Key Considerations for Implicit Bias Training

By April 17, 2018 No Comments
Starbucks cup

No one wants to be in the same situation that Starbucks was in, with their CEO and COO having to go on an apology tour and scrambling to restore the company’s reputation. In light of the incident whereby two young black men were arrested in a Philadelphia store, there’s a lot of talk about implicit bias training. Many people are wondering whether or not implicit bias training is effective and how it should be implemented.

It is important to understand what implicit bias is, also referred to as unconscious bias, in order to effectively implement training on this topic.

According to an Ohio State University study done by the Kirwan Institute for The Study of Race and Ethnicity, “implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” [i] Whether it’s referred to as implicit or unconscious, bias is bias.

According to Training Magazine, “we all harbor unconscious biases. The good news is that enhanced awareness and training can create an inclusive culture that identifies and helps eliminate these hidden biases.”[ii] The importance of addressing the issue of implicit bias through training, prior to an incident is an integral part of ensuring that your company does not end up in the same predicament as Starbucks. However, Implicit bias training must be done correctly.

There are a few key considerations to keep in mind to ensure that your implicit bias training strategy is effective:


Understanding that implicit bias training will take time and continued effort is an integral piece of implementing a successful training initiative. Time and repetition are both crucial components in overcoming unconscious bias. Unconscious biases typically formulate over an extended period of time. It would be ignorant to believe that these deeply rooted unconscious biases could completely disappear in a single one-hour training session. [iii] Such training should not be a one-time occurrence, but should periodically be repeated and referenced.

Setting the goal at Awareness

Our unconscious and conscious biases are created by a combination of various different factors including our experiences, childhood, memories, and the people we surround ourselves with. Often, biases are so deeply rooted within us that it may be impossible to completely wipe ourselves clean of bias. It is human nature to unconsciously have biases, which is why it can be beneficial to set awareness as your training goal.

Our biases are often not something that we can control. Therefore, setting a training goal to completely remove all unconscious bias could be extremely frustrating for both the learner and the instructor.  However, what we can control is our awareness of biases within ourselves. Becoming aware of your biases is crucial. Being aware of this allows you to discover if your biases are affecting or limiting your thoughts, actions, and decisions.

Delivery Matters

Where the training takes place, who facilities the training, and the environment of the training are all factors that contribute to the success of implicit bias training. According to Training Magazine, implicit training requires “interaction, trust, and the opportunity to meet in a safe environment.” It is important to have an instructor who is well-versed on the topic and has strong social skills. [iv] An instructor with the wrong attitude towards the topic of implicit bias could destroy an otherwise effective training program.

Training on the topic of implicit bias cannot be achieved through a single class or cluster of classes. Gaining awareness of your implicit biases and understanding how to overcome them must become a part of your everyday life in order to achieve long term results.

Organizations should proactively embrace implicit bias training to change their corporate culture and to prevent incidents that will tarnish their reputation. Visit our implicit bias training page to see how TTA can help your organization.