Building Belonging: Understanding Bias to Foster Inclusion

5th July 2021

Freud identified three states of mind, the preconscious, the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. Likening these levels to an iceberg, with the unconscious mind being the danger that lurks below. It’s powerful and it shapes our choices and decisions in all aspects of our life, including those we make in the workplace.

Unconscious bias training has been the buzz in HR circles for many years now, but is it still relevant?

Many workplaces have moved away from unconscious bias training despite the rise of anti-racism work since the BLM campaigns of 2020. The UK civil service has stopped unconscious bias training saying they don’t feel it has impact on behaviours and for example, hasn’t done much to change the representation of women in management.

We know we have biases, no one disputes it. So what’s the way forward in fostering belonging for all at work?

Dr Hade Turkman of Chwarae Teg’s Policy & Research team, conducted extensive research into BAME women’s experiences in Wales, in her 2019 report Triple Glazed Ceiling: Barriers to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women participating the economy. The report found BAME people experience discrimination and bias at every stage of their career, even before it begins. They are more likely to perceive the workplace as hostile, less likely to benefit from networks, to apply for and be given promotions and more likely to be judged or disciplined harshly. This is felt by people from many protected groups. With potential bias in every area of workplace decision making and even employee relations, it’s still a relevant topic.

Recruitment and promotion is a pinch point for bias. A diverse recruitment team can help stop the ‘halo effect’ having a negative impact. Scoring candidates an overall average based on the different reviewers means if there is a slight halo effect in one of the recruiters this is likely to be averaged out amongst the other scores. But once we have diversity in the workplace, do people feel they truly belong?

A holistic approach to fostering belonging, as part of an Equality, Inclusion and Diversity strategy works best. Tackling inequality, promoting inclusion and celebrating diversity.

Opening up minds to a diverse way of thinking starts with awareness raising, unconscious bias training is part of this.

Top tips to foster belonging:

  • Embed unconscious bias training into your induction process- Don’t assume that everyone joining your organisation already knows about bias
  • Make inclusivity and cultural awareness training part of the induction and on-boarding process
  • Train those in senior positions to have the skills and behaviours to be equality driven leaders
  • Revisit your organisational values and behaviours – do they foster belonging?
  • Encourage a culture of open conversations – make sure colleagues can challenge behaviours
  • Look for trainers with lived experience – help employees to understand the effects of bias
  • Consider the imagery you use on literature and websites – do employees see themselves
  • Encourage positive role modelling from all not just leaders
  • Ensure there are clear policies and procedures that provide clarity over how staff can raise concerns
  • Be careful when talking about ‘cultural fit’ – redefine what that means to foster belonging

Belonging is defined in The Oxford Dictionary as the feeling of being comfortable and happy in a particular situation or with a particular group of people

To feel a sense of belonging

If you would like further support to create a truly inclusive workplace, where everyone feels that they belong get in touch with the FairPlay Employer team today.

We can support you in educating your workforce through bias training, embedding inclusion through our equality driven leadership programmes and even review your recruitment and selection processes to ensure fairness and equity.

Our team of experts and associate consultants have lived experience of issues such as gender, transgender, race and religion inequalities and can provide impactful and meaningful learning opportunities.

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