Workplace Diversity Training is Beneficial
If you’ve read the research, you know that companies should focus on workplace diversity. Multiple studies confirm that companies which are diverse are also more:
To reap these benefits, however, companies need to focus on all areas of workplace diversity; not just recruiting more women (although it helps) and not only on bringing in minorities (although it’s a component). Diversity should be thought about in a very broad sense: gender, race, religion, socioeconomic background, orientation, and other facets which make members of society unique.
Most Workplace Diversity Training Programs Fail
At the same time, research suggests that most workplace diversity trainings fail. We’ve all seen the SNAFUs in the news, too. There was the #MeToo movement and then Starbucks putting employees through racial bias training, as well as a slew of other companies facing very public shaming over the behavior of their teams. The reality is that billions are spent on D&I training each year and companies aren’t doing a whole lot better overall.
Most Programs Focus on “Teaching” Blindness
To understand why workplace diversity trainings fail, we have to break apart what’s being taught in them. The modern take is typically to throw employees in a room and give them some sort of scripted presentation on how certain phrases can be offensive or make people feel excluded and how they should ignore differences. This doesn’t actually teach tolerance. In fact, it often makes the situation worse, simply because the skits and examples given are laughable. They become the butt jokes and don’t inspire anyone to change anything. Employees put in their time, forget anything they may have learned, and move on.
True D&I Appreciates Differences
Current research suggests that attempting to teach blindness doesn’t work. Humans are conditioned to categorize people and do it subconsciously. The most successful programs don’t tell people to ignore the differences but teach teams how their own brains work, provide insights on how overcoming subconscious biases benefits them, and offer tools to overcome biases.
Workplace Diversity Begins at the Top
D&I must become part of a culture shift in order to take hold, which means directives from the top are essential.
Enact hiring policies which bring in a diverse workforce. Use skills tests for each applicant and hire from varying talent pools. Create company policies that make it easier for a broader range of people to succeed, such as flexible schedules and time off.
Create an inclusive environment. Give people the space they need to grow and work at their personal peak. Host collaborative meetings and gatherings everyone can partake in.
Use benchmarks to check your success. Set goals and run the numbers to ensure you have a diverse workforce at every level with equal pay.
Leverage employee surveys to see if your team loves coming to work. Nearly half of all discrimination complaints made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involve employer retaliation, meaning when employees complained about being discriminated against, the employer attacked, demoted, or ridiculed the person reporting. Create oversight to ensure your company is using surveys as they were intended—to improve the workplace.
Establish a mentorship program. Mentorship programs give minority groups the opportunity to flourish and develop connections with those in leadership roles. They also go a long way to ensuring people feel like they belong within the company.
Create a Diversity Manager position. Your diversity manager will pave the way to better policies and a comprehensive culture of D&I. When one person is responsible for the outcome, there are fewer chances for things to be overlooked or dropped.
Communication is Key
Communication is essential across the board. Employees should learn more about effective communication in its most rudimentary state—how messages are sent and what impacts how they’re received. This alone plays a pivotal role in overcoming biases and encourages mindfulness, not just with minority groups in the workplace, but in business as a whole. Equally, businesses shouldn’t shy away from communicating the issues and what’s being done to overcome them either. As companies develop better workplace diversity, effective communication will keep everyone on track and demonstrate that D&I is an important component of company culture.
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