Addressing Bias

Addressing bias in public service agencies is one of the priority areas of focus set by Papa Pounamu to help our agencies meet their diversity and inclusion obligations. Chief Executives have agreed to make these areas of focus mandatory within their agencies. We expect all public service agencies to address bias by providing a learning solution to their employees and by mitigating against bias in workplace structures and systems.

Public Service agencies may find some of the tools and resources collated here to be useful in their addressing bias journey. Please read this information in conjunction with the advice on addressing bias.

Bias Learning Solutions

There is a range of available learning solutions designed to address bias. We do not promote any learning solution over another. It is up to each individual agency to determine what the best solution is for them. We list many of these options below.

Freely available online learning solutions

  • Microsoft E-Learning Unconscious Bias. This is a free, online bias learning solution. It is an interactive module with information, questions and videos. There is also an accompanying worksheet to help people practice the learnings from the e-learning, this can be downloaded here. This has been designed for an American audience and specifically for those working in office environments,
  • Ohio State University – Implicit Bias Module Series. This is a free online bias learning solution. It is an interactive module with information, questions and videos. This has been designed for an American audience and specifically for those in education settings. However, the content in Modules 1, 3 and 4 is general enough to be useful to most audiences.
  • Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand – Understanding bias in health care. Specifically designed for those working in healthcare roles. These modules are a set of three videos with an accompanying quiz.

Freely available learning resources developed by public service agencies

Some public service agencies have developed their own bias learning solutions and have kindly agreed to share these with other agencies.

External providers that offer bias learning solutions

Agencies can purchase an ‘off the shelf’ bias learning solution. Some of these may be an e-learning, others may be facilitated training or a mix. We have listed some external providers that some agencies are working with as part of their efforts to address bias and planning for learning. Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Diversity Works: Diversity Works in partnership with SkillPod have developed an online unconscious bias learning solution available for purchase. Diversity Works also offers facilitated bias training.  
  • Cognicity: e-learning on unconscious knowledge and bias is available for purchase. Cognicity can also supplement this learning with facilitated sessions.
  • Diversitas: unconscious bias awareness e-learning and live group facilitation is available for purchase. Diversitas are able to tailor-design the content of this course to meet specific needs if requested.

Developing your own bias learning solutions

Some agencies may feel that they are well placed to develop their own content either in-house or through an external partnership. We encourage agencies who are considering this option to read the bias learning key considerations below to help inform the design process. We also encourage agencies to purchase the intellectual property for any new learning solutions they commission so they can be shared freely.   

Key considerations of bias learning

The Gender Pay Taskforce’s Guidance on Career Progression, Breaks and Leave provides some recommendations for what best practice conscious and unconscious bias training and learning should do. These recommendations can help agencies to improve the calibre of training delivered over time. The guidance recommends that learning solutions and training should:

  • change behaviour, not just raise awareness
  • focus on gender and other forms of bias, such as ethnic bias and bias against disabled employees, and employees who are members of rainbow communities
  • give attention to the compounding impacts on many employees of gender and other forms of bias, including ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation
  • examine the specific values of New Zealand European culture and the nature and impact of ethnic privilege, as well as male privilege
  • provide positive counter-stereotypic examples
  • acknowledge that work in this area can be uncomfortable and challenging for individuals and agencies
  • involve participants in identifying workplace practices that can perpetuate bias, and in reviewing their own decision-making practices for scope for bias to influence their decisions
  • offer practical strategies to help participants mitigate bias in their decision-making, such as techniques to slow down thinking and create pause points for reflection
  • provide follow up opportunities for participants to practice these strategies.

Resources that can supplement bias learning and keep the conversation going

The following public service agencies have developed the following resources and have made these available for other agencies to use. If you would like more information, please click on the hyperlinks below to email the relevant agency.

MPI have produced toolkits on:

NZDF have produced the following:

Fire and Emergency NZ have produced an online video on bias: Stepping into our waka – addressing unconscious bias

Mitigating against bias in workplace structures and systems

Changes to organisational structures and systems is an essential component to reducing the impact of bias in the workplace. As our people develop their knowledge of bias they will better placed to recognise and reduce it in their everyday activities. There are a range of ways that individuals and agencies can reduce bias in our workplaces. For example, a Human Resource professional will be better placed to reduce bias in recruitment processes after they have completed bias learning. It is through this type of organisational change that we can have the most positive impact.

Guidance on removing bias from system and structures

The Gender Pay Taskforce has developed a suite of guidance to mitigate against gender bias in the employment life cycle. Although this guidance uses gender as the starting point, the guidance can also be used to address other forms of bias. Public service agencies are already using this guidance. We recommend that agencies use the same principles to address bias for all diversity dimensions. More information on the Gender Pay Taskforce and their guidance can be found here. Some of their most relevant resources for addressing bias are:

Helpful books and links for more information on bias


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