Myth: Implicit/Unconscious Bias Training Doesn't Work


Image: Illustration of unconscious thoughts by Jordan Mondell, Contributing Editor Pitt News.

Image Description: A black & white illustration of a brain sharing unconscious thoughts. The thoughts appear in thought bubbles: "Warning! Danger Ahead!" "Huh!? What is it?" "Uh... I can't say it... it's kind of racist.")


Not true. It does! But when, and only when (and this is in no particular order):

  1. You have willing, open-minded participants

  2. It's well-designed and customized to the needs of the participants (more often than not, this means going beyond just talking about unconscious bias and discussing what it actually takes to build an inclusive, equitable workplace)

  3. Objectives are clearly defined

  4. It's interactive and not just a lecture with useless data and research that's not connected to the participants' reality

  5. It's not a "one-and-done" training––continuous nudges and microlearnings (again, customized to the audience) are key to keeping the learnings top of mind for folks

  6. [super important] it's combined with other DEI efforts, particularly ones that work to dismantle systemic/institutional biases and oppressive policies, processes, and procedures

No single effort will change things, nor will change happen overnight. It can take DECADES, heck, even centuries, for real change to occur (did you see McKinsey's February 2021 report estimating that it will take Black employees in the US approximately 95 years to reach talent parity?! 😫). But, change can happen with the right approach and the will for it to happen.


Originally posted on LinkedIn August 2020.