NC Cabinet agency employees report ‘unconscious bias’ training being required

Image from 'unconscious bias' training slide

RALEIGH — State employees working in various cabinet-level agencies are reporting that they are being required to complete upwards of 14 modules of “unconscious bias training.”

Some of the module titles include “The Power of Uncovering Your Unconscious Bias,” “Why Everyone Has Unconscious Bias,” and “Overcome your Unconscious Bias.”

An employee with the Department of Public Safety (NCDPS), who asked to remain anonymous, tells North State Journal that the training feels like “an effort on the part of the state to implement CRT principles into our state prison system.” CRT is the acronym for Critical Race Theory.

The employee shared screen captures of some of the training items.

One slide provided by the DPS employee suggests that if “you usually watch television shows and movies that are majority white, male cast,” that one should “make time to watch television programs and movies that portray women and minority group members in positive ways.”

One activity involves picking a path towards “breaking unconscious bias” against transgender people for a fictional person named Wallace. Four answers are offered, including apologizing to the person, coworkers holding Wallace accountable or doing nothing.

The correct choice is apparently to “find images that counter stereotypes of trans people and put them where he is likely to see them.”

Another slide suggested that fidgeting or not making eye contact are “hostile body language signals,” while a different slide stated that “gut feelings” should not be trusted because those feelings “indicate unfair unconscious bias.” Yet another states “bias is hard-coded in the brain.”

North State Journal requested comment and more information about the training from NCDPS. The response to that inquiry, however, came from the deputy director’s office at the N.C. State Office of Human Resources (OSHR) and not DPS.

According to the email from OSHR’s communication director Jill Lucas, “the training was assigned through the Learning Management System, which is part of the Office of State Human Resources.”

“These were first assigned in August 2020 to employees of Cabinet agencies, with some Council of State agencies also choosing to opt in,” Lucas wrote in an email to North State Journal. “It was similarly assigned again this month, and employees who have not already completed it have 60 days in which to do so.”

Lucas, whose email signature includes the pronouns “she/her/hers,” indicated the materials came from an outside vendor.

“The curriculum is available through the state contract with Cornerstone and includes 14 ‘micro modules’ that are around five-to-seven minutes each. Cornerstone created the training to help users recognize and mitigate unconscious bias within ourselves and in others,” wrote Lucas. “OSHR reviewed the content last year and determined it was appropriate to share with state agency employees.”

The training modules bear the name of a company called Grovo, which was acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand in early November of 2017.

According to the Grovo website, the company is “the world’s leading Microlearning® solution, providing modern learning that employees actually like.”

“Grovo helps L&D teams engage employees and drive their business forward by delivering a constantly evolving library of customizable Microlearning® lessons through an easy-to-use platform,” Grovo’s website states. “Hundreds of companies of all sizes, from PepsiCo and Gap Inc. to Bitly and Magellan Health, trust Grovo to onboard employees faster, deepen their leadership bench, enable customer-facing teams, re-envision compliance programs and build inclusive, mission-driven cultures.”

Employees at two other Cabinet-level agencies confirmed the “Unconscious Bias Training” is also being required in their departments.

It is not yet clear how much the state paid for the training modules.

About A.P. Dillon 509 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_