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How to ensure your organisation’s unconscious bias training is fit for purpose

by Sellick Partnership | 3 August 2021

One of the biggest obstacles an organisation can face when it comes to meeting their ambitious equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) targets is the presence of unconscious bias within their business. 

Unconscious bias refers to the idea that a person will subconsciously favour somebody who shares the same qualities as themselves and judge others based on assumptions about their defining features, such as age, race or gender. 

As Forbes reports, hidden biases can have an impact on mentoring, recruitment and promotions, hampering progression to high-level management and leadership roles. Due to the far-reaching impact it can have, it is important to acknowledge that these biases exist, and take the necessary steps to ensure that your organisation is tackling the issue head on. 

One of the most important steps in combating hidden biases is specialised training. The purpose of unconscious bias training is to make a person aware of their subconscious judgments and provide steps and guidance to ensure that this is not impacting decisions made in the workplace. 

In this blog, Sellick Partnership will outline some of the ways in which unconscious bias can impact an organisation and offer advice on how to ensure your unconscious bias training is proving maximum effectiveness for your organisation. 

How does unconscious bias affect the workplace? 

It is undisputed that unconscious bias impacts the workforce at every level and can have a major impact on an organisation’s overall diversity, which has a broad range of knock-on effects on everything from profitability to staff retention. 

On a more basic level, unconscious bias can stall wider diversity initiatives. Over time, these hidden biases can become ingrained in a company’s culture and policies and create a difficult working environment for individuals with protected characteristics. 

Without a diverse and inclusive leadership team, it can be difficult to understand the blind spots of an organisation and the steps required to fix them. 

With research suggesting that four in every five of employers have made staffing decisions based on regional accents, it is clear that more needs to be done to address unconscious bias and ensure that employers are in a position to ensure they are aware of their personal biases and the impact they can have on their business. 

What can be done to combat unconscious bias in the workplace? 

When it comes to combating unconscious bias, the most important thing is to acknowledge that hidden biases exist and ensure that employees feel empowered to discuss this issue without fear of being judged. 

Speak to employees from marginalised backgrounds about their experiences and to what extent they feel that they have been personally impacted by unconscious bias. Only by understanding the real-life impact these hidden biases have on your business will you be able to find ways to challenge it. 

For many businesses, specialist unconscious bias training can be a good place to start. Providing employees with the opportunity to combat their personal biases head on will provide a strong grounding for wider business changes. 

However, unconscious bias training alone is not enough to ensure that an organisation can be certain that they are doing everything they can to create a welcoming and inclusive workforce. 

Data can be used to highlight biases that already exist, allowing you to look for patterns in hiring and promotion decisions that might suggest an unconscious bias and to highlight areas for improvement. 

While at times uncomfortable, working through the biases that currently exist within your organisation can help to formulate a plan to ensure that the business will become more diverse moving forward. 

At Sellick Partnership, our dedicated EDI committee works closely with our Consultants to ensure that unconscious bias is not impacting your ability to find the right people for your business. For more information on how we can help you, get in touch today.