Diversity & Inclusion | The simple, zero cost, first step we all need to take to help defeat Unconscious Bias

The simple, zero cost, first step we all need to take to help defeat Unconscious Bias

Unconscious Bias explains the way our brains process information without our conscious brain being aware of it. The busy unconscious part of our brain provides us information which would have been useful to us when we were cave dwellers but in modern society, this information often leads to discrimination.

The simplest example would be that before we lived in a civilised world, every other person from outside our tribe could have been a direct threat to both us and our tribe. So our unconscious brain has been trained to be more fearful of people who do not look, talk and act like us.

So, it’s simple, to defeat Unconscious Bias, all we need to do is change about 300,000 years of evolution.

This is not easy.

In fact “defeating” Unconscious Bias is an unrealistic goal. It’s more realistic to think about minimising the effects of Unconscious Bias. You’ve probably heard already, but Unconscious Bias is a by-product of how our super computer brains quickly process 1000s of pieces of information. So whilst it’s not possible to change the way this data is processed by your unconscious brain, you can change the way your conscious brain challenges the conclusions that the unconscious brain suggests.

Here is how we explain this process in our eLearning course:

Recruitment and Unconscious Bias

The decisions that are affected by this unconscious bias permeate all aspects of society. Unfortunately, recruitment is one of the most prominent areas where Unconscious Bias comes out to play.

Recruitment has a key role to play in ensuring that everyone in society has an equal opportunity to be rewarded for their efforts, skills and passion.

“But I’m not a racist?”

Each of the past few generations have made significant steps towards building a fairer society. Legislation exists that makes racism, homophobia and many other forms of discrimination against the law. Legislation is necessary but it’s really the informal social rules enforced by our peers that bring about the real change.

This has led to the current state of play, where a good majority of people in decision making roles are not consciously homophobic, sexist, racist, etc

Training non-racists to be less racist

We still need to be mindful that unfortunately, there are a minority of people who are comfortable with discriminating against certain groups in society. However, the biggest barrier to impactful change is to train the majority of people who are not consciously deciding to discriminate, but are unwittingly going about their daily life making all sorts of decisions that are impacted by their unconscious bias.

Here is how we talk about reducing bias in our eLearning course:

Does Unconscious Bias training work though?

There has been lots written about how Unconscious Bias training does not work. The UK government recently decided to cancel Unconscious Bias training for the Civil Service stating that "unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims”. What they really mean is “we did some training and it did not solve all the issues. So new plan. No training.”.

You can see why Lucille Thirlby (assistant general secretary of the FDA civil servants' union) asked ministers to say "what are you going to replace it with?”

“How will they ensure people are not discriminated against? It's easier to attack something than do something positive about it,"

It’s not a magic bullet solution

All schools have an anti-bullying policy that is normally very comprehensive. Does this mean that bullying has been eradicated in schools? No, but I would not send my children to a school that did not take the subject of bullying seriously.

The same applies to unconscious bias training, except it’s only recently that this subject is getting the air time it demands. Just training your staff on Unconscious Bias will not eliminate it.

It’s about making a start, building upon a foundation

Regardless of whether you have a comprehensive D&I plan, you should start to tackle Unconscious Bias and this should start with training that raises awareness of the issue. By improving your staff’s awareness of this issue and showing that it’s important to your organisation, you will start to build the foundations that future additional projects can be built upon.

Next steps

Here at hireful we have worked with Baljit Kaur, a respected D&I consultant to help us design and produce a 30 min eLearning course that explains how and why Unconscious Bias occurs and helps the delegate to understand some strategies they can use to identify and overcome the negative effects of it.

She agrees that eLearning is “unlikely to be an effective standalone solution…but when delivered well, it most certainly helps staff to question and identify their ingrained views".

As this is a subject we really care about, we have made the course 100% free for all staff, from all organisations.

Sign up today and test it out for yourself to see if this could help your organisation start to tackle this issue.

Tackle unconscious bias in your organisation

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