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Demystifying Racial Profiling Training

Demystifying “Racial Profiling” Training

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. There’s a ton of consultants pitching “Racial Profiling” and “Anti-Bias” solutions and training because there’s a ton of retailers shaking in their boots after a few of their colleagues got into a bit of a pickle.

I admit, I too have been asked and responded with an “Anti-Bias” training session. I’ve also had an opportunity to review some of the pitches and quite frankly, while I am not an expert, they are not what you need and here is why… 

They are either in place to cover your butt (which means you face greater exposure if you get it wrong), or they deliver what they feel is adequate content but from the wrong perspective, which means you will get it wrong.

Let’s walk through some of the high-level stuff.

Racial Profiling

It happens, but to avoid it we need to understand why it happens., not simply say – “don’t do it”, although at a minimum please start with “don’t do it”.

If it happens because you have racist people working for you – remove them.

If it happens because somebody is looking at statistics, you have an issue, but one that is solvable. You see, risk management methodology trains us to think statistically. Acting solely on this, however, is another story.

Diversity experts broad brushing 

I have no problem with the expertise that a Diversity Consultant brings to the table. They know that bringing together unique individuals into a group produces much richer and better results than a homogenous group of individuals who do not challenge one another or think outside of their “box”.

However, to say the experts in both areas (diversity and racial profiling prevention) are the same is like saying a taxi driver and race car driver have the same skill set. They don’t! They just happen to both drive cars! 

To say that being diverse will eradicate racial profiling is certainly not a given. 

Anti Bias training 

I was asked by 3 retailers to deliver this training recently and after doing some research, and drawing on my recent studies, to be anti-bias, is to be anti-human. Let’s face reality, we all have biases, it’s in our DNA. It’s what makes us who we are, different from others.

The solution? Bias-Free Decision Making Skills!

I’ll give you my take on things, and for what it is worth, if the company pitches you this way, go for it, and if not, feel free to contact me to bounce it off me.

We make sense of the world by what we experience, the culture we were brought up with, the environment we live in, and something you can’t quite put your finger on called heuristics.

Heuristics is a magical part of the cognitive function of our brain that put things together for us. Like when we see a building that is obstructed 95% by a tree, we “see” the building in our brain as a full entity, not just a rooftop floating in the air. We know the rest of the structure is there and probably what it looks like to a certain degree.

From that point, the point where all of these inputs make their way to our brain, we develop biases. We like and dislike things, but we also develop prejudices. And sometimes we act on those prejudices and treat people unfairly. That is discrimination, and that is simply wrong.

But trust me, a diverse team can also discriminate, so be cautious of how you respond to your training requirement. 

Let’s pause for a minute and review the whole notion of “profiling”. Profiling is a science and skill that takes years to develop and is rooted in risk management methodology. From this risk management standpoint, we are taught to predict future events and outcome by evaluating past experiences. If such and such happens X amount of time, the likelihood of recurrence is greater or less likely to happen again in the future. Take action! or not, depending on your profiling skills.

Keep in mind profiling does NOT include basing a decision on race or any other protected class.

Bias-free decision-making skills are focussed on accepting everyone at face value and being able to evaluate a situation for what it’s worth. It is about making a decision based on fact NOT preconceived notions about the way we think things are happening from all the noise in our brain.

Trust me, it works, if you just step back and consider what you are faced with.

The next time somebody says a simple “thou shalt not” approach to having a bias works and keeps you out of harm’s way – think again! It is simply not enough.

I am curious as to what my colleagues think about this approach and what is happening in the HR training world of dealing with this very relevant topic. Please feel free to share your opinion – good bad or indifferent. Now is the time! As retailers we have no option, we need to get this right.

Hello, I’m Stephen O’Keefe. The information you read here is intended to help businesses answer some of the tough questions about everyday events in the retail environment. After spending over 3 decades in this industry we’ve seen a lot!
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Stephen O'Keefe

About Stephen O'Keefe

As an independent consultant I leverage my experience and knowledge to help a number of companies achieve results. Clients range from non-retailers looking for guidance to serve their retail customer, to retailers looking for quick solutions to unique and costly problems, right to the Industry Association. Bottom line Matters!

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