• Diversity Works New Zealand | 0800 DIVERSITY (348 377) | 09 525 3023

Mitigating Unconscious Bias

Monday, Aug 29, 2016, by Sheryl Blythen

Whether we accept it not, we tend to like people who look like us, think like us and come from backgrounds like our own. Unconscious bias is the enemy of diversity, subtly undermining the hours of time organisations invest in developing an inclusive culture. Diversity Works New Zealand’s Diversity Manager Fezeela Raza says that when biases are operating, they have a significant impact on leadership effectiveness, workplace interactions, communication, decision making, perceptions and beliefs about others. “We can’t eliminate our unconscious biases totally but the good news is that research shows that awareness of our biases is a mitigation strategy in itself,” says Fezeela. “Awareness can bring changes to thinking and behaviour. This means education and training around unconscious bias for people at all levels of an organisation is vital.” Unconscious bias is a big focus globally for organisations working to address diversity and inclusion issues, Fezeela says. “There’s a great deal of information available on this subject. But when it comes to training, it’s important to use experienced facilitators who can take these broad concepts and help people to understand their relevance to themselves and to the decisions they make in the workplace and the impact this has on the success of the organisation.” Diversity Works New Zealand offers customised unconscious bias training that not only raises awareness of this issue, but help organisations take the next step in managing it. “Our training addresses unconscious bias in a multi-faceted way. What is critical is a really strong foundation of knowledge around the neuroscience of unconscious bias,” says Fezeela. “Our specialist facilitators can break down the science in a way that it’s accessible for anyone.” A second training module looks at the impact of unconscious bias on key decisions made in organisations across the employee life cycle and provides both organisational and individual strategies to mitigate and manage these. “We can also help businesses address unconscious bias in the role of leadership, which is critical to creating change in organisations.” All of the training is customised to meet the needs of individual organisations. “The training helps staff look at unconscious bias as it may be operating within the context of their own organisation and develop strategies to minimise its impact,” says Fezeela. “The advantage of customised training is that we can talk about how unconscious bias is relevant to you and your organisation.” “It’s a great way shifting how people see themselves and how they interact with others.” The Diversity Works New Zealand team recently led training with the Office of the Clerk. “It was a great session. We see people having real ‘a-ha’ moments, where they realise how many of the decisions they make are impacted by things they are not even conscious of. It’s a real eye-opener for people to see how our life experiences shape our unconscious filters,” says Fezeela. Clerk of the House David Wilson says the training was relevant, well-presented and provided practical solutions for his team. “It was an excellent presentation; knowledgeable and responsive to the audience.” Fezeela says it’s great to see organisations benefiting from the customised unconscious bias training and she would love to work with more teams. To get more information on these sessions, contact Fezeela on training@diversityworksnz.org.nz or 0800 DIVERSITY (0800 348 377).

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