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Implicit Bias Training: What It Is and How It Fosters Wellbeing

Managing implicit bias—both personally and in the workplace—requires a pointed, actionable, and consistent approach.

True equity at work can only be achieved once biases, including racial bias, have been identified, understood, and committed to by all members of an organization. With the help of implicit bias training and other diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, organizations can raise awareness of biases that may affect decision-making and foster a more inclusive culture where employees thrive.



What is Implicit Bias?

All individuals have unique lived experiences. Frequently, these experiences unconsciously or implicitly shape people’s perceptions of others. Those implicit perceptions are often based on stereotypes that, when held or expressed, have the potential to discriminate against groups of people.

These unfounded and unconscious perceptions are known as implicit biases and can manifest in nearly every area of life, including the workplace. For example, a senior leader may have an unconscious preference for, or aversion to, a certain person, which may influence hiring or promotional decisions.

By contrast, explicit bias refers to when an individual is aware of their preferences or aversions to certain groups of people and accepts them as the truth.

Allowing implicit and explicit bias to dictate decision-making in the workplace prevents organizations from being truly equitable and inclusive. As a result, work environments that are ruled by bias can cause diminished employee morale, increased turnover, and stunted overall company growth.

Common Forms of Implicit Bias

Implicit bias, also known as unconscious bias, can appear in many forms. Some of the most common examples of implicit bias are:



How Implicit Bias Influences Behavior

From recruiting and hiring decisions to how employees are treated in general, implicit bias negatively impacts an organization's culture—and business overall.

When coworkers, especially leadership, hold unconscious biases, it greatly hinders employee morale, causes an upsurge in attrition, and tarnishes diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Here are some examples of how implicit bias can adversely impact business outcomes and public scrutiny:

  • 54% of companies believe reputational peril is the biggest risk to their business. Without a solid DEI strategy that addresses implicit bias, companies face public backlash for biased decision-making that can damage their reputation.
  • A business's financial performance is inextricably linked to how it handles diversity, according to a McKinsey study. Executive teams that prioritize gender diversity are 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability.
  • According to recent findings from Cornell Law School, a lack of DEI and bias training can increase a business’s exposure to legal trouble and lawsuits—potentially leaving an employer liable to pay damages and attorney’s fees.

The Importance of Implicit Bias Training in the Workplace

While every individual possesses some form of implicit bias—and it exists to some extent in all workplaces—it is important to find ways to recognize it in order to instill understanding, respect, and equity for everyone throughout an organization.

Prejudice is left unchecked without a proper framework and program for managing implicit bias. When businesses do nothing to help educate and inform employees about their unconscious biases, their habitual thought patterns may negatively impact the workplace dynamic and culture in a big way.

Implicit bias training, education, and programming as part of an overarching DEI strategy at work can help to:

  • Increase individuals’ awareness of their own prejudices
  • Provide effective tools to help them recognize and correct their bias inclinations
  • Give actionable steps to help employees change their biased thought patterns

How to Recognize, Reframe, and Reject Implicit Biases

The road to recognizing biased thinking is arduous and never-ending. Managing and correcting implicit biases in the workplace requires consistent and strategic education and training for all levels of an organization.

Fortunately, there are strategic steps organizations can take to help employees, managers, and leaders recognize and reduce biased thinking. The table below outlines workplace-specific strategies that can mitigate implicit bias and foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Recognition

Description:

One of the first steps toward self-betterment is recognizing the problem at hand.

Workplaces are positioned to help employees recognize their unconscious biases while offering wellness programs and other benefits to foster growth.

Example:

Offer an implicit association test (IAT) to help your employees become aware of their unconscious biases and create a wellness program that issues DEI training to help them continually improve.

Understanding

Description:

Everyone is an individual with strengths, weaknesses, and personal challenges.

Employers can support their staff by highlighting wins and successes so that all employees feel valued. Beyond this, being mindful of cultural differences is a core part of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion and reducing bias.

Example:

Celebrating diverse holidays, encouraging curiosity, and using inclusive language are great strategies to develop understanding.

Connection

Description:

Sustained and friendly contact between people is one of the best ways to help employees tame their implicit biases, reach an understanding, and lead with empathy.

Organizations should provide adequate platforms for contact and meaningful connection that fosters growth.

Example:

Hold regular team-building meetings and incorporate activities that facilitate conversation and cooperation, such as team-based triv

 

Accepting the fact that implicit bias is inherent and that everyone experiences it to some degree is the first step to recognizing and reducing implicit bias in the workplace.

Here are some strategies organizations can adopt internally to improve company culture and maintain an environment of inclusion for all workers:

1  Leverage Wellness Programming and Data

A holistic approach to well-being includes strategies and measures for taming implicit biases in the workplace. Through professional coaching, wellness challenges, and unconscious bias and diversity training programs, wellness programming can help organizations stay on track with progress and initiatives.

Most important, however, is the ability to set actionable goals and track progress through engagement data. Doing so provides a platform to thrive while also benefiting organizational growth and outcomes.

2  Conduct Regular Implicit Bias Training

Regular implicit bias training will help educate employees, managers, and senior leaders on the implications of biases and improve their ability to recognize and reduce biased behaviors.

Organizing an employee resource group (ERG) as part of an unconscious bias training and DEI program can provide team members with support from an understanding community of diverse individuals as they work through ingrained, unconscious biases. Consider issuing an implicit association test so employees can better understand the implicit biases they hold and create a starting point for improvement.

3  Promote Transparency and Open Communication

It is human to hit roadblocks and make mistakes—what is important is taking accountability while working to improve.

Transparency is integral to that process, which is why implicit bias training should seek to display and practice understanding and empathy from the very beginning.

Empathy encourages collaboration, communication, and trust among employees and leaders, making it easier to recognize personal weaknesses, own accountability, and start on a path of improvement.

Take the steps needed to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace. Contact WellRight today to learn how we can help.

 

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