Unconscious Bias Training

Photo: Unconscious bias training in progress Photo: Unconscious bias training in progress

The Panasonic Group conducts training for employees in the belief that the promotion of DEI is rooted in making each person aware of their own unconscious bias, and for them to be conscious of the words they utter and the way they behave toward others.

This page focuses on initiatives in the Japan region.

What Is Unconscious Bias Training?

Unconscious bias refers to the prejudices and stereotypes people have formed based on past experiences and perceptions that they are not consciously aware of having. In unconscious bias training, participants learn about and recognize the existence of these assumptions that everyone makes about others.

The Panasonic Group launched unconscious bias training for managers in December 2020. In the fiscal year ending in 2023, participation in this training program was expanded to include the Group’s approximately 60,000 employees in Japan, regardless of position or job title, and will continue to be conducted on an ongoing basis. We are accelerating Group-wide efforts to create a workplace with high levels of psychological safety, where employees with diverse characteristics can thrive and play an active role.

Examples of Unconscious Bias

Making judgments about someone through preconceptions based on personal attributes: “He is a __, so he must be __.”

Fearing change: “Things are best when they’re left as is.”

Looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses: “Things were better back then.”

Believing that you are beyond reproach: “I’m nothing like that. I wouldn’t do such a thing.”

Assuming that those in authority are always right: “If she says so, then…”

Being afraid to change course: “I’ve already spent so much time on this already, so…”

Searching for and gathering only information that conforms to your own ideas: “That information is irrelevant.”

Going along with the crowd: “If that’s what everyone else is doing, then…”

Undervaluing yourself even though you are perfectly capable of doing something: “I don’t think I’m up to it.”

Illustration: Image of a man and woman with heads tilted up and questioning expressions on their faces Illustration: Image of a man and woman with heads tilted up and questioning expressions on their faces

Example of Unconscious Bias Training at a Group Company

Training is planned and administered by 110 well-trained internal unconscious bias ambassadors from all over Japan. Each workplace has devised a training program that is not just about gaining knowledge, but also helping people to recognize and deal with various situations.

For example, at China & Northeast Asia Company (CNA Company), in 2022 both online and offline training sessions were conducted in consideration of the fact that there are employees in the manufacturing department who do not use PCs much in their daily work. To enable two-way communication, a total of four sessions were held online, and two sessions offline.

The ambassadors in charge of the training at CNA Company say that they emphasize the sharing of feelings with each other, rather than the transmission of knowledge from one side to the other. “Everyone possesses unconscious bias of some kind; they just don’t realize it unless it is pointed out to them. In our training sessions, ambassadors and participants communicate with each other and share their daily unconscious bias experiences so that they can recognize this as an issue that concerns them, too. We find that the participants broaden each other’s perspectives by learning from each other, such as telling each other that such and such verbal expressions bother them, or that a certain scenario might be construed as unconscious bias.”

The problem with unconscious bias is that casual words and well-meaning actions can hurt others in ways that are unintended. The same words or actions can make some people feel hurt and others not. CNA Company’s ambassadors stress that knowing and being more aware of this fact will lead to the creation of a better environment for everyone.

Feedback from New Employees Who Participated in Unconscious Bias Training

Starting January 2023, all new employees, both fresh graduates and mid-career hires, will have to learn about unconscious bias. A DEI talk session and unconscious bias training held for 1,400 fresh graduates included time set aside for the participants to recognize and address their own unconscious bias. Here are some of the responses we received from participants.

  • The company’s stance of conducting this kind of training for all new employees gives the impression that it is serious about tackling these issues.
  • I am interested in childcare leave, etc. This training made me realize that casual words can hurt others. If we, the younger generation, embrace the spirit of DEI, we can change prevailing attitudes and awareness.
  • It was a good opportunity for me to reflect objectively on myself to see if there was any unconscious bias lurking behind my own words and behavior.
  • The permeation of DEI also affects the diversity of products. One time, I was hurt and my performance suffered as a result of something someone said to me. As an organization and as human beings, I want us all to be aware of unconscious bias when interacting with others.
  • I had heard of the term unconscious bias before, but now I know that it is a much more important way of thinking than I had imagined. I had thought that my own preconceptions would not affect others, but I now realize that this assumption itself is a form of unconscious bias. I was reminded of the importance of seeing things from different perspectives because everyone has their own way of seeing things.
  • As this is a large company, I think it will take time for awareness of DEI to spread, but I strongly believe that it is important for each and every one of us to be aware of the importance of DEI.