Unconscious bias training

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Michelle Biggs, Employment Relations Consultant

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Over the past few years Unconscious Bias has become part of the Diversity and Inclusion training offering.

 The idea is to highlight the potential we all have for making snap decisions about a person, that we aren’t even aware we’re making, based on our learned experiences and expectations. I attended a training session on this a number of years ago and, having come from an Equalities and Diversity background, I found it interesting but for the most part I was able to identify what the ‘expected response’ was, e.g. we’d hire the male candidate for the pilot vacancy or the way they spoke indicates a lack of knowledge, and played devil’s advocate (some might say the ‘awkward delegate’) and argued from the opposite position. I personally wasn’t convinced by the value of such training as it focused on the ‘things we don’t know we think’ and a person needs to be receptive to this information, willing to accept that they harbour these biases and open to change themselves. So while it’s useful to shine a light, it will often be very difficult to translate that into a tangible change in behaviour.

On 15 December 2020 the Government announced the outcome of its review of the effectiveness of Unconscious Bias training in delivering long term changes in our behaviour and ultimately in the representation of minority groups in our workforce and senior leadership teams. The conclusion of this review is that there is little to no positive impact and in some cases there has been an unintentional negative impact. As a result, Unconscious Bias training it to be phased out of the Civil Service and it is recommended that other public sector bodies follow suit.

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