Just Watched: “Managing Unconscious Bias” , for Facebook employees

Via the magic of Twitter, I was treated to access to Facebook’s publication of their own Managing Bias training for their employees. It’s an approximately one hour video of an actual training, also broken up into modules, plus slides and references, which you can view/download on demand.

Interestingly (and authentically) the notice didn’t come from Facebook’s Learning & Development organization:

I watched the one hour training and reviewed the materials as someone who’s been studying unconscious bias for a little over a year now, with the support of Kaiser Permanente’s own National Diversity and Inclusion Organization (thank you!).

Impressed by

  • The sharing of the video of the training by Facebook. It’s hard to find companies that are this open about a sensitive topic within any organization. The video shows employees working through (and maybe exhibiting) biased behavior. This is good. It’s human.
  • The teaching approach – with a video of several employees who are different introducing themselves to an invisible viewer. I honestly thought after watching that part, “I don’t have a preference for any of the individuals.” Some of the employees in the training did, which starts a good dialogue.
  • Use of validated tools – employees were asked to take the Implicit Association Test in advance. And they were asked, not ordered to, which is the correct way to introduce the test.
  • Counteracting behaviors like having structured decision making and clear criteria are great and important, really good discussion.
  • Connection to impact, and business impact. A good job was done, in my opinion, of making a case for eliminating bias for a better company.

Things worth further exploration

How I would add to/amend (as suggested at the bottom of the web site):

  • Explain the “unconscious” nature of unconscious bias. This bias is not something you can recognize and tell yourself not to have. If it was, it would be “conscious” (or “explicit” as they say in the literature). In an audience that’s more likely to have a preponderance of scientists/engineers (doctors/nurses), it’s helpful to explain how our brain wiring results in these associations that happen so fast, you can’t ask yourself if you have them, and often you can’t notice the behavior that comes from them. (A good paper that I wrote about helps: Just Read: Unconscious bias is like an iPhone version 20 inside your brain, and walking helps manage it (?) | Ted Eytan, MD).
  • Modulate suggestions like “don’t make assumptions.” These don’t really get at the unconscious nature of bias or de-bias a workplace. Again, this bias is not conscious, you can’t talk your way out of it.
  • Add a discussion about how to de-bias a workplace
  • Lori Goler (Facebook’s VP of People), Maxine Williams (Facebook’s Global Diversity Officer) and Mike Rognlien (Facebook Learning and Development) do a great job of introducing all the topics, including the importance of giving fair credit. However, the website in which their work is housed doesn’t list their names anywhere – you have to dive into the video to get them. Model giving fair credit – these trainings are not easy to create or perform.
  • I and others had the good fortune of a session with Professor Mahzarin Banaji (@banaji), one of the developers of the Implicit Association Test, earlier this year. One thing she did that was useful, was a live version of the Implicit Association Test, using hand claps. It’s very illustrative, but takes some setting up.

Of course, I have assessed my own biases. It’s a good thing to do because we all have them, which means we are human.

It’s nice to know, even at Facebook, that to train people on something, you still need to bring them into a room and teach them. Not everything can be learned virtually. Thanks to Facebook for sharing it with the world.

If the diversity team was available on any social network to continue the conversation as part of a community committed to eliminating bias that would be great. Regardless, the commitment is visible and it’s appreciated, we’re all here to make sure everyone has the opportunity to achieve their life goals.

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Ted Eytan, MD