What can you do to maximize the positive impact of diversity training for your employees?
In recent months, companies have been paying greater attention to important matters such as countering racial bias and creating more inclusive workplaces for people from diverse groups and different cultures. Training is a central part of efforts to change the culture of a workplace environment. If your organization is considering this type of action, it’s time to think seriously about how to make these efforts pay off. This involves selecting effective training courses and verifying they elicit positive reactions from employees, and ensuring the courses deliver lasting and positive change.
Fortunately, there are many valuable training resources available to you today. Effective diversity training courses exist, both for general issues and specifics such as racial and cultural background, sexual orientation and gender identity and more. Even if your company is currently or permanently operating a distanced, remote workplace, you can still work on creating a diverse and inclusive culture. Video training modules delivered online can be accessed through PCs or on smart devices through mobile learning platforms. There’s no need to delay improving diversity awareness among the workforce.
What Is the Objective of Diversity Training?
Companies have many reasons to implement diversity training, though they are all related. When employees learn information that helps them understand differences and treat one another with respect and care, company-wide morale may rise, which will in turn help the organization hit its goals and serve customers more effectively.
Diversity thought leader Pamela Pujo, a member of the Greater Dallas Advisory Board to the Texas Diversity Council, stated to Business.com that the advantages of diversity and inclusion training include the satisfaction of both workers and clients, as well as the bottom line. If such a program is carried out correctly, employees will feel more comfortable working as a team. When workers who may otherwise feel excluded or uncomfortable are empowered, good ideas that might be disregarded or go unexpressed can rise to the surface and power the company’s success.
Jackson Lewis Principal Weldon Latham told Business.com when a diversity and inclusion training program is implemented effectively, organizations improve their ability to attract and retain talent, as well as lowering their liability. A company that has not looked inward to consider its diversity issues, never mind implemented a training program to fill any gaps and improve its practices, may be at risk of noncompliance with legal requirements.
Rather than just tackling the big-picture issues based on differences of race, gender or sexual identity, diversity training programs should get into the details. Business.com noted this may include unconscious bias held by workers, as well as behaviors that manifest as microaggressions and issues inherent to communicating across cultural lines. It’s important for training to be both broad and specific, because there are many potential types of discrimination, and you need to get beyond the surface level when pointing the way to a better workplace culture.
How Does Successful Diversity Training Affect the Workplace?
Diversity education in the workplace should involve more than a token effort or lessons reaching the minimum legal requirements. Rather, companies should put serious thought into the structure of their inclusion initiatives. The Forbes Coaches Council asked several executives what it takes to create an effective program, and the answers included priorities regarding the scope and nature of the training.
For example, John M. O’Connor of Career Pro stated, companies should ensure they always have their doors open for ongoing dialogue on diversity and inclusion. Doing a one-off training session is not likely to have an impact. Learning something once and never hearing it referenced again is not likely to have a lasting effect on an employee. Human resources departments taking diversity seriously will be ready to back up their training programs with support for employees not limited to times when training is ongoing.
What about the training itself? Courses should be handled in a serious fashion, with assessment and measurement. Cindy Solomon of Cindy Solomon Associates told the Forbes Coaches Council that workers should have the tools to succeed, and educational opportunities should be recurring and consistent. While the first impulse from executives may be to assume diversity training is too much of a “soft skill” to have measurable data and key performance indicators, it does pay to treat it in this scientific manner.
Frances McIntosh of Intentional Coaching LLC added, the values learned in diversity training should extend beyond those sessions to affect the way companies hire. Diversity and inclusion initiatives can manifest in strict policies, with penalties for exclusionary or offensive behavior, and hiring managers can explain these rules during the interview process. If it appears a candidate will not take to an inclusive workplace or react well to diversity training’s lessons, they probably won’t be a good contributor to the company’s mission.
How is Diversity Training Like Other Types of Employee Education?
While diversity and inclusion can seem like unique areas of training, they are simply important subjects for companies to tackle, using the types of coursework and methodologies that may prove effective in imparting other lessons. For instance, in an article for Harvard Business Review, researchers Alex Lindsey, Eden King, Ashley Membere and Ho Kwan Cheung recommended pairing diversity lessons with the common strategy of goal-setting. This means employees can choose ways in which they will embody a more inclusive mindset and then pursue those goals over weeks and months, making the lessons learned in sessions tangible – and making them stick for the long term.
When considering the actual delivery method for training, companies today likely won’t be thinking of hiring an in-person diversity trainer. This reflects both the heavily remote working environment now in place, as well as the overall employee education trend toward online or hybrid methods. After all, with workplaces gradually becoming less centralized, even before the pandemic, this movement simply makes sense. Companies using video-based digital training modules don’t have to gather their whole teams at one place or time, or pay for multiple sessions – the content is ready when learners are.
There are many video-based digital training courses available on corporate diversity in general, as well as specific aspects of inclusiveness. Some of these courses include separate modules for managers and rank-and-file employees, while others have entertaining animation that may improve information retention. One of the helpful features of online diversity training is these courses conclude with assessments to make sure workers have mastered the content they just watched instead of skipping through it.
Whatever the nature of your own workforce and the different identities represented therein, there is likely a training course to help you improve the way your teams work together. Making the acceptance of differences and policies of respect official parts of the company culture and reinforcing those values through repeated training and institutional support is a helpful strategy for today’s workplaces. Company culture may determine how effective the business is both internally and when dealing with customers – starting with an effective diversity training strategy is a great way to get those results.