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6 simple ways you can get unconscious bias training right in your workplace

Demystifying unconscious bias training

Unconscious bias training has become increasingly more widespread. The majority of organisations contacting me want to have unconscious bias training first and foremost. There are different reasons why companies ask for an unconscious bias training:

1) To respond to the recent #blacklivesmatter movement

Organisations need to respond to the #blacklivesmatter movement in a meaningful way that goes beyond just making a new pledge on their website. Many organisations need unconscious training as a first step to responding to #BlackLivesMatter is to have an unconscious bias training.

2) To respond to non-white employees who are demanding more actions

Many organisations have mentioned that some non-white employees are vocal about how they feel and they demand to see more meaningful actions from their employers to address the lack of equal opportunities, a better representation and a meaningful response to #BlackLivesMatter

3) To address a very homogeneous workplace in Tech

Venture Capital firms and startups want to address their own lack of workforce diversity as well as addressing the lack of workforce diversity in the organisations they invest in. Recently, a London-based VC contacted me to get trained on unconscious bias to diversify their workforce which is white male dominated but more importantly to ensure that as VCs, they will invest in startups that are founded by women and people of colour.

4) To mitigate and prevent micro-aggressions and discrimination

Companies have reported cases of verbal discriminations and micro-aggressions between employees and require unconscious bias training to prevent micro-aggressions and discrimination in the workplace.

Unconscious bias training offers many benefits to the business: from attracting and retaining diverse talent by removing implicit bias, to getting a greater diversity of thought opening up to new market opportunities and more revenue streams, to better understanding the customer base and building better products, to increasing revenue and customer retention, to increased employee engagement and productivity, to keeping a competitive edge.

There is also a lot of controversy on whether or not unconscious bias training is effective. In my experience, unconscious bias training is effective when it is done the right way. Here are 6 ways to get unconscious bias training right in your organisation:

1) Get the right content to the right audience with the right context

Unconscious bias training should structure the content around real-life workplace situations versus science and research. The content should be action-oriented and should provide plenty of practical exercises for participants as well as workplace related assignments. Top leadership including the CEO should attend the training to fully understand what it is, buy-into it and commit to be held accountable to proactively fighting unconscious bias at the organisational level. Unconscious bias training must explain why it is important and how it ties to real business outcomes and and to the business mission. Unless it clearly articulates how unconscious bias training ties to a business outcome, it will fail.

2) Evaluate the impact of the training

By measuring employee engagement and belonging before and after the unconscious bias training, the organisation ensures that the impact of the unconscious bias training goes beyond just the week of the training and is measured and evaluated after. Measuring the results of unconscious bias training isn’t helpful unless you utilise the learnings to improve your workplace processes. You should evaluate the participants reaction: ‘How did the participants react or respond to the training?’, the Learning: ‘What did participants learn from the training?’. The behaviour: ‘Did the trainees take what they learned and put it into practice on-the-job?’ and the results: ‘Did the training meet the stakeholders’ expectations? What was the return on these expectations (ROE)?’.

3) Appoint a diversity taskforce sponsored by an executive

Many organisations that have succeeded with diversity and inclusion, including fighting unconscious bias, have created a diversity and inclusion taskforce whose role is to constantly measure and evaluate the progress made in regards to diversity and inclusion (thus unconscious bias) and who will speak up when no progress is made. There must be executive sponsors in this taskforce for it to be successful. you must set-up a process to constantly monitor, adjust and improve your diversity and inclusion practices. Imagine implementing a new program and having the policy in place and just expecting it to work organically. It would be naive to expect this diversity and inclusion initiative without investing more resources to monitor, assess, adjust and improve. This is why I encourage you to appoint a diversity and inclusion taskforce whose mission is to monitor progress, evaluate results and improve the diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Your DEI taskforce must be sponsored by an executive in order to be successful. Having an executive leader in this taskforce will give it the budget, authority and access to resources it needs to make an impact.

You can choose how many people are part of the taskforce and who will be in it and how often they will meet. What’s important here is that you set-up a taskforce that’s sponsored by an executive and you clarify their goals. This diversity and inclusion taskforce goals should be aligned with your new mission statement and with the diversity and inclusion goals that you previously set. I recommend asking your team who is interested in joining and making it a voluntary role rather than a mandatory one. People who volunteer are more likely to feel personally committed to the success of this taskforce, regardless of their role in your startup.

4) Follow-up with goal setting exercise to drive behaviour

In order to translate positive intentions into measurable actions, the organisation must set goals tied to monetary bonuses for the leadership team. These goals will hold leaders accountable and drive behaviour. In my experience 90% of companies will not implement a sustainable, long-term diversity program.

Research shows that while startup founders think diversity is important, 70 percent of startup founders said their company had no program in place to increase employee diversity.

We could speculate about why that is and whether it is because they expect someone else to take ownership. The point is that nothing will happen unless you set goals. Goals drive behaviour. Monetary goals drive behaviour faster. If you are serious about diversity and inclusion, you must set goals for your leadership team that are tied to monetary bonuses. I recommend 30% of the bonus directly linked to the diversity and inclusion goals. Having worked with numerous tech organisations and had countless conversations on diversity and inclusion, if there is one thing I learnt, it is that setting diversity goals that will be financially rewarded is the only route to success. If you are wondering if this is worth the investment, let me share this: Inclusive organisations are TWICE more likely to exceed financial targets (Deloitte Research); 85% of CEOs whose companies have an inclusiveness strategy said it’s improved their bottom line (PWC CEO Survey); For companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity, Return On Equity were 53% higher (McKinsey Diversity Study) ; Companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on invested capital (ROIC) by 26% (Catalyst’s 2011 study). There are many, many more studies available that demonstrate the return of investment on diversity and inclusion so investing some budget to reward diversity and inclusion will pay back, a lot.

5) Make the training voluntary and repeatable

The unconscious bias training should be voluntary because any mandatory training could backfire and have a counter-productive impact. Employees are usually willing to participate provided that companies let employees know that the program is important.Explain to employees “what’s in it for them” . Employees know that they need to learn new things to stay relevant in the job they have and prepare for future opportunities. Ask managers to support training efforts. Managers should want employees to attend training and keep their skills fresh. Hold managers and employees accountable for content. Instead of holding people accountable for attending a training program, hold them accountable for practicing the content. Make the training repeatable: unconscious bias training should be repeated over time. I recommend every 3 months. This allows maximised impact an