5 Things You Should Know About Unconscious Bias Training

Tarsha Mccormick, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at ThoughtWorks, shares her expertise.
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Unconscious bias plagues every organization, and reducing its impact is essential to creating a truly inclusive and equitable workplace. As more and more companies increase their efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Built In turned to the experts for additional advice. 


We spoke with Tarsha Mccormick, experienced HR professional and current head of diversity & inclusion at ThoughtWorks, to learn more about unconscious bias training. Leverage this information to implement training as a part of your comprehensive DEI strategy. Read on to learn five key takeaways from the conversation, and download the complete guide to access all of the insights


#1: Bias occurs in every organization and throughout the full employee lifecycle. 


At its core, bias is partiality and is often unconscious, meaning we show bias without even realizing it. Bias happens at every organization and across all levels, and as such it affects the entire employee lifecycle. From the early stages of the recruitment process up until the exit interview, employees are subjected to and impacted by bias. A holistic assessment of your business will help you identify where bias exists and allow you to start building a plan to mitigate it.


#2: Language plays an important role in reducing bias. 


How you refer to employees is a form of bias. Men and women are often described using vastly different language styles, and each suggests differing strengths, abilities and contributions. 


Additionally, job descriptions are often a hotspot for bias. The language used to describe a role naturally deters diverse candidates from applying; language will attract a specific demographic and disengage the rest. Being conscious of and thoughtful with the words you use will help reduce bias in your own organization. 


#3: Change starts with leaders.


Your leadership team should be the first to go through unconscious bias training, followed by managers and members of the people team, before rolling out training to the rest of the organization. This is because their buy-in is key to enacting real, lasting change. 


Furthermore, it ensures that leaders are well-informed and able to support employees on the journey to creating an unbiased workplace. Their active participation and work is paramount to your organization’s success.

“The beauty in discovering your biases is that it gives you the power to make conscious decisions which can really impact positive change.” 

-Tarsha Mccormick, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at ThoughtWorks.

#4: A good facilitator is key. 


When it comes time to conduct an unconscious bias training session, having a qualified, well-informed facilitator is critical — whether that’s an internal or external professional, or an online training program. 


The facilitator must be able to engage participants and develop trust for when employees want to share their own experiences. A facilitator should be able to respond to vulnerability and demonstrate it themselves.


#5: Unconscious bias training is just one piece of the puzzle.


In order to create an inclusive work environment without bias, your unconscious bias training should be one part of a larger DEI framework. It should not be the only training your organization offers, either.


Your training efforts should also focus on understanding how bias and privilege influence racial equality and inequities. Furthermore, a strategic DEI program must account for recruitment, retention and employee support, among other factors. 


These five takeaways are nowhere near exhaustive. Unconscious bias runs deep through every organization, and mitigating its impact requires an organized strategy uniquely tailored to your company. Download the guide to learn how to create a comprehensive DEI strategy and take steps to remove unconscious bias from your workplace.