This is a topic that I’ve thought about a TON since I built our anti-bias trainings at Peoplism (we’re a D&I+ consulting firm). There are a number of things that are important for a good anti-bias training, but here (in my opinion) are the top ones…
- As Rach pointed out above, there is little evidence bias trainings are effective. Actually, I’d clarify this a bit saying there is little evidence unconscious bias trainings are effective. Anti-bias trainings are something else completely. But one thing that’s really confusing is that these terms (unconscious bias and anti-bias) are used interchangeably, when in fact they are very different. An unconscious bias training raises awareness that bias exists (like the Google and Facebook training). An anti-bias training actually changes people’s biases. If you care about impact, you want to be building an anti-bias training, rather than an unconscious bias training.
Knowing you want to actually change people’s biases, it’s important to illuminate 1, Why we have biases in the first place (no, not our brain structures, but the harmful cultural messages around gender, race/ethnicity, etc.) And 2, the fact that these cultural ideas (i.e. stereotypes/biases) aren’t true. Because the sad truth is, many of us (unless we’re told otherwise) think there is some truth in our stereotypes, which is why raising awareness around stereotypes isn’t enough to actually dismantle them.
I’m a therapist so I’m biased on this point (speaking of biases)…but I think it’s very important that trainings are set up in a way to have ample time for participants to reflect on their own experiences and thoughts, and also learn about other people’s experiences, especially people who are different from them in demographic categories like gender and race/ethnicity.
Finally, it’s important that participants walk away with concrete skills to help them build a more inclusive workplace. And by concrete skills, I don’t mean “be more inclusive,” but tactical tips like: Set a timer for 5 minutes before a meeting ends, and at that point ask if there is anyone who hasn’t contributed yet who has something to add. (This is a great way to give quieter people–or people who have been cut off–a chance to speak up, and also help more dominant voices get used to taking a breath and letting others join the conversation.)
In case it’s helpful, our training is based on the IMB Model–it’s actually a model from public health that has been used to get people to adopt healthier behaviors. Since it’s worked so well in public health, we applied it to the workplace. The general idea is that behavior change is achieved when you: 1) Give people critical information about a topic (I), 2) Motivate them to take action on that information (M), 3) Give them specific behavioral suggestions for how you want them to change (B).
This work is tough, super complex, and it’s tricky to get right…but, it’s so rewarding when you see those light bulbs go off in people’s heads, and get to watch them adopting new behaviors. Hope this was helpful, and good luck!