Overcoming Unconscious Bias: Training and Tools for Modern Leaders 

Overcoming Unconscious Bias: Training and Tools for Modern Leaders 

Leadership 3rd May, 2024 8 Mins Read

In simple words, unconscious bias is biased actions that are not determinate. The Guardian states that existing prejudices are the main factor behind unconscious bias.    

According to the Guardian, applications with Pakistani or Nigerian-sounding names have less attracted employers. In the UK, 60% of employers have shown such unconscious bias.    

Research shows that those candidates had the same qualifications as those native English candidates.    

 Unfortunately, unconscious bias has a long-drawn disastrous impact on the culture of workplace equality. For evidence, not recruiting Muslim or Asian candidates will become a norm.    

In the USA, Muslim candidates commonly suffer from a 13% lower callback rate from employers. Therefore, most companies need unconscious bias training.    

A common course of unconscious bias training includes the following steps:   

  • Identification of the origins of unconscious bias training   
  • Defining the unconscious biases in the workplace clearly   
  • Discussing how unconscious bias impacts the workplace   
  • Taking calculated preventive measures by launching a training program for leaders    
  • Introducing tools to keep unconscious bias in check, even after training   

Problems with Conventional Unconscious Bias Training   

So, do you think it is enough to only have Unconscious Bias Training? Many of these training courses are not enough.   

Ineffectiveness of raising awareness alone   

Most training mechanisms are simple and similar. It includes the use of common tools to detect the level and sources. Experts say that such training mechanisms lack two main elements. These are:   

  • Tracking percentage and patterns of biased behavior of leaders before training   
  • Identifying percentile change in behavior after training   
  • Tracking changes at least one year after training   

An HBR review finds that most unconsious bias training fails in the long run.    

Potential backfiring by suggesting biases is unavoidable   

 Research shows that many leaders become retracted after unconscious bias training. They are to make a move. As a result, there might be various consequences.    

Firstly, it can lead to poor candidate screening to avoid bias.    

Secondly, it might lead to unwanted repercussions. You may end up deliberately recruiting more candidates from under-represented communities or groups.    

Solutions for Effective Unconscious Bias Training   

Some steps are important for effective bias training. I have discussed these steps below.   

Teaching people to manage their biases   

The most common teaching practice is exposing a biased leadership approach. To do so, trainers should use the performance data of unbiased leaders in the same company as a standard.    

However, experts of Everfi Corporate Trainers say that people quickly forget the learning outcomes, just after the unconsious bias training. In 12 to 18 months (about one and a half years), they start making biased decisions again.    

Therefore, it is important to keep biases in check. It can be done by checking the knowledge retention rate of leaders after 12 months of training.    

Training models should also include interactive assessments to understand the real impact of training in the long term.    

Encouraging behavior change   

Most unconscious bias training fails due to a lack of focus on sustainable behavior change. 

Globally successful US companies like Microsoft use the allyship training program to avoid unconscious bias among leaders. At the same time, Google has a self-designed unconscious training program for leaders.    

However, the rate of unconscious bias of leaders did not decrease substantially. For instance, Google paid $118 million to settle a lawsuit. It was a case of gender bias against one of Google’s leaders.   

It shows that behavior change is the prime motive of unconscious bias training.    

Providing information that contradicts stereotypes   

In 2017, a survey found that 35% of recruiters in the UK wanted to invest in diverse recruitment measures. However, experts say that recruiting efficient leaders is not all.    

They may be victims of acquired bias. It is another form of unconscious bias. They tend to acquire the common prejudices existing in the workplace environment. As a result, unbiased recruitment cannot make your company more inclusive.    

To overcome such issues, you need proper leadership tools. These tools will identify biases in the workplace, sometimes, in various ways.    

For instance, a Text analyzer interprets text reports from managers to check if those are biased. Leaders’ approach during induction or exit interviews might be biased for evidence. Sometimes, they don’t even realize that.    

Text analyzer can detect that, too.    

Data from other tools, like the Implicit Association test, can also reveal specimens of behavioral stereotypes.    

Biased managers should sometimes take data from such tools. As a result, they can keep their prejudices in check.    

Promoting connections with diverse colleagues   

You can check your test score and detect your unconscious bias level. However, the test does not guide your behavioral improvements. It depends on learning new habits and overcoming prejudices.    

You can check how other unbiased and transparent leaders in the company communicate and act. But you must acknowledge your biases first. Without that, your self-revelation will not take place.    

You can sit one-on-one with them. You can also record and check footage of their leadership transactions. As a result, you can identify the differences in their approach.    

Implementing long-term programs with organizational changes   

According to the European Chemical Bulletin, Implicit Bias Training is the most helpful approach. It helps implement long-term changes in the company. Most research says there are multiple sources of unconscious bias in the workplace.    

Again, biases from leaders also impact the subordinates. Hence, the whole workplace becomes biased.    

To avoid this, you should include fact-based training sessions. These training sessions include an evaluation session.    

The evaluation is done with the test. The test detects the origins of bias and suggests strategies to make sustainable behavioral changes.    

Examples of Successful Unconscious Bias Programs   

Many companies have good unconscious bias training. Microsoft and Starbucks are two of the best.    


CEO Satya Nadella launched a companywide approach. His strategy stopped hatred towards the South Asian employees at Microsoft. A false rumor was spread. Due to that, all employees blamed their Asian peers for the COVID-19 virus only.   

Microsoft launched the allyship program in 2020. This program can detect discrimination in employees’ speeches when they communicate with each other.    

Then, the program noted some parts of speech that employees could avoid to prevent bias. Those speeches triggered biases in the organization.    

In this way, Microsoft mitigated a brewing companywide bias against South Asians.    


Many companies use the real-time training method. Starbucks did not do it. The company closed all their 8000 US stores for the whole day. It was used to provide direct evidence and KPI-based training.    

Namely, two African American men experienced discrimination from an employee of a Starbucks store in Philadelphia. After that, the company took such a straightforward measure.    

However, experts observe that this training was successful. No further cases of discrimination in any Starbucks store were recorded.    

Other organizations leading in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts   

 In the modern business environment, most companies want diverse and inclusive leaders. That’s why we see more South Asian CEOs in several companies. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions show that Asians are more empathetic. They can understand the perspectives of their team members easily.   

Gartner also states that companies with diverse and inclusive teams perform 12% better in business performance.    

Other than Starbucks and Microsoft, companies in the US, such as Sodexo and Johnson & Johnson, also have successful bias training mechanisms.    

Benefits of Rigorous Unconscious Bias Training   

Rigorous training has many benefits. It helps leaders in denial. It also makes leaders more empathetic.   

Overcoming denial and acting on awareness   

A Deloitte survey found that 30% of managers deny that they have unconscious bias. Such employees need to undergo bias training tests. Implicit Bias tests or NonprofitReady tests can help them to understand their biased approaches.    

Developing empathy to combat bias   

Experts suggest that a change in leadership approach helps to combat bias. However, the process starts with the identification of behavioral traits that cause bias in the workplace.    

The next step in this regard is to practice active listening. Biased managers should communicate with other non-biased and fair leaders. They should also study their leadership approach. As a result, they can gain new perspectives and try to change their behavior, too.    

Lastly, they can shift to servant leadership or charismatic leadership approaches. Both these kinds of leaders set examples for others to follow. They will gradually overcome the biased approach when they have a greater sense of responsibility and ownership.    

Diversifying networks   

HBR stated in 2022 that it is important to mix with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and ethnic settings.    

They tend to share diverse insights. If I have some biases towards them, it will go away when I interact with them. So, expanding the network helps.     

Online Courses for Unconscious Bias Training   

Brands like LinkedIn, HBR, CORA, and edX provide managers with online courses. Leaders can use these courses to train and overcome unconscious bias. However, experts say that such tests do not include real-time evaluation.    

People who deny their biases cannot benefit from these online courses.    

Free training programs like NonprofitReady   

NonprofitReady provides visually illustrative training. Biased leaders can learn from video instructions; They can also get lessons from real-life scenarios of workplace bias.    

Mostly, such leaders cannot relate to them in simulated scenarios. However, such real-life example-based training helps them easily reveal their unconscious biases.    

Importance of ongoing education and awareness   

 Ongoing education includes frequent bias tests. You should take these tests for a long time. As a result, you can completely uproot the culture of bias from the company. So, leaders must take test sessions to understand the level of their workplace bias.    


In this article, I discussed the challenges of unconcious bias training. Most training mechanisms only try to increase the awareness of leaders. Research also shows that short-term training does not have a larger impact. Therefore, your unconscious bias training should include effective tools like the Implicit bias test, NonprofitReady visual training, and others.    

Emerging companies can follow the ideals of Starbucks, Microsoft, and others to perform better. The bottom line is that your training should make the leaders aware and test their biases frequently. The testing and evaluation should continue even after the training ends. 


Modern Leaders Unconscious Bias

Ankita Tripathy loves to write about food and the Hallyu Wave in particular. During her free time, she enjoys looking at the sky or reading books while sipping a cup of hot coffee. Her favourite niches are food, music, lifestyle, travel, and Korean Pop music and drama.

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