When I’m doing work with companies on topics, I try to keep the above three questions in mind:
So I start by defining the issue, then move on to why it matters, and then follow up with what do we do about it. When the topic comes to unconscious bias, I think many organizations would rather stop at the What.
What is Unconscious Bias?
I have a great 90 minute presentation that goes into why our minds are so susceptible to unconscious bias, which is defined as:
An implicit association or attitude—about race or gender, for example—that
– Operates beyond our control and awareness.
– Informs our perception of a person or social group.
– Can influence our decision-making and behavior toward the target of the bias.
In my presentation I give numerous examples of how unconscious bias hurts individuals and organizations. It hurts individuals in that they may not even get an interview and if they are hired, they may not receive the same development, feedback, performance management, mentoring or promotions as individuals who aren’t the subject of unconscious bias. Organizations are hurt because they lose out on valuable talent and the diverse perspectives that can be so valuable.
I emphasize that we can’t eliminate unconscious bias with good intentions. Organizations must build in systems and processes at every stage of the employee lifecycle to interrupt the natural human tendency of unconscious bias. Actions such as removing the names from resumes, creating a matrix of job requirements before an interview, making sure selection committees have diverse representation, etc.
Having a presentation on unconscious bias is a great first step. Assuming that the presentation will change behavior in and of itself is short-sighted. For change to happen, an organization must look at its internal processes and make the commitment to institute systemic changes and follow through.