Unconscious Bias training is an increasingly popular strategy to improve diversity and inclusion in organisations but is your Unconscious Bias training really having the impact you want or could you be doing more?

Despite the headlines claiming that Unconscious Bias training just isn’t working, many organisations won’t want to admit that one of their key strategies to improve diversity and inclusion is failing to have the impact they expected.

So what more can you do? Have you gone far enough to create a diverse and inclusive culture and if you haven’t what can you do now to make a difference?

Your unconscious bias training is a good thing!

Having diversity and inclusion at the top of your organisational agenda is a good thing; a critical change that must be addressed to improve not only the employee experience but the effectiveness, productiveness and performance of the organisation as a whole.

A diverse and inclusive workforce has better outcomes than one that is not. Matthew Syed demonstrates why diversity matters using these illustrative diagrams from his book, Rebel Ideas.

Matthew Syed, Why Diversity Matters, Rebel ideas

The purple line is used to represent the organisation, and the circles represent the different employees in that organisation. In the first diagram, you can see how the circles are clustered together in one place, representing a homogenous and cognitively similar group. This clustering leaves a large gap between what is and what could be - you can clearly see there is a lot of missed potential.

In the second diagram, the circles are spread more evenly and fill the space within the purple line, with no overlap. This represents a far less homogenous and more cognitively diverse group that can offer more to the organisation.

But be mindful of its limitations...

Good unconscious bias training programmes are brilliant to bring some of these issues to the surface; they inform and educate people around critical issues that they may not have previously considered.

However to ensure that you’re unconscious bias training is much more than a box ticking exercise, it’s important to be mindful of its limitations:

1. Lack of diversity

The more homogenous and cognitively similar your group, the harder it will be to draw unconscious biases to the surface and that’s where Unconscious Bias Training gets a bit tricky.

During the training, your colleagues may become more aware of having unconscious biases, but the very fact that they share similar biases with their fellow group members could undermine the impetus for change.

Your unconscious bias training needs to go further than simply raising awareness; it’s got to strike a chord at a deeper level.

So it’s important to choose high quality unconscious bias training that is facilitated by experts in behaviour change who can navigate these complexities and sensitively challenge the blockages of authentic change.

2. Cultural norms that sabotage your efforts

If your cultural norms are in conflict with what happens in your unconscious bias training it will be difficult for behaviour changes to be sustained over a longer period of time, despite best intentions.

Because whilst your management team may fully support inclusivity and diversity, their leadership style may get in the way of real change happening. The message will simply get lost in environments that don’t promote communication, openness, dialogue and curiosity, and the real issues that prevent inclusive and diverse workplaces thriving will never be addressed.

So what can you do to fully embrace diversity in your organisation?

The answer lies in the culture you cultivate.

To uncover unconscious biases you must cultivate a culture of enquiry by encouraging everyone to constantly and habitually ask questions in every aspect of their working life.

This not only helps people to keep their assumptions in check, it also encourages them to reality check solutions.

Being open to questions means we also need to be open to change, from simply changing our minds because we see new evidence or creating massive change because we are finally being honest about what’s happening in our organisations.

The freedom to question values, processes, policies, decisions and the environment as a whole, is a fundamental feature of diverse and inclusive cultures. Without it people won’t have the courage to raise their hands to voice problems or open their minds to new opportunities. But to really instil trust and engagement, you must also be prepared to listen and take actions that people can collectively and individually get behind and support.

Use everyday Operational Coaching™ skills to generate high levels of enquiry

Cultural change starts with your leaders and managers. If you want to significantly and sustainably change the culture of your organisation, you need a leadership and management team who is committed to systemic change and have the skills required to make it happen.

Traditional management behaviours that often involve telling people what to do, won’t cut the mustard when developing diverse and inclusive cultures. Leaders and managers need to be equipped with new skills that puts enquiry at the heart of every interaction.

Operational Coaching™ is an approach to leadership that helps managers to incorporate enquiry into their everyday operational situations and enables them to have highly effective conversations, ‘in the moment’ and ‘on the job’.

Using Operational Coaching™, Managers create an environment of curiosity by using their powerful questioning skills. This increased use of questions eliminates some of the programmed assumptions they might make when interacting and making decisions which in turn allows creativity and individuality to flourish.

The more questions that are asked, the more opportunities for different voices to be heard - and listened too.

And that’s why it’s important to be able to deploy these skills on a large scale. 1-to-1 coaching is fantastic for individual development, but Operational Coaching™ is capable of enabling behaviour change on a wide-scale and with our award-winning, 100% virtual, fully blended STAR® Manager programme, gaining these skills has never been easier or more accessible or more affordable or more scalable.

Our unique Operational Coaching™ programmes, including STAR® Manager, ensure that managers gain these advanced level skills that can reduce bias errors and drive richer and more diverse insights that can transform your organisation.

Bringing biases to the forefront through Unconscious Bias Training can build your awareness but only by truly abandoning old, unhelpful and ugly assumptions can you really start breaking down the barriers to diversity and inclusivity. Operational Coaching™ is a proven way to increase enquiry in your organisation in order to unlock creative thinking, generate brand new insights, increase your options, and create new paradigms and new ways of thinking that will more fully support a diverse and inclusive culture as well as increase your chances of better outcomes for individuals and for your organisation.

Here's some questions for you to consider...

1. What commonly held beliefs in business, or specific to your organisation, should you question more deeply?

2. How could you question these beliefs in a way that is constructive for the organisation?

3. What can you positively influence to help your organisation be more inclusive, and benefit more from diversity?

4. What hidden assumptions could you challenge that might unlock further insight?

5. What action could you take right now to mobilise enquiry, and in turn diversity and inclusivity, in your organisation?


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