Why awareness of bias is important for greater inclusion

Suki Sandhu from INvolve on why tailored conscious inclusion training is an important part of a successful diversity and inclusion programme, including hiring for culture add rather than just culture fit.

Headshots of employees


The Government Equalities Office has announced that they will be scrapping unconscious bias training for civil servants in England, citing its ineffectiveness and lack of evidence that it changes attitudes. Unconscious bias training is widely used across businesses to tackle patterns of prejudice and discrimination. However, with this decision by the Government will organisations follow suit and similarly scrap their plans for unconscious bias as part of broader anti-racism work?

As many diversity and inclusion experts can tell you, generic unconscious bias training is not that effective; however, this does not mean that the idea of focusing individuals on their own behaviours in the workplace should be scrapped altogether. At INvolve we run a unique conscious inclusion training programme where the emphasis shifts from just acknowledging biases to providing employees with the knowledge, tools and confidence to take specific actions that will help create a more inclusive environment for colleagues at their specific organisation. By replacing generic unconscious bias training with bespoke trainings targeted at driving real change in the workplace, organisations can start to take positive action that will help ensure all their employees can succeed, regardless of background.

Part of a strong inclusion programme

Trainings should exist as part of a larger and more holistic approach to tackling unconscious bias and creating inclusive businesses. For leaders to truly tackle implicit bias they should be encouraging employees to share their lived experiences in a safe environment that removes bias, in turn promoting respect and trust. It’s also important for organisations to set diversity targets to hold themselves accountable for the actions that they have committed to taking.

There is a risk that unconscious bias training alone can act as a box-ticking exercise. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to create a strong programme where trainings sit alongside other inclusion initiatives.

Another way to help tackle unconscious bias in the workplace is to recruit for ‘culture add’ rather than ‘culture fit’. When hiring managers consistently hire talent using the same flawed methods, their workforce becomes a team with similar perspectives, work patterns and often the same blind spots. An awareness of bias in the process of hiring is important in order to start eliminating it and promoting wider diversity. Of course, the removal of bias doesn’t stop at just recruiting and its important for leaders to think about inclusive practices and policies throughout the entire employee life cycle.

The right thing to do

Though it can seem daunting for employers, removing bias, discrimination and prejudice from the workplace doesn’t just ensure the commercial success of your organisation, but is the right thing to do. With the Black Lives Matter movement signalling an urgent call to action on Race, as well as the renewed focus on LGBT+ equality, it’s more important than ever that organisations work to create a world that’s fair for everyone.

To aid in their efforts, businesses can seek support from external consultancies and expertise from diversity and inclusion professionals to help drive effective and measurable action across the whole business. While unconscious bias training may be outdated, it has provided a starting point from which more effective training programmes have grown. These are effective and a great starting point for organisations and individuals looking to create an inclusive workplace.

*Suki Sandhu is founder and CEO of INvolve – The Inclusion People, a global network and consultancy championing diversity and inclusion in business.

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