Unconscious bias training online – what a terrible idea!

Facilitated, online learning and development webinars can be an effective means to raise awareness of unconscious bias, one which helps participants identify ways to ameliorate the frequently unhelpful natural tendencies of the way our minds work.

In the two years we’ve been delivering online sessions, 99% of delegates have confirmed that they found them a worthwhile experience. And everybody who has participated, that’s 100%, tells us they now recognise the importance of unconscious bias in the workplace and, even better, they have ideas about what they can do about it.

We kind of didn’t want this to be true.

Overcoming our bias against online learning

When one of our long-term clients, one who really liked our experiential unconscious bias workshops, asked us whether we’d ever thought of creating a webinar version, I’ll be honest, we were reluctant to even consider the idea.

Our drama based approach is all about interaction and an emotional connection with the characters and scenarios we bring to life. We give participants experiences and help them recognise their reactions. Then, using skilful facilitation, we pride ourselves on getting them talking and exploring their own assumptions and potential biases. All of this is backed up with electronic polling to anonymously take account of, and quantify, everybody’s experiences. It’s a tried and tested approach that delivers.

And we couldn’t see how it could ever really work through a screen.

Getting out of our comfort zone

Our client, who was singularly unimpressed with the rather dry and traditional e-learning material they’d sampled elsewhere, encouraged us to give it a go. They weren’t in a position to commission a wide scale programme of our half-day Unconscious Bias workshops, but they were convinced we could put together a shorter online version that kept key elements and could be delivered to up to 15 participants at a time, as and when required.

Looking back, they had more vision and faith in our ability than we did. A lesson I took to heart.

A successful investment

With the excellent support of our client, we set to developing a 90 minute version of our unconscious bias workshop, one which also includes:

  • Experiential video clips, streamed live;
  • Facilitation and interaction with participants; and
  • Live polls

And, long story short, it works.

We’ve successfully run 10 sessions, with mixed groups of employees; some of them on their own and some in small groups. Results like those quoted above speak for themselves. And our client is very happy and continues to commission sessions. They understand an online solution is never going to be the same as having a trainer and a delivery team of actors in the room, but it’s clearly having the kind of impact they believed it could.

From our point of view, we’ve learnt lots about using this technology, its strengths and its limitations. (Try running an online training session when your phone company with no notice switches off the local telephone exchange for the day!)  We don’t foresee a day when this supplants our main offer, but we now fully grasp how an online approach can make a positive difference. And ultimately, that’s what matters to us most.

If you want to start addressing unconscious bias in your organisation and think that facilitated online learning and development webinars could play a part, by all means drop me an email and I’d be happy to arrange a time to demonstrate our approach.

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