Diversity training is designed to reduce prejudice and discrimination in the workplace by teaching employees how to work together effectively with those who come from different backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures.
These differences include:
- Sexual orientation
- Socioeconomic status
- Physical or mental ability
Implementing a diversity training program has many benefits including:
- Greater employee morale
- Empowerment for underrepresented groups
- Stronger affirmative defenses
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Enhanced collaboration
- Better interpersonal skills
- Improved productivity
- Greater employee retention
- A stronger bottom line
Why is Diversity Important?
A study by McKinsey & Co revealed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability and companies with ethnic and cultural diversity have a 33% likelihood of outperforming on EBIT margin. Companies in the fourth quartile for ethnic and gender diversity are 29% more likely to underperform compared to their industry peers.
Successful companies often tie diversity and inclusion into their core vision and mission. Diversity training programs then reinforce the company’s existing values and goals while elaborating on how employees can best utilize the company’s diversity, by drawing on the unique perspectives, insights, and skill sets of each individual in a welcoming and collaborative environment.
A separate study from Harvard Business Review revealed that diversity training can also increase minority groups to take a more active role in their career progression by reaching out to senior colleagues.
However, it’s important to approach diversity training mindfully. If this type of program isn’t executed properly, it can emphasize differences and reinforce stereotypes. It’s crucial to identify the core purpose of your diversity training program and design all of your programming around the right intentions.
How To Incorporate a Diversity Training Program
Diversity training is most successful when it becomes an ongoing project. An annual training seminar won’t have the same lasting impact as a mindful change to the company’s culture. The attitudes that individuals feel toward diverse groups are often emotion-driven and deeply ingrained. While a diversity program can initially create a change in employee’s attitudes and actions, over time these attitudes will typically regress unless measures are taken to remind individuals of the key concepts covered in their training.
Designing an ongoing series of programs, events, and other learning experiences is the best way to reinforce diversity training and make this part of the company’s deeper culture. Diversity training is most successful when it utilizes many different means of connecting with employees, such as:
- Discussion groups
- Mentoring programs
- E-learning courses
- Networking groups
- Interactive training exercises
- Employee-led training sessions
- Role playing
Consider making these ongoing diversity training activities optional. Though it may seem counterintuitive to allow employees to opt-out of these educational opportunities, making this type of training compulsory often creates feelings of animosity. These emotions can actually cause issues with diversity to worsen, as those uninterested in the training may blame marginalized groups for the required program.
Your diversity training activities also don’t need to be centered exclusively around the topic of diversity. Once you’ve introduced the subject and provided a basic foundation for diversity, you can incorporate diversity topics into sessions that are focused on career development, communication, employee satisfaction, and other areas. Complimentary topics like harassment prevention can expand upon the topic of diversity and how employees should treat one another.
If you’re creating a diversity program for your company for the first time, provide a diversity seminar for all employees. Going forward from this point, you can include the core elements of diversity training in your employee onboarding program and simply reinforce these points throughout the year by means of other activities and events.
Designing a Diversity Training Program
- When designing your company’s diversity training, it’s important to tailor this program through employee audits, surveys, or interviews.Identify areas of conflict and potential issues related to diversity as well as strengths that you can build upon.
- Evaluate the attitudes and behaviors of the employees in your company toward those in marginalized groups.Considering the ways employees act toward these groups is more important than simply determining how much diversity is present in your workforce. You may have a very diverse group of employees, but you still need to address diversity training if the employees in marginalized groups are not receiving equal treatment and inclusion from everyone in the company.
- Outsource your diversity assessment. It’s often best to use an outside company so you can get an objective review of your company’s culture, attitudes, and biases and avoid common pitfalls such as retaining longstanding parts of the company’s culture simply because that’s “the way it’s always been done.”
With the information gathered from this type of assessment, you can create a customized diversity program that utilizes specific examples from within your own company. This level of personalization is often the key to creating a successful movement toward greater diversity and inclusion. It’s crucial for employees to feel like the information is relevant to them and not simply boilerplate admonitions that may or may not apply.
Diversity training programs will typically address:
- What diversity is
- The benefits of workplace diversity
- Behaviors that create a positive work environment
- How employees can become aware of their biases
- Actionable ways that employees can practice inclusion
Addressing Diversity in Other Ways
While a diversity training program can help promote greater acceptance of marginalized groups, it hasn’t been shown to significantly change the attitudes of white men, for whom these programs are often designed. For this reason, it’s typically best for organizations to take a multifaceted approach to facilitate greater diversity in the workplace. This may include changes to hiring practices and performance evaluations to eliminate biases in these areas.
You might also emphasize the value and importance of diversity by providing training programs geared toward the way employees treat customers, as opposed to the way employees treat one another. Educating your employees on different cultures before business trips or sales presentations to diverse groups can also increase their awareness of these groups as they’re encountered within the company.
Diversity training is a valuable inclusion in any type of company. Take the time to approach this sensitive topic right and you can improve your company’s performance in myriad ways.