There’s little evidence that unconscious bias training leads to reduced racial discrimination in the workplace in the long term, the ESRI says.
They warn there’s a risk such training - aimed at encouraging workers to understand and ultimately eliminate any unconscious discriminatory thinking and practices - could be used as a ‘tick the box’ exercise rather than properly tackling the issue of discrimination.
They say changing recruitment and workplace practices are likely to be more effective ways to promote diversity.
They're among the observations in an ESRI report published today which looks at the ways to combat racial discrimination and promote diversity in the labour market.
It’s intended to help ‘inform’ the Government’s work towards a National Action Plan Against Racism.
The author's look at a number of ethnic groups, and says "labour market outcomes are poorest for Irish Travellers".
However, they say other ethnic groups also face higher rates of discrimination in recruitment than 'white Irish'.
The report stresses there’s no “magic solution” to tackling the problem, and a range of measures are needed.
Unconscious bias training is one measure frequently called for when any issues arise in workplaces or other institutions.
In terms of such training, the ESRI report’s authors say: “Unconscious bias training (UBT) can raise awareness of bias, but there is little evidence that it changes behaviour.
“There is also a risk that diversity training and UBT can be used to ‘tick the box’ regarding pro-diversity efforts, in that they can lead to the assumption that the problem of discrimination has been resolved and no further effort is required.”
It says initiatives such as diversity training work best when supported by both majority and minority workers.
The report also suggests new tech such as machine learning can help increase diversity if used during the recruitment and selection processes - although caution any algorithms need to avoid previous or existing biases in recruitment.
The authors say measures such as targeted outreach to schools and universities can help combat low job application rates from minority groups.
Dr Frances McGinnity, lead author of the report, said: “It’s really important to monitor and to evaluate the measures that are introduced to see if they’re working.
"Our review shows that there is no single solution to combatting labour market discrimination.”
The report does note smaller companies may face extra challenges and constraints in tackling these issues - saying they may ultimately need extra support to promote diversity.