Designing unconscious bias out of an organisation

View Latest News Publish Date: 14-Sep-2018

Designing unconscious bias out of an organisation

Training has its limits, sometimes you must redesign the way people work.

Triangle of diverse cartoon faces

Equality and Diversity training is increasingly seen as a must have activity for any training professional or department to have in its library of training activities.

The demand that this created has resulted in a wide range of solutions being made available by a wide range of producers.

They are many and varied, in their design, execution and unfortunately their results.

Part of this is because there is rarely a one size fits solution when it comes to learning;

  • You can research your audience thoroughly and create a fantastic training programme;
  • You can deliver the various elements with all the passion you can muster;
  • The learners can engage immediately and remain enthusiastic throughout the session;
  • At the end of the day they create individual and team action sheets;
  • Before they leave feedback sheets are completed that make all the hard work you put in worthwhile and then some.

The only problem is that once everyone has returned to their work place nothing really changes.

The enthusiasm for any form of action has disappeared and many people are just too embarrassed to even discuss the training they have received, let alone the issues that the training was attempting to address.

I may have exaggerated, a little bit, to make my point, but isn’t the biggest challenge trainers face about how learning is transferred from classroom or screen into the work place?

It is a challenge that Harvard professor Iris Bohnet has tried to address in her book What Works? Gender Equality by Design.

The book focuses on identifying why some unconscious bias awareness training works and some does not.

This week’s free how to guide is based on the Iris Bohnet book What Works? Gender Equality By Design and is available to down load from this link.

What you will learn in this week’s free how to guide: 

  • Why “unconscious bias” is common,
  • How organizational efforts to create greater equality succeed or fail, and
  • How to make your workplace more equitable and diverse using the “DESIGN” process to create and sustain change.

Bohnet’s argues that training and education will only go so far, to really combat the issue organisations and individuals need to act on changing the way in which they work so that it is not possible for them to apply their collective or individual unconscious biases.

A friend and I have put this to the test.

Both of us work in senior level HR leadership roles, albeit on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean, it was our careers that brought us together.

Both of us had lamented up on how easy it was during a recruitment process for managers to let their unconscious bias influence their or shortlisting decisions.

We put our heads together and decided to experiment a little bit.

Once we had identified a vacancy that was similar across both our organisations we decided that we would both instruct the recruitment consultants to only submit applicant details that had all the information that could impact a protected characteristic, or anything that might create an impression of the candidates non work related back story, like a home address or university was removed before it was sent to us.

For identification, much against our claim to be people people, we reduced every candidate to a random code number.

Although the Atlantic Ocean separated us we had similar experiences and drew similar conclusions.

We both realised how important it is for an application to include something about the character/personality of the candidate. Reading an application that had none of this information was like trying to make conversation at dinner when you have been seated next to someone who doesn’t want to be at the event.

There was a salutary moment when we both realised how much time we had spent in the past reading this information rather than the more job-related content and how many of our shortlisting decisions where based on non-work information.

Although this was a very unscientific experiment, but we completed it pretty much convinced that not knowing that personal information about a candidate meant that we were able to make stronger short-listing decisions. Instead of trying to control our unconscious biases we had by changing the way in which we performed the short-listing task removed any risk of us being influenced by those biases.

This job design approach to battling unconscious bias is advocated by Harvard professor Iris Bohnet in her book What Works, Gender Equality by Design, which with its honest analysis if what works and what does not work forms the basis of this week’s engagingly written free how to guide.

Bohnet provides an honest analysis of why some well-intended equality and diversity initiatives succeed and others fail.

Her engaging style provides intriguing insights into how clear thinking can be applied to social science to help employers create more inclusive working environments.

You can down load your free how to guide to designing unconscious bias out of your organisation one job at time, or quicker if you like, from this link

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