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Unconscious bias training: A thing of the past?

16th December 2020

Over recent years, in light of raised awareness of systemic racism and as a response to deepening inequities, we saw a number of organisations, including government departments and public bodies, rushing to tick the box of unconscious bias training. But, as recent research shows there is a lack of evidence as to its effectiveness.

The fact of the matter is, unconscious bias training was created not as a solution for systemic bias, prejudice and discrimination but to target individuals and their ingrained worldviews and unconscious cognitive shortcuts. Furthermore, it was not designed by people who experienced and understood discrimination.

Research and reports by a number of organisations, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the CIPD (the professional body for Human Resource and People Development) and most recently a government review has found it to be ineffective.

It has lead to the government recently announcing the scraping of such training for civil servants in England; which in the last 5 years has estimated to have cost the public purse in the region of £370,000.

Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust race equality think tank, is reported to have said that unconscious bias training is not always effective and whilst she recognises the dangers of a corporate "diversity industry" wanting to have "off the shelf" training she warned that it would have to be replace with something better and further reaching.

The reality is that there needs to be fundamental changes to workplace practices; such as those relating to fair pay, equality of opportunity and transparent career progression, together with regular reviews and measurable outcomes. Only with such practices will we change out workplace culture and achieve transformational change. One day, tick box training, in any form, will simply not do.

Ready to discuss how your workplace can tackle unconscious bias and achieve transformational change? Get in touch with Diversity+.

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