Inclusive organizations change their systems, not just train their people

The Bias Interrupters Model

My ongoing quest to improve organizational equity and inclusion got me to the Center for WorkLife Law’s Bias Interrupters model.

The premise of the model is capture clearly by the team who developed it: 

Bias interrupters are tweaks to basic business systems that interrupt implicit bias in the workplace, often without ever talking about bias.

In many ways, it’s an evidence-based response to the failure of more culture-centric/training-centric approaches to significantly move the needle on eliminating bias in the workplace. 

The Bias Interrupters Model focuses on five core business systems: 

  1. Hiring & Recruiting
  2. Performance Management 
  3. Compensation
  4. Meetings
  5. Assignment

While the first three are capturing most of the current limelight as areas that required heightened attention to bias, conversations around inclusive meetings are still at their infancy and assignments are at the “inclusion frontier” as far as the broader conversation goes. Therefore, I found Bias Interrupters to be one of the most holistic approaches for driving this much needed systemic change.

The Bias Interrupters approach advocates for an iterative process consisting of:

  1. Establishing relevant metrics.
  2. Implementing evidence-based bias-interruption interventions.
  3. Assessing the impact the interventions had on the metrics and using the insights to inform the next iteration of the cycle.

Change to each of the five business systems listed above is supported by a recommended set of metrics to track, and a list of evidence-based standalone interventions. The idea here is that not all interventions have to be implemented at the same time, and different organizations can choose different paths to getting to bias-resistant business systems. For example, one organization may start tackling performance management by explicitly separating evaluating performance from evaluating potential, another may start by offering alternatives to self-promotion, and a third may tackle both of them at the same iteration. 

Furthermore, Bias Interrupters supports the systemic change needed in those systems on three different levels: 

Each level is supported by a toolkit including guides, worksheets, checklists, talking points and other relevant training materials. 

Different organizations take different stances on social justice issues and that can sometimes muddy the water around core DEI initiatives. The beauty of the Bias Interrupters program is that it’s completely agnostic to that stance, as if focuses on systemic bias which has no upside. It offers a blueprint for a way to run these core business systems that is flat out better than the alternative. 

Inclusive organizations change their systems, not just train their people

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