Increase Awareness in the Workplace with Unconscious Bias Workshops/Programs

When it comes to unconscious bias in the workplace, complacency is not an option. Unconscious Biases can impact recruitment, turnover, morale, productivity, and company culture. Reducing unconscious bias in your workplace requires consistent effort. As a Manager or HR Professional, you may not be sure where to start. Unconscious Bias training is not a final solution to eliminating it from your workplace. However, if done well, Unconscious Bias Training can plant seeds in your trainee’s mind to help them build awareness and mindfulness around their internal biases. Below are some things to consider when providing a baseline understanding to your participants about Unconscious Bias in the Workplace, and where to go from there.

1. Understanding the Context of Unconscious Bias

Our personal experiences can influence big and small decisions we make everyday. Consider how some of the experiences listed below could influence your decisions – perhaps without even noticing.

  • Past experience
  • The environment in which you were raised
  • The culture in which you were raised
  • Educational systems

These are just a few of many factors that can influence how we make decisions without us even noticing, this is unconscious bias. By understanding our triggers and how they impact us, we can build on our self-awareness to acknowledge and prevent unconscious bias. This gives opportunities to question your decisions and how your background could have influenced them.

Bias presents itself in a multitude of ways, some we may not even realize. Some examples of ways we can be unconsciously bias towards different groups of people are:

Horns Effect Judging a person without ever having met them based on a negative report or rumor. On the other side of this is the halo effect, where one’s abilities are over inflated based on their reputation.

Contrast Effect - Contrast effect bias occurs when individuals are compared based on their differences. This bias is one of the most common biases in the recruiting or hiring industry.  When a recruiter is interviewing applicants; an exceptional interview with a potential candidate may influence the recruiter’s view of the next candidate to be interviewed.

Beauty Bias - The beauty bias has two sides to it. Conventionally attractive people are sometimes perceived to be smarter and more capable. On the opposite side of that, conventionally attractive people are sometimes perceived as more feminine, weaker, and not as capable. The industry the individual is working in can influence this bias. For example, research has shown that attractive women are hired less often for jobs when appearance is less important, such as tow truck drivers or security guards.

Conformity Bias - Instead of being based on past experiences, Conformity Bias is defined as behaving in a manner that is similar to the people that are present, instead of acting on one’s own judgements or decisions. These behaviors can change, based on the surrounding people or situations. An example of this is when one person breaks the rules, then other’s join to conform, even it goes against their moral compass.

Gender Bias - Unconscious biases can cause us to ignore the skills and talents of someone due to their gender. This includes issues surrounding equal pay, equal opportunity, and blatant cases of discrimination against one gender or another in recruiting and hiring.

Name Bias Judging a person based on their name alone is a name bias. Name bias isn’t always based on name alone, but the association it creates. Names bring to mind images that influence our unconscious bias.

Ageism Bias - The preference of a specific age over another is the ageism bias. On one hand, employees from older generations can feel lost with new innovations and technology. On the other hand, younger employees are thought to not be as competent because of their lack of experience despite their qualifications.

2. Mitigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: Preparation

The first step to mitigating unconscious biases in the work culture of a company, is to communicate with your team. A firm statement to employees and shareholders establishes organizational values. Be sure to stay accountable to any consequences of violations you establish with your team.

This statement should also include some sort of plan to take actionable steps to address unconscious bias. If this means starting with a training program of some kind. It is also important that everyone, from management down to the most recently hired employee, participate.  This assists in the realization that everyone has these biases, and now the goal is to stop letting biases affect us.

The leaders and managers of the company have an even greater responsibility to the employees to provide a healthy workplace.  The top leaders are the ones that must insist on the workplace culture that the company follows, and be the examples to the rest of the business.

Encourage participation by picking an appropriate time and location that is accessible to everyone in the organization and highlight the positive effects of these programs. An important step to a successful unconscious bias training seminar for the employees is encouraging participation, not only in the meeting itself, but also in creating updated workplace policies. 

Allowing employees an open forum to discuss and explore these biases is important. It can also be useful to conduct of research to gather feedback from employees. To do this research, consider conducting an anonymous survey. Every employee must be given the opportunity to participate in the data collection without disclosing their identity. These surveys not only gather information, they also increase participation and create opportunities to build awareness. Some questions in the survey could include:

  • Do you feel like you can voice your opinion in this workplace?
  • Do you feel like you are fairly evaluated by your superiors?
  • Do you feel like there are biases in the workplace?
  • Would you be willing to participate in a diversity training seminar?

This information can be useful when planning out training programs that are well suited to the challenges your team faces regarding unconscious bias.

3. During/Post Workshop Considerations

Providing training seminars on unconscious bias employees go far beyond reading and presenting a slide presentation at a day-long meeting. Employees have to not only accept the information presented, but actively implement it. This training needs to be interactive and informative with clear goals that go beyond the training delivered that day.

One way to begin this session is to administer one of the many implicit biases tests that are available to all the employees.  The Harvard Implicit Awareness Test assists in identifying fourteen unconscious biases that the employees possess and inadvertently allow to affect their daily decisions. This test highlights the biases that each employee can then move forward and change.

When conducting programs address unconscious bias in the workplace, making time to let everyone speak and be heard is crucial to inclusivity. Implementing a well-designed anti-discrimination policy is not enough to create a positive work culture. Senior leaders must take initiative to understand the behaviors and feelings of their employees. Asking questions, actively listening to responses, and engaging will open the door of communication between management and employees. If an employee feels that the manager listens, they will be more likely to report any workplace issues or violations, which also contributes to address unconscious bias.

Checking the understanding of your trainees can help you understand how your unconscious bias training is being perceived. Some ways to check your training participants understanding is through:

  • Oral quizzes
  • Worksheets
  • Small group discussions

Once your awareness training is complete, there should be clear plans established to actionable ways to hold everyone in your organization accountable for addressing unconscious bias in the workplace. Creating policies and programs that work towards anti-biased behavior further cements the management’s policy maintaining a discrimination free workplace.  Here is a list that has been proven effective in the business world today:

  • Mentorship programs.
  • Rewrite policies to be non-gendered.
  • Intergroup relationship activities.
  • Committee to ensure accountability in personnel recruitment.

Programs and activities that are based on intermingling of departments and groups are recommended since departments can tend to group together. It is also recommended to have a group to manage the holding everyone accountable for decisions made on the hiring process.


As stated, unconscious bias training is a great first step to creating a baseline awareness. However, it is not the be all end all to reducing unconscious bias in the workplace. The work doesn’t stop once you wrap up your workshop. Having accountability and consistently examining behavior to acknowledge unconscious bias can make everyone more mindful of it. It is also crucial that you look to your federal and state laws to see what they have in place to ensure your organization is meeting those requirements. To get started on working towards reducing bias in the workplace, take a look at our Unconscious Bias Workshop, or get started on your corporate training today with a free course sample.

Posted by Katelyn Roy on

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