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Recognizing Unconscious Bias: 3 Ways to Improve Your DEI Initiatives

The human brain processes 11 million bits of information per second. Just think about that. That’s an unimaginable amount of data, yet our brains do this as a matter of course.  However, according to NPR, our conscious brains can only process 40 to 50 pieces of information per second, requiring our brains to create cognitive shortcuts.  These shortcuts can often lead to unconscious bias, impacting how we perceive and interact with others. 

These unconscious biases can impact all facets of our lives, including interacting with others at work. Often, these biases influence our judgments, conversations, and decision-making, often negatively impacting our DEI initiatives.

To continually improve your DEI efforts, here are three ways employees can recognize and overcome workplace biases, improving diversity, equity, inclusion, productivity, and engagement within your organization.

1. Implement the Right Unconscious Bias (UB) Training

According to  Harvard Business Review, traditional forms of UB training just aren’t cutting it. For example, a 2019 study indicated that UB training did not change behavior. Other studies showed that this training can backfire – creating an employee belief that these behaviors are involuntary and unavoidable, potentially leading to increased discrimination.

So, how should you raise bias awareness while reducing bias? Ensure that your UB training teaches your employees to not only identify their unconscious biases but to manage them while tracking their process. 

To achieve these outcomes, this is not a one-time training. Instead, it’s an ongoing process, helping employees reflect on stereotypical examples while interacting with others who have different experiences. Additionally, you can encourage employees to call out biased views or behavior, adopt the perspectives of other employees, or identify where additional change is needed.

By implementing UB training that calls for action – not just acknowledgment – you can give your employees the power to positively impact your DEI initiatives while recognizing unconscious bias.

2. Showcase DEI Behaviors 

Another way to improve your DEI initiatives is to showcase inclusive behaviors while recognizing and overcoming unconscious bias. By showcasing these behaviors, company leaders can encourage employees to move from UB training to a broader DEI learning strategy

So, how can your leadership empower employees to overcome workplace biases while improving your DEI initiatives?  According to Deloitte, here are six ways to embody inclusive interactions while keeping unconscious biases in check:

  • Commitment: Encourage employees to treat others with respect and fairness, fostering a work environment where employees can bring their true selves to work.
  • Courage: When necessary, engage in hard conversations with employees, encouraging workers to take ownership of their actions. 
  • Cognizance of bias: Identify and call out unconscious bias so that your employees can make informed consistent decisions.
  • Curiosity: Embolden your employees to listen to others while learning about the backgrounds and viewpoints of others.
  • Cultural Intelligence: Create opportunities to learn about different cultures, increasing your team’s ability to respect other employees’ perspectives.
  • Collaboration: Continue to create teams that are diverse in backgrounds, perspectives, thinking, and viewpoints. 

3. Continue the Conversation

Lastly, don’t forget to encourage employees to continue the conversation around inclusion and belonging, recognizing unconscious bias along the way. 

For example, create an environment where employees feel safe and comfortable openly discussing these topics with their co-workers and managers – further helping them to speak up when they see workplace bias. 

Encourage employees to be part of decision-making processes, allowing them to see the consistency and transparency of decisions at all organizational levels. Conduct “stay” interviews, giving your employees a chance to talk about why they stay or why they may leave, giving you insight into how employees need to be further supported. 

When recognizing unconscious bias, be intentional.  How can your leaders own their unconscious biases, allowing your employees to own theirs? How can you confront bias throughout your employees’ lifecycle? How can you encourage employees to embrace systematic change? The sooner you address these issues, the sooner you create a safe workplace for all of your employees – not just a select few. 

Want to learn more about recognizing unconscious bias while improving your DEI initiatives? Contact Cangrade today to learn more.