Companies all over the world have been involved in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce that is able to combat unconscious bias.
Hence, bias training programs are an integral aspect of capacity building activities within workplaces. Unconscious bias within employees and supervisors can create barriers for accessibility and safety.
While legal mandates are in place to support marginalised employee groups in workplaces, biases still rise as an issue when it comes to microaggressions, recruitment practices or workload distribution and appraisal.
In simple psychological terms, bias is an inherent part of human nature. Hence, simple actions and decisions taken by workplace stakeholders can also be informed by biases.
Unconscious bias is an idea created within an individual’s brain based upon popular assumptions or a one-off experience. Biases do not always have to have negative repercussions.
However, the unconscious bias we are discussing today leads to systemic impacts on certain groups which needs to be combatted.
Unconscious biases in the form of giving preference to cisgender individuals over transgender individuals within workplaces, or creating no space for disabled employees within workspaces contributes to larger systems of prejudice.
These biases are not only harmful for certain sections of the society but also negatively impact how a business functions in a developing socioeconomic landscape.
Bias training programs are an important way through which organisations can expose collective unconscious biases that exist within their workplaces.
It is an effective way to not only address unconscious bias but also reduce their negative impacts. Many training and awareness programs often fail to have the desired impact on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
This occurs mainly due to leaders and professionals within workplaces not recognising subtle ways through which they themselves might be contributing to biased workplace practices.
Moreover, a lack of bias training programs also fails to acknowledge how different training and awareness programs can have different impacts.
A compliance advisory for an organisation may function just to put legal redressal mechanisms in order without addressing the risk of sexual harassment at workplaces.
Consequently, the legal mandates fail to create a safe working space for employees within the workplace.
Bias training programs are an efficient way to reduce the risk of prejudiced behaviour within workplaces.
This means that instead of wholly depending on legal mandates to take care of redressal once an employee has been negatively impacted, bias training programs aim to cut the risk of systemic barriers at the root.
With these programs, organisations do not participate in an activity without any measurement of how the activity has positively impacted affirmative actions within the workplace.
Bias training programs focus on eliminating negative unconscious biases on a larger corporate level instead of addressing isolated incidents.
As discussed above, bias training programs have larger impact on how social groups interact with each other in workplaces.
However, a study in the Harvard Business Review states that though mostly all Fortune 500 companies have bias training programs in place, very few actually measure their impact.
Given a situation such as this, how do bias training programs impact social groups within workplaces?
The first pointer to address here would be if unconscious bias can be removed completely or does it always have some effect within workplaces? Pallavi, founder of Ungender, says:
“We have to understand that biases do not happen overnight. They are piled up, affirmed, confirmed, and established in a both conscious and unconscious manner; and the approach to de-root or shift them also requires similar approach.
One-time interventions and surface scratching can only do introduction to this aspect of one’s thought process, but to address it properly, i.e., to ensure that individuals identify their biases, how they manifest, and also learn the tactics to manage them, this is a long journey.”
Though it is not important to completely eradicate bias from employees and supervisors, bias training programs can help with creating an environment that eradicates biases turning into discriminatory behaviour.
Moreover, measurement and data collection for bias training programs is another important way to address how these awareness programs impact workplace capacity building.
Bias training programs are also important for social groups to acknowledge their privilege and address their preconceived mindsets to do better moving forward.
Social groups interact in different ways in workplaces. While some social groups are naturally given advantage over other, some have to face the brunt of unconscious bias having negative impact on their work spaces.
Measuring impact of bias training programs or diversity and inclusion programs otherwise too help in manifesting impactful changes.
Consequently, having access to a consistent training program that addresses biases within workplaces can help uproot unconscious biases before they take shape into negative discriminatory behaviour.
Bias training programs with effective measurement tools and impactful strategies can help address long lasting biases within workplaces.