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Ways to Integrate Diversity in the Workplace

Big Think Edge | May 24, 2018

The term “diversity” is a hot topic and focus in today’s business world. The importance of diversity and inclusion training in the workplace grows as businesses and the nation as a whole become increasingly diverse.

Diversity has been shown to increase the effectiveness of organizations of all sizes and industries. The key is recognizing the different perspectives, knowledge, and experiences that diverse groups bring to an organization and incorporating them into an organization’s processes, policies, procedures, methods, and culture.

The Challenges Facing Diversity Training Programs

Incorporating compulsory diversity and inclusion training into the workplace presents a number of challenges for human resources professionals, such as increasing certain groups’ anger, resistance, and racial or cultural biases.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of a diversity training program depends on several factors, including:

  • The personalities and other characteristics of the individuals who are trained,
  • The type of training that is used, and
  • The specific training outcomes that are measured at the end of the training.

Despite the challenges, achieving success with this training is not impossible and is well worth the effort. The Psychological Bulletin published a meta-analysis of 260 samples over a 40-year period of time that studies the effects of diversity training on four specific outcomes. The research shows that some diversity training programs were ineffective while others were effective.

According to the researchers, psychology professors and Ph.D. candidates Alex Lindsey, Eden King, Ashley Membere, and Ho Kwan Cheung:

“While many of the diversity training programs fell short in demonstrating effectiveness on some training characteristics, our analysis does reveal that successful diversity training occurs. The positive effects of diversity training were greater when training was complemented by other diversity initiatives, targeted to both awareness and skills development, and conducted over a significant period of time.”

Ways to Integrate Diversity Training in the Workplace

There are different schools of thought when it comes to the “best” way to incorporate diversity training within an organization. Some experts say that it is best to hold specialized training a few times a year, whereas others say it needs to be a daily, ongoing effort that is incorporated into various aspects and processes within an organization.

An article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) cites diversity training research that was performed on groups of undergraduate students that were representative of the future workforce. This research showed two effective ways that this goal was achieved: 1) through the use of goal setting, and 2) perspective-taking.

Setting Goals That Promote Diversity

Although goal setting is an initiative that typically aims to improve job performance, researchers say that this approach also can be adapted “to set specific, measurable, and challenging (yet attainable) goals related to diversity in the workplace.” In their study with the undergraduate students, such practices resulted in greater pro-diversity behaviors and attitudes upwards of nine months after the training.

Taking on Different Perspectives

The idea behind this training approach is to encourage the target audience, such as the employees at a company or organization, to put themselves in the shoes of someone else. For example, if someone is straight, they can try to write down a list of some of the distinct challenges they think LGBT individuals face on a daily basis. If someone is white, they can do the same for the challenges facing someone of another ethnicity.

The positive effects of this training lasted more than eight months and even demonstrated potential “crossover effects.” For example, individuals who participated in perspective-taking diversity training to see things from the perspective of a racial minority seemed to also possess improved attitudes toward LGBT individuals and vice versa.

Other Methods of Incorporating Diversity in the Workplace

Soon Mee Kim, executive vice president and global diversity and inclusion leader for Porter Novelli, says her company launched diversity and inclusion initiatives by implementing unconscious bias training as well as by forming diversity committees and employee resource groups.

In her article for the Holmes Report, Kim highlights the importance of bringing diversity to the forefront through the following methods:

  1. Embedding diversity and inclusion throughout organizations;
  2. Initiating greater diversity and unconscious bias training opportunities throughout organizations as well as addressing hiring processes;
  3. Incorporating conversations about diversity & inclusion into the culture of organizations;
  4. Encouraging candid conversations about race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other diversity issues;
  5. Ensuring that organizations’ values are representative of these efforts and using them to drive the success of diversity initiatives;
  6. Supporting diversity training programs and inclusion-related initiatives with the support and resources they need; and
  7. Setting and communicating diversity goals and holding individuals accountable.

Big Think Expert Jennifer Brown reiterates in a Big Think article some of the points highlighted by Kim, such as emphasizing the importance of organizations taking the time to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Brown recommends the use of specific formal and informal methods of evaluation to accomplish this goal.

Brown says one such method encourages the use of developing and using focus groups to gain employee feedback:

“As a complementary mechanism to lists and surveys we should think about focus group data collection and the creation of small dialogues... And by small I mean more intimate, which creates more of a trusting environment, and typically these are facilitated.”

These are just some of the ways that businesses can try to integrate diversity training in the workplace. You can learn more about effective diversity through Big Think Edge’s on-demand and convenient video training.

Our video learning program can help to encourage greater cultural diversity in the workplace. Our diverse and world-renowned industry experts hail from all over the globe and bring with them unique perspectives and experiences about what approaches do or do not work in diversity and inclusion training. In short, digestible videos, they share a variety of skills, experiences, and perspectives that can relate to almost anyone, regardless of age, gender, or cultural background.

Click on the image below to learn more about our diversity & inclusion video learning course.

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