Unconscious Bias.

Unconscious Bias: A (large) missing piece of the diversity puzzle…

Where an organisation or individual is aware of unfair discrimination, many effective steps may be taken to correct behaviour, for example training, coaching, counselling, disciplinary action.

But what to do when behaviour is more subtle or unconscious? In this scenario, our attitudes and biases influence our behaviour so subtly that we don’t even notice. The result is that they become part and parcel of our unconscious way of conducting ourselves. Unconscious stereotyping or bias is a major barrier to achieving true inclusion and diversity, because

  • we all have these biases; and
  • they are hidden

Vulnerable areas of your organisation

Unconscious bias risk pervades all of an organisation’s operations, internal and with outside parties, because it is inbuilt in all people. Examples of typical areas of vulnerability are:

  • Recruitment e.g. advertising processes, selection of new recruits
  • Leadership/management e.g. strategic decision-making, governance
  • Marketing e.g. assessment of current target markets and niches, review and selection of new target markets and niches
  • Sales e.g. review of existing accounts, selection of target accounts
  • Procurement e.g. assessment of current suppliers, review and selection of new suppliers


Unconscious bias is not just a diversity risk, but a also performance management risk

What can be done to counter unconscious bias?


  • Create Awareness – Create awareness of unconscious bias and your organisation’s vulnerabilities to it, and emphasise that we all have such biases.
  • See our open training on unconscious bias
  • Assessment – review key processes and data and test key personnel, e.g.
    • Processes – Recruitment, promotion, marketing processes, …
  • Data – proportion of women being promoted versus pool, leavers are more diverse, …
  • Testing – Implicit Association Tests, see below.

Contact Us to discuss your needs – we provide complete training and assessment services on unconscious bias.

Implicit Association Testing (IAT’s)

This is the most effective technique for testing for unconscious bias or implicit associations. The theory has been understood since the 19th century, when scientists proposed ways of assessing it based on how long it takes the brain to process decisions. Unfortunately, in those times the necessary split-second measurement technology was not available.

Now, for the first time, by combining those discoveries with available technology, a unique, reliable methodology has been developed specifically to measure unconscious bias. This is a major advance. Now organisations can meaningfully address personal biases their people don’t even know they have.

The Implicity Tool

Implicitly is the only IAT tool developed for commercial application and available off-the-shelf. It was developed over a period of some 8 years to ensure rigour and a high degree of reliability. The tool is provided by our strategic partners, Hogrefe, who are specialist psychometric publishers. 

  • How it works:

Implicitly uses reaction time to measure biases with regard to, for example, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic origin.

These tests work by individuals completing, online at their own desks, a series of simple sorting tasks involving pictures of different social groups and words. The words have negative or positive associations. The sorting tasks have to be completed as quickly and accurately as possible. Implicitly measures the fractional differences in time taken to sort the different images and words in different ways. These differences are enough to measure the potential for somebody to behave in a biased way.

Each test takes about 3 minutes. On completion a report is generated which presents the test score, details the likelihood of biased behaviours, and explains any implications.

Anonymous option

Testing can be anonymous, allowing whole teams, departments or organisations to be assessed for vulnerabilities as units, confidentially.

Contact Us for a discussion about how unconscious bias management can help your organisation to really mobilise your diversity efforts; or develop your performance management processes.

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