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In the past, tech giants like Google and Facebook have gained attention for the innovative diversity training provided to employees.

But lately, another grandé company, Starbucks, has had a claim on the headlines for their efforts to address implicit bias in their workforce after an incident in one of their stores gained them negative media attention.

Starbucks’ recent exposure in the news has prompted many employers to wonder what – if anything – they need to do to address bias in their workplaces and protect their organizations.

In the following, we explain what exactly “implicit bias” is, why it matters, and how you can respond so you can build a respectful workplace.

Beginning discussions with your team members about implicit bias, hostile work environments, or respectful workplaces may seem intimidating.

If you’re wondering where to start or unsure what your team needs, let us know. We’d love to help you build an effective, productive workplace for your organization through our employee training programs.

Give us a call at 502.753.0970 or leave us a message on our website here.

Implicit Bias, Starbucks, and You: Tips For Educating Your Team

What is implicit bias?

As the term implies, implicit biases are below the surface, unintended, and often undesired. The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University defines implicit bias as “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.

In other words, individuals act on their implicit biases involuntarily, without realizing that they have them and without an awareness of their consequences.

For example, without realizing it, we may prefer to associate with younger people rather than older people, or enjoy the company of women more than men, or react more amicably to people of our own race.

Although implicit biases are subconscious, we can gradually train ourselves to recognize and unlearn these behaviors through a variety of techniques.

Increasing our understanding of our implicit biases so we can effectively address them is crucial for developing healthy, effective workplaces.

How does implicit bias impact the workplace?

While tending to associate with one group over another may seem harmless, the ramifications of implicit biases have the potential to damage workplace relationships and culture.

For example, we may unconsciously associate one group with positive stereotypes and another group with negative ones, affecting our perceptions and actions towards each group.

Implicit biases impact the workplace in a variety of ways, but here are a few specific examples:

Compensation: Implicit biases impact workplace decisions around compensation. During the Obama Presidential Administration, the White House announced an equal pay pledge during the 2016 United State of Women Summit.  According to their research, full-time working women earned 79% of what male full-time employees earned.  African American women earned 64 cents and Latino men early 56 cents on the dollar for every white Non-Hispanic men.

Hiring Decisions: The University of Chicago and MIT conducted a study in 2004 to assess the impact bias has on the recruitment process.  Researches distributed 5000 resumes with either stereotypical Caucasian and African-American names to 1250 employers who were seeking candidates. Each employer selected received 4 resumes of which one of each group of candidates was stronger than the other.  Researchers found that the Caucasian-sounding candidates received 50% more inquiries than those of the African-American-sounding candidates. In addition, the Caucasian-sounding ones received more inquiries than those of the stronger African-American-sounding candidates.

Promotions & Development: The influence of unconscious bias on decision making around promotions and development opportunities is well documented. For example, Fortune magazine printed an article in 2017 written by Michael Brainard where he analyzed the traits of the Fortune 500 CEO’s.  Brainard found that 58% are 6 feet or taller; 6% were women and less than 1% were African American.  In contrast, only 14.5% of US men are over 6 feet tall and 57% of the workforce is female.  There is clearly a gap between available talent and promotions.

In the workplace, sometimes these implicit biases can lead to micro-aggressions – small slights or offenses that may go mostly unnoticed but can add up to systematic discrimination or even a hostile work environment.

So what’s the solution?

From having employees take implicit association tests to eliminating identifying information from hiring applications, employers across the nation are searching for a way to mitigate the harmful effects implicit biases and discrimination may have on their workplaces.

Most recently, Starbucks made headlines for deciding to close its cafés for an afternoon to provide anti-bias training to its employees in response to a damaging incident that occurred in one of their stores earlier this year.

If you’re wondering how to address implicit bias in your workplace, we recommend that you start by focusing your efforts on building a respectful workplace. By developing a culture of respect, you enable your team to deepen their understanding of their coworkers, helping them to recognize and respond to their own biases.

Check out our website to see how you can create a productive workplace for your organization through our employee training programs.

Here are some tips for building a respectful workplace for your organization:

Don’t give into myths.

Giving into myths or making excuses about why you don’t need to address bias or build respect will just perpetuate the problem. Avoid thinking “it’s too hard” or “we don’t really need it” so you can proactively respond to the implicit bias present in your workplace.

Conduct bias reduction training.

Bias reduction trainings help teams to develop the tools they need to effectively respond to bias in the workplace. Consider hosting a bias reduction training to educate your hiring teams and increase the cultural competence of your senior leaders.

Ask (and listen to!) employees about change.

It may seem obvious, but many employers forget that one of the best ways to go about implementing change is to get help from those who will be involved in it – your employees! Ask your employees what they would like to improve about their workplace and then develop a plan to make changes accordingly.

Designate leaders for accountability.

It’s likely that your team has a few members who would be well-suited to be internal champions of your new initiatives. Recruit these individuals and your highest-level leadership to support respectful behaviors in each area of your company.

Develop and mentor for organizational strength.

Developing an impactful mentorship program is a primary way to influence your organization’s culture. Create a mentoring program that pairs entry and mid-level staff together to encourage increased knowledge and respect between team members.

Do you need help?

Beginning discussions with your team members about implicit bias, hostile work environments, or respectful workplaces may seem intimidating.

If you’re wondering where to start or unsure what your team needs, let us know. We’d love to help you build an effective, productive workplace for your organization through our employee training programs.

Give us a call at 502.753.0970 or leave us a message on our website here.

about the author: Integrity HR

    Integrity HR's human resources blog is filled with expert advice (and sassy commentary) on those everyday employment issues that give business owners and managers HR headaches. From tips on how to retain key employees to how to write your dress code policy, our blog has all the HR resources you need.

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