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25 Jun

Unconscious Bias: What We Learned from Starbucks

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On April 12, 2018, two young African American men were waiting at a Pennsylvania Starbucks for a meeting to begin when the Starbucks store manager requested police to remove them because they did not order anything. The two men were arrested and removed from the location in handcuffs. After a video of the incident went viral, Starbucks received nationwide backlash. The reaction to the incident prompted the entire franchise to close its 8,000 doors across the United States for an Anti-Bias Training and transform its ethos. Seeking advice and recommendations from various experts, Starbucks aimed to revitalize its third core value: the “third place” – a place of community and belonging.

Unconscious bias is processing information based on unconscious associations or feelings.  While unconscious bias is not a new or revolutionizing topic in the workplace, 2020 is going to place an emphasis on managers and leaders to incite change to organizational culture towards diversity and inclusivity. The focus will likely lean on the impact of affinity and fender biases in the workplace.

An amalgamation of different perspectives and experiences representative of the communities that organizations serve is the core purpose of diversity in the workplace. Understanding how bias influences workplace decisions can assist business leaders in addressing and reducing bias.

Addressing Bias

The first step in addressing bias is identifying it. There are different types of bias that can appear in the workplace, such as affinity bias (the unconscious tendency to connect with others similar to oneself) and unconscious bias (social stereotypes of groups of people without conscious awareness). Providing education and training on such biases can help individuals recognize their own biases, take appropriate steps to remove bias, and continue understanding the way bias is formed and continued.

Some ways to help reduce bias is implementing HR technology and best practices. For example, investing in an artificial intelligence (AI) program can help remove unconscious bias. However, special training should be provided for those maintaining the AI program(s) as human bias can be incorporated into the AI programs. Another HR strategy and best practice is establishing interview standardization. Oftentimes interview questions can be subject to scrutiny, such as questions that may involve gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or other protected classes under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations.

Preparing for a Multigenerational Workforce

There are five or more generations in the workforce varying from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. Each generation presents different advantages and disadvantages. For example, Baby Boomers are likely to have more work experience in their respective industries, whereas Generation Z may bring innovative technological strategies. It is important for businesses to prepare for the multigenerational workforce and the demands of such generations. Reskilling or upskilling, employee wellness, flexible work arrangements, new and upgrading technology and software, and developing a well-rounded corporate culture are some of the hot topics in multigenerational workforces.

Welcoming Differences

From gender identity and expression to political thought, celebrating differences in culture and backgrounds can assist in promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces. As social change movements and events continue to rise, it is imperative for businesses to be prepared to respond. Updating employee handbooks and company policies and procedures regarding harassment and discrimination, code of conduct, and code of ethics to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a priority. Incorporating and/or investing in education and training can offer best practices for making the workplace more inclusive and socially sensitive.

Other topics, such as compensation reporting, board representation, harassment and discrimination analysis, promotions, and other performance management practices are equity-based issues that demand higher transparency in the workplace.

Robin Paggi, Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR – a VensureHR partner, hosted an “Unconscious Bias Training: What We Learned from Starbucks” webinar discussing the definition of unconscious bias, lessons learned from Starbucks, updating training, policies, and procedures, and building a diverse workforce. For more information or questions you may have regarding bias, training, and/or resources related to implementing and improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, please contact VensureHR. Our HR representatives possess industry-leading best practices, resources, and HR services to ensure your business is efficiently and effectively prepared for any social issue that may arise in the workplace.


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