Last month, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that Starbucks would require implicit bias training for its 175,000 employees in response to an April 12 incident in one of its stores in which an employee’s call to police complaining about two black men sitting in a Starbucks resulted in a widely reported and protested arrest in Philadelphia. Critics of Starbucks’ response called implicit bias training a trendy tool that dilutes corporate responsibility. Many experts disagree and believe implicit bias training, when done well, may be one of the best training tools companies have.
Here are a few ways to assist your company in delivering effective implicit bias training.
Employers—particularly human resources professionals and in-house employment lawyers—have long battled bias in hiring and other employment decisions. Employers have many tools at their disposal, such as anti-discrimination policies, employee handbooks and various trainings. A recent trend in training has been unconscious or implicit bias training. And it’s no wonder why: the idea that you can methodically eliminate one’s implicit bias is attractive because it’s blameless—everyone is told they have some bias and can’t avoid it—and it can explain why bias remains despite the ubiquity of other prophylactic measures like company policies and employee handbooks.
Implicit bias training is not without its critics though. Critics claim that it doesn’t have a measurable effect on diversity numbers and can even backfire because once a manager is told everyone has implicit bias it becomes more socially acceptable to have such a bias. At least one recent meta-analysis—”A Meta-Analysis of Change in Implicit Bias” by Patrick Forscher, Calvin Lai, Jordan R. Axt, Charles R. Ebersole, Michelle Herman, Patricia Devine and Brian Nosek (2016) (a study of hundreds of other studies)—concluded that although implicit bias is malleable, changing implicit bias does not necessarily lead to changes in behavior.
But that does not mean that HR professionals and employment counsel should scrap implicit bias training all together. Many experts maintain it is one of the best tool employers have to stamp out bias in the here and now. Perhaps the right question is: how can we make implicit bias training better?
Here are three tips that experts give to aid in assisting people in overcoming their implicit biases.