February 24, 2021

Unconscious Bias Training vs Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training

Managing Organizational Change

If your goal is to change people’s minds which is the better way to do it?

  1. Increase their awareness so that they understand their current thinking?
  2. Tell them what the conclusion is and then force-feed them to accept your conclusion?

It should be obvious that number one is a far more effective way. When people understand their thinking and are able to grasp the advantages of the alternative, they tend to be more accepting than when they are told but they need to change.

The current trend of teaching diversity, equity and inclusion  (DEI) is an example of the latter (#2). The training starts with the conclusion that the attendees need to change their thinking in order to accomplish the goal of a more equitable, diverse and inclusive workforce.

On the other hand, the goal of unconscious implicit bias training is to increase awareness. The training starts by using examples to illustrate that every one of us has automatic biases that influence our decisions on a daily basis. . These biases are based on our life experience and are not the same as prejudice. In most cases we are not aware that we even have them because our decisions are so automatic. When unconscious bias training is done well, the emphasis is on self-discovery, which is a far more effective way of creating change than instructing people that they need to change and directing them to what that change needs to be. When people are allowed to discover biases that they did not realize they had , they are far more open to making change. With DEI training, there is resistance from the outlet because no one wants to be told that they have been wrong in their thinking and as a result that thinking must change.

Both methods of training share the same goal: a more inclusive and diverse workforce; but only one allows the trainees to change organically. Changing this way not only is easier, it is also more substantial, and as a result, longer-lasting. Before you jump to DEI training start with unconscious/ inclusive bias training. It will give you a stronger foundation and a better chance for meaningful change.

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