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Search for unconscious bias training on the internet, and your second result will likely be “unconscious bias training doesn’t work.” There is plenty of research to support that claim, so why is it still the hottest buzzword in diversity training? And is it actually helpful or just a waste of money and time? 

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Let’s start with the basics. What is unconscious bias training? 

Also called implicit bias training, this type of learning examines individual attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that unconsciously affect our understanding, actions, or decisions. Absolutely everyone has them. To simplify decision making, our brains make snap judgments, use cognitive shortcuts, and rely on stereotypes even if we do not consciously believe them. The problem is that those unconscious judgments can work against what’s actually good for us, good for people, and good for business. 

What does unconscious bias training aim to do?

Unconscious bias training was originally designed to protect organizations against litigation and compliance issues. Some businesses still see it that way, as a box to check in their workforce diversity training before quickly moving on. For others, it is so much more than a checkbox. It is a path to understanding, a gateway to inclusive business culture, and a key to unlocking the power of diversity.

Why does bias training usually fail?

Most bias training is based on the belief that raising awareness will automatically change a person’s actions. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support that. In fact, mandatory bias training can often make people defensive, resistant, angry, or rebellious, thereby activating the same unconscious biases that it intended to quash.

When seen as a cure-all or an onboarding requirement, unconscious bias training is doomed to fail. To make a tangible, long-term impact, that training must be paired with a top-down, data-driven diversity strategy that fully integrates throughout your organization. Unfortunately, most diversity training companies only seem interested in making the sale. They don’t do the work to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a part of your company’s DNA.

Here is what we know will actually work: 

  • Voluntary, organization-wide participation (NOT just focused on managers)
  • Goal-setting, problem-solving, and strategic employee empowerment 
  • A focus on the system: changing what people do, not just how they think 
  • A strategy to continue the conversation with meaningful engagement after training and metrics to gauge effectiveness 

When you’re ready to reap the business benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion, The Diversity Movement is here to help. We know the pitfalls of traditional diversity training and diversity training, and we go Beyond the Checkbox to provide comprehensive, customized, and data-driven implementation. 

Contact us for more information or to chat about how we can make your business more profitable, innovative, and agile with a robust DEI strategy. 

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