This is a FREE to use activity that you can incorporate into any training that you offer on:
- Unconscious bias training
- Staff and employee onboarding
- Equality and diversity in the workplace
This can be used either as
- a teacher-led discussion whereby the teacher goes through each section and waits for answers, in which case make this a 5 – 10-minute activity (if only doing the discussion you just do stage 3 of the activity)
- Or you can turn this into a 25-minute activity (for one-day training programs) by first getting students to discuss each section and then providing feedback to the class. Full instructions come below.
Who Should Use This Activity?
Typically this activity is useful if you are a:
- Freelance trainer
- Corporate trainer
- Human Resources (HR) department training employees and new hires
- Teacher or anyone providing workshops related to diversity and equality.
Starting the Activity
1. Activity Introduction
At first, you will want to show the PowerPoint slide (PPT) below or make a copy from the graphic below.
Show the first 4 phases which can be affected by unconscious bias.
There are four phases in which unconscious bias can affect the way in which a company treats an employee.
- attracting (the way in which the company portrays itself to the outside world and attracts employees)
- developing (that is, how they develop their employees)
- and retaining employees.
2. Starting the Discussion
Depending on the size of the class, i.e. the number of students, split them into groups of 3, 4 or 5.
Next, you will give them 5 minutes to study each of the four topics on the slide. Give them 5 minutes exactly for each by telling them to discuss ‘attracting’ until the 5 minutes is up. After 5 minutes, you will ask them to move onto ‘Hiring’ and so on.
At the beginning of each phase, you may (or may not) wish to give them some examples of situations in which unconscious bias can have an impact and how? You can see a graphic below for each situation that you could use.
3. Class Feedback and Discussion
Next, allow 5 to 10 minutes for a group discussion on each of these situations. You can ask one or two groups for their answer/s on each situation.
As the trainer or teacher, you can use the notes below for each situation, to shape the group discussion as needed.
Attracting Employees, Equality and Diversity
Attracting is the phase in which a company presents itself to the outside world and this can involve any sort of media such as the company’s website, communication to external media and the way in which job descriptions are written.
In particular, the words used can reflect a certain unconscious attitude. For example, some words are considered masculine (even if at an unconscious level), such as ‘champion’, ‘active’ or ‘adventurous’. Other words are deemed feminine, such as ‘gentle’, ‘empathetic’ or ‘nurturing’.
There is an online tool, called ‘Gender Decoder for Job Ads’, which can help you find out if a job ad is using words that are geared towards one gender or another.
Some other expressions can give the perception of very steep requirements, such as ‘expert skills’ or ‘top university’ required. So, this can discourage some candidates who may be very good even if they did not attend a ‘top university’.
Also, images can convey an organisation as being more or less welcoming to certain people. For example, if the site portrays only images of young men, it can give the unconscious feeling to people who are female or older that they do not belong there.
If a company offers benefits such as great healthcare and childcare options, sometimes those benefits are not made evident in their website, which discourages some potentially very good candidates.
Sourcing refers to the practice that some company have of sourcing candidates only from certain non-diverse universities or schools or through referrals.
Avoiding Bias When Hiring New Employees
Hiring includes reviewing the CVs (resumes) of candidates, interviewing and evaluating candidates after an interview.
When screening CVs (resumes), employers have to scan through them very quickly. There are some details that can affect whether a candidate is called for an interview or not. For instance, many studies based in the US and in the UK have shown that identical CVs which bear different sounding names are treated differently.
CVs, where the candidate had an English sounding name, were significantly more likely to be accepted for an interview compared with the same CVs where the candidate had a non-English sounding name.
During interviews and candidate evaluations all the biases that we have examined so far can have an impact. For example, even during a phone interview, a candidate’s accent is very likely to affect the way in which the interviewer judges him/her.
Developing: Providing ALL Employees With an Equal Opportunity to Develop in the Workplace
Developing employees can also be affected by bias.
Mentorship, development opportunities, performance reviews and promotions can all be affected by affinity bias and by all the other types of bias that exist (which are discussed in our unconscious bias training materials).
Retaining Employees, Equality and Diversity
Retaining good employees is important and some employees can be driven out from a company if they do not feel that the environment is safe for them. So, for example, companies need to have stringent and clear anti-harassment policies and which are enforced.
In terms of rewards and recognition, an example is unequal pay.
This discrepancy can be unwittingly perpetuated if a company, for instance, determines salaries based on an employee’s previous salary rather than just on the actual job description and on the employee’s’ skills and experience.
Finally, providing benefits such as parental leave, flexible working arrangements and the possibility of working from home are likely to help certain groups of people keep working for a company.
Even when these benefits are available on paper though, this is not enough if unconscious bias is not addressed. For example, flexible work arrangements (such as working part-time or working from home) can be encouraged in theory.
In actual fact though, in many companies, there is still stigma attached to those who work flexibly who are considered lazy and unreliable as the traditional view is that you only offer good value if you work full time and from the office all the time. (Learn also about the types and example of implicit bias).
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
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