Simple answer – yes. But then as someone who heads up a workplace training company, I would say that wouldn’t I?? But let’s face it, unconscious bias is fascinating and I’m sure has enough about it to make anyone thinking for a few minutes in a training room, “Well this is interesting, isn’t it?”. I believe that anyone who provides training or developmental interventions should be focusing on what happens when the participants leave the training room rather than in it. That’s the real test for me.
For any training session to make a difference it has to engage the people in the room so that they feel equipped to engage others outside the room on a day to day basis. I disagree with the article though that “hard-hitting” training needs to be coercive. You have to be smarter than that. For years I have spoken to people about the fact that you can’t tell people the way to think or feel. I mean, how dare you anyway?
As an employment lawyer in a former life I met a lot of leaders who found themselves on a witness stand saying the phrase “I didn’t intend for it to turn out this way” or “I didn’t mean it”. And I believed them. I just don’t think there are that many Machiavellian characters out there. But something went wrong – and the people involved were now scratching their heads trying to work out when and how it all began. It is this experience which has built the approach I take to inclusion generally. If you tell me I’m flawed (which I am of course) then I’m more likely to have a defensive reaction. Put me in a mandatory training session on a busy day when I have thousands of things to do, and I’ll switch off or better yet, get angry. Either way I won’t listen.
I do not believe you should tell well-intentioned people that they treat the people they influence unfairly – they do, we all do. Unconscious bias is human, natural and unavoidable. We are wired that way. For positive intent to be translated into positive impact, you need to engage the participants. You need to help them see the benefit of noticing the things that influence the way they think, the “pictures in their heads” and to reflect on what that means for the way they treat the people around them. And then you need to do something with that powerful awareness that emerges during the training. You need to make it personal and practical for them. Focusing on key issues like work allocation or career development enables people to get granular and it starts to mean something, they start to see. You can’t control the way you think or feel but you can adapt your behaviour once you’ve spotted it.
If you want to re-level the playing field, if you want to make a difference to your selection decisions up and down the pipeline, then you do need hard hitting training. Just make sure you get the kind that works with your people not against them.
Victoria uses her previous professional experience as a Managing Associate in the market leading employment law team at Simmons & Simmons, to explore how and why “things can go wrong”. She uses her analytical and communicative skills to challenge participants to consider the impact of the things they do and say in the workplace. Victoria challenges participants in her sessions to “see things differently”, to reflect on the impact of their unconscious bias on every day routine and critical decisions and, importantly, to work with them to consider how this knowledge can benefit them individually and collectively.
Victoria regularly leads global projects for clients in a number of locations delivering recently in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, New York, Toronto and several European locations.