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How to Make Diversity Training Stick (And Not Fail)

Big Think Edge | October 09, 2018

Achieving successful diversity training can be a challenge for many employers because employees may regard this type of mandatory training as unnecessary, cumbersome, tedious, or even aggravating. Many view them as just preempting laws by force-feeding pro-diversity perspectives rather than stamping out active biases.

However, when done right, diversity programs can make your organization a great place for everyone to work because a diverse workforce leads to a more prosperous and productive organization. Diversity training is critical because it helps people recognize and appreciate the differences in perspectives, experiences, knowledge, and skills that people from different backgrounds bring to the table.

Successful diversity training can be hard to achieve, but when you do so, everyone benefits from working together. Here are a few of the ways to achieve successful diversity training within your organization:

Test to See What Is or Is Not Working with Your Diversity Training

Jennifer Brown, a Big Think expert and the CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, says that some of the best ways to understand the success of your organization’s diversity training efforts include using formal and informal methods of evaluation. Some of these methods include:

  • Regular employee surveys,
  • Macro-level employee satisfaction survey data,
  • Micro-level group-specific list data,
  • General focus group data collection,
  • Group-specific data collection, and
  • Follow-up action items and updates from the focus groups.

If you can figure out what works or doesn’t work in your employee training for diversity programs, that will help you fine-tune your efforts by focusing on what demonstrates success.

Integrate Diversity Training Into Larger Organizational Initiatives

Many human resources professionals believe that because diversity training is such an integral component of training for all organizations that it automatically means that it requires separate training. This fallacious assumption then causes organizations to overlook the benefits of working the content, goals, or objectives of diversity programs into other employee training and development initiatives. It also can be more costly and expensive for organizations to hold separate training sessions for their diversity programs because:

  • Separate training sessions pull employees away from work for information that could be included in other required training, resulting in lost productivity;
  • The costs associated with hiring someone to teach the diversity training sessions can be thousands of dollars; and
  • There are additional costs related to the courses (training materials, use of the space, electricity and equipment costs, etc.).

We shared one such example in a previous Big Think Edge article, which details how NetSuite, an enterprise software company, launched a special mentorship program that successfully matched female employees with senior employees to improve internal networking and sharing of ideas. Even though the mentorship program was not specifically focused on diversity training, the training was one of the goals that were integrated into the program.

Other Ways to Make Diversity Training in the Workplace Stick

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) says that “Diversity training effectiveness depends on the specific training method used, the personality characteristics of those who are trained, and the specific outcomes that are measured after training concludes.” The article cites diversity training research on groups of undergraduate students that were representative of the future workforce. The research suggests that the use of goal setting and perspective-taking both show promise in increasing diversity training effectiveness.

Much like how it sounds, perspective-taking in diversity training is about helping participants eliminate biases by seeing situations from another person’s perspective — to increase their awareness and sensitivity to the issues the other person faces. Goal setting, on the other hand, aims to erode biases by grouping people of varied backgrounds together to work to meet a shared objective.

At its core, successful diversity training has to do with helping people recognize and gain an appreciation for others and their differences.

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