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Unconscious Bias Training 101


March 13, 2023



Unconscious Bias Training 101

Apologies in advance, but the truth is we all have an unconscious bias and could benefit from unconscious bias training and (Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion) DEI competency.

Some of our unconscious bias is hardwired into our DNA for our survival. For example, we are hardwired for fear (unconsciously biased against danger) which is a good thing. It allows us to activate our “fight or flight” mechanism as needed.

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However, as you may have guessed, that is not the type of bias I am going to speak about in this article. This article’s focus is on the implicit biases which can be defined as “attributes and stereotypes we attribute to groups of people”. 

Examples include judging people positively or negatively based on their age, first/last name, achievements (such as graduating from a “famous” university or attending an “unknown” one), or how attractive/tall they are. Unconscious bias can even sneakily creep in regarding a person’s position in the interview process: if that person follows someone less or more suitable, they will be unconsciously judged better or worse by comparison.

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What Can Be Done With Unconscious Bias?

Many organizations have adopted unconscious bias employee training at the workplace. As this Forbes article points out, 2020 was a banner year for unconscious bias awareness. The global reaction to the death of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests brought the need to address this issue and bring underrepresented communities to the forefront of the world’s consciousness.

Unfortunately, many suggest that this kind of training is a waste of time. Critics say that it does not work. They are correct…and incorrect.

They say that participants’ awareness of unconscious bias does change during training. However, it does not affect the participants’ future behavior.

Unconscious Bias – A Solution

Further investigation has found that effective unconscious bias training depends on two main factors.

Length of Training

A one-off, 30-60 minutes of training is not enough. This is especially true if your training consists of just a “one and done” course in your organization’s diversity programs.

A better approach appears to be an initial training course followed up by refreshers are reasonable intervals.

One of the reasons refreshers often do not happen in the workplace is time. However, features such as Rapid Refresh, a feature in the SC Training (formerly EdApp) LMS, allows you to set up a series of refreshers once, and then use them over and over and over… automatically.

Company Culture

The Solution - Company Culture

“Do as I say, not as I do” is not going to work here. Your organization needs to have well-defined, conspicuous diversity and inclusion training that is put into practice 24/7/365.

The first place is, of course, in your organization’s hiring processes, promotion practices, and ways of attracting new team members. Yet, reshaping unconscious bias requires a deeper dive into multicultural and cross-cultural approaches.

If your work environment has a significant number of employees for whom English is a 2nd (or even 3rd) language, are you sensitive to that with dual language signs and training material?

What about cultural differences such as festival days which are different from the national days of your country? Are employees given paid time off or is their family time on their account?

Does your workplace have wheelchair ramps, handicapped toilets, and wider hallways for those who are mobility-challenged? 

What about diaper-changing stations for people who might bring children to work on occasion? And speaking of kids, does your organization have an in-house solution for daycare, so parents (both men AND women) do not have to be stressed about morning dropoff and afternoon pickup times? If not, how understanding are you about parents’ needs to leave “on time” (perhaps even in the middle of a meeting) to make sure their child is not left crying at daycare or school?

Of course, your organization has the right to set limits. However, depending on the number and narrowness of the limits you set, don’t be surprised if stereotyping and unconscious bias continues in your workplace even after your training.

Unconscious Bias Training

It makes sense to enclose your unconscious bias training in a larger program of diversity inclusion. As we said before, we don’t want to just make people aware. Our aim is in building new habits and changing the long-term behavior at our workplaces that can result in harassment.

Whether or not you have such a diversity management program at your organization, I offer you the following option to consider: diversity training. This microlearning course is included in SC Training (formerly EdApp)’s course library, which is a mobile-friendly, learning management system that includes a segment on unconscious bias and diversity in the workplace. This course is completely editable via the LMS’s no-code authoring tool. As a result, you can modify the course with the material you already have. 

Why bother if you already have a course? First, the features of a mobile learning solution make it an ideal tool for workplace training. Second, there are 6 benefits to mobile learning you might want to look into.

Unconscious Bias Training – Next Level Considerations

As long as you are building or modifying your training, let’s take your program to the next level. Here are three suggestions.

Keep It Real

Next Level Considerations - Keep It Real

Use authentic examples for your business case. Incorporating scenarios that happened in your organization allows your employees to relate to a high degree.

Make it impactful

Hit home by using emotional situations. Research shows that “prosocial appeals are more likely to be associated with greater compliance if they evoke highly positive emotional responses”.

Have It Hurt

Not physically, of course, but in places that make a difference.

One area is financial. For example, employees who are not putting their unconscious bias training into practice could receive lower (or no) salary increases/bonuses whereas those who are get rewarded financially.

Another area is recognition. Employees who particularly demonstrate inclusive behavior can get honored in a public way such as Diversity Employee of the Month or their picture in a Company Report.


Lisa Aharon Guest Author

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