hire the right candidate and not one that is similar on personality to the hiring manager.

In day to day office life, unconscious bias can run deep within employees and can cause significant disruption to work flow and productivity in the workplace.

It can be linked to racism, ageism and sexism. It can cause rifts in employees as more qualified employees are passed over for promotion because of an affinity bias.

Racism in the workplace

Ageism in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace

Why some businesses reject Unconscious Bias Training

In a similar situation to the Government stopping their Unconscious Bias Programme in late 2020, many businesses assume that this training course is a silver bullet.

With the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a growing demand for reforms in both day to day life and in the working environment. It has led many business to sign up for courses without fully understanding the core objective.  As a stand alone training course, it is not enough to simply offer unconscious bias training.  It needs to be delivered alongside a tailored package to ensure it has a lasting effect.

How should it work?

For Unconscious Bias Training to truly work, it needs to be delivered alongside other key topics such as conscious inclusionmicroaggressions and allyship if they are to have any real and lasting effect on the workforce.

This is why our own internal Unconscious Bias Training Programme delivery INCLUDES these subtopics.

By including this, we can deliver a focussed training program that truly delivers on all of these issues to bring about positive change that DOES deliver the intended results

For some businesses, Unconscious Bias Training courses were purely about ticking a training exercise box rather than delivering a lasting and impactful course that would deliver real benefit. We actively want to tackle the barriers that still divide the workplace and want businesses to understand that more, not less is the only true path to generate a mindset shift and generate immediate changes in employees behaviour to support positive change.

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