Take a Cue From Facebook’s Diversity Training

Facebook may be revolutionary in so many areas, but as with its fellow Silicon Valley companies, diversity isn’t necessarily one of the places they excel. Facebook and Silicon Valley, in general, have earned a reputation as being somewhat homogenous as far as employees go.

iStock_000057412460_LargeA blogger from the Wall Street Journal wrote about the problem, saying Silicon Valley companies are under fire for not only failing to recruit but also to retain diverse employees. Several big name companies including Yahoo, Google and Facebook are now two years into their program releasing diversity statistics, and they have little, if any, progress to show, compared to the previous year.

With that in mind, many of these technology companies have launched efforts to change this. Facebook recently shared their diversity and employee bias training, giving the world a glimpse of how they’re training employees in this area.

Facebook announced las week it would be releasing its “managing unconscious bias” internal training to the public. The goal of the training is to help employees not only recognize but also alleviate their unconscious biases.

Cheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and a face for diversification in Silicon Valley, released a statement about the move, saying “Managing bias is an essential part of building diverse and high-performing organizations.”

The content features not only a training course but also informational videos. It’s designed to provide an educational basis for employers and job seekers on what biases are often unconsciously seen in the hiring process.

“One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have,” Sandberg said. “Studies show that job applicants with ‘black-sounding names’ are less likely to get callbacks than those with ‘white sound names’- and applicants called Jennifer are likely to be offered a lower salary than applicants called John. And organizations which consider themselves highly meritocratic can actually show more bias.”

Facebook says the decision to make the training content public was the result of requests from other companies. The company says the video-based training is only one part of a broad diversity training effort. Other elements of their training program including workshops, real-life scenarios, and follow-up employee surveys.

Features and details of the released training content include:

  • In the Facebook program, employees are asked to role-play in scenarios that help them identify their biases. Video moderators ask participants to look at images, and then they’re engaged in the process when they’re asked to identify who they would hire, along with their reasoning. The goal is to highlight implicit biases.
  • Along with interactive scenarios, the training is also statistic-heavy. Research is included that looks at common racial and gender biases.
  • Once the groundwork is outlined, training participants are asked to review actionable steps that can be taken to combat prejudices.

Mike Rognlien, a learning and development leader at Facebook, says the goal of the training isn’t to make things perfect, but instead to focus on progress.

The released training is more about recognition of issues in the workplace, whereas Facebook also says it will be undertaking steps to change its hiring practices.

What do you think about Facebook’s decision to make this training public? What about your opinions on the training format itself?



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