Research by leading institutions demonstrates that unconscious bias has a significant effect on our everyday decision making abilities in the workplace, and may be a key obstacle to unlocking the full potential of all existing diversity initiatives. These biases manifest not only in relation diversity in all its forms, but affect all business decisions.
At Symmetra, we are mindful of the impact of bias on all areas of the business – including our interactions with clients and customers. This means there is substantial value to be unlocked in a more conscious approach to decision making – by addressing unconscious bias and improving the quality of all decisions, we can affect greater improvements on organisational outcomes.
Blended Unconscious Bias Program
Thousands of executives around the world have participated in Symmetra’s Unconscious Bias Program. This program blends broad stakeholder engagement, education, assessment, individual coaching, practical application and strategic planning for systemic change by executives in order to impact the organisations at all levels – personal, interpersonal, systems and infrastructure. The combination of methodologies employed in this program provides an innovative, challenging and highly engaging experience for participants and ensures sustainable behaviour change.
The first company to use Symmetra’s Unconscious Bias program, Commonwealth Bank of Australia,who put its top 405 executives through Symmetra’s program,won the Global Catalyst Award in 2012 and attributed the accelerated traction in its gender agenda to Symmetra’s Unconscious Bias program.
2012 Catalyst Awards Conference, New York
Excerpt from conference program:
Unconscious Bias (UB) Training. Piloted in July 2010, but already demonstrating widespread positive effects, this mandatory in-depth program for General Managers and above was rolled out in February 2011 to equip leaders with the skills to recognise and understand their internal biases, communicate about them with their teams, and take steps to overcome them. Integrated into CBA’s broader diversity strategy and endorsed by the Diversity Council as a specific tool to help achieve the diversity target, this program aims to change mindsets and behaviours and drive specific actions to counteract bias. The training includes an initial assessment, an hour-long one-on-one debrief session with a psychologist to explore the results of the assessment, and a half-day action-planning session with other leaders and members of the participant’s business unit. Symmetra Diversity Consulting, an external provider, delivers the training, administers the programs, and facilitates sessions and debriefs.
Since that achievement in 2012, Symmetra’s work in the unconscious bias space has received international recognition and has led to many global companies engaging Symmetra to work in this space. This has positioned Symmetra to develop many diverse programs for addressing Unconscious Bias( see below); to conduct global research on Unconscious Bias and to provide clear thought leadership in the field.
Raising Unconscious Bias Awareness
Symmetra offers general workshops to develop insight and awareness into unconscious bias – what it is, where it comes from, and how it impacts on each and every one of us. We familiarise people with different types of bias, how to identify them, and how to start asking hard questions to test for the impact of bias. This is a crucial first step to building the systems and skills to counteract bias in all decision making forums, especially in talent and recruitment processes.
Uncovering Unconscious Bias
For some teams, especially those in the strategy and innovation streams, the ability to constantly challenge ideas and assumptions, and keep asking tough questions, is essential to delivering results. For these teams, unconscious bias and groupthink can have an especially limiting impact on their effectiveness, and they require a more intensive, practical experience to practice skills in identifying and counteracting bias. The Uncovering Unconscious Bias session focuses on practical abilities and tools and develops collaborative capability in the group to work together to counteract bias. Its highly experiential, immersive approach engages participants in real workplace problems and gives them the opportunity to reflect on inhibitive patterns of thinking, opening up new options for exploration and optimal problem solving.
Counteracting Unconscious Bias in Recruitment & Talent Management
Symmetra provides Unconscious Bias programs designed specifically for the recruitment and talent space, where its impact on the advancement of diverse groups is most felt.
Working with recruitment teams, we focus on their ability to rethink some of the underlying associations and assumptions about what defines a good recruit, and equip them to change systems and influence the hiring managers they service in order to meet diversity recruitment objectives.
With talent teams, we develop their ability to challenge the perceptions of individuals and groups in the organisation, as well as to question the basis of what makes people a “good fit” or a “good leader”. In rapidly changing world where our definition of talent has to take diverse skills and approaches into account, we help break down old patterns of thinking in order to embed a true meritocracy.