As many experts and employees have recently highlighted, even employers doing a better job of diversity hiring are struggling to fully include their hires in their culture. That is, in part, because the culture might be inherently wrong for women, black employees, or other minority hires.
Employees might not want to drink alcohol at work functions, due to health concerns, alcoholism recovery, or religious beliefs. They might prefer not to discuss sexual exploits or complain about their spouses or families in stereotypical fashion. They might not attend church services and believe worship or ministry is personal and private. Probably none of this affects their job performance, until others in their workplace make it an issue.
What is workplace diversity training?
Workplace diversity training varies tremendously because employers vary tremendously. But generally, workplace diversity training is the first step for employers that have missed opportunities for innovation because they have focused too much on hiring people who look and seem like them. In these first training sessions, we tend to highlight implicit, or hidden, biases and bring them into the light. Until we do that, there will often be denial and dismissal of the need for any change. In later training sessions, we can discuss diversity initiatives and ongoing inclusion activities, but we must first raise awareness of what might seem obvious to us, as outsiders looking in, but is hidden from the people too busy doing their work to step back and see the full picture.
What is the value of diversity training?
Diversity training opens new discussions because it invites participants to look beyond the day-to-day tasks related to their jobs. Employers might find that some employees get excited about their new awareness and voluntarily research solutions. It can increase good will, employee engagement, and brainstorming on other workplace issues.
What should a good diversity training program include?
A good diversity training program should include a pre-training survey of the workplace being trained, so we can tailor the training to needs of the workplace. In the training, there is usually a discussion of statistics and other evidence in support of diverse workplaces. Trainers discuss the benefits of having a diverse workforce and the detriments of not. We request complete confidentiality of the discussions after that and obtain participant agreement, except where a discriminatory or safety incident should be reported.
I like to spread my training sessions out and give participants actions to take between sessions and have them discuss their experiences in the next one. This way, they are not only learning about diversity, but they are practicing inclusion.
Why and how do diversity training programs sometimes fall short?
Many diversity training programs fall short because they are approached with a task orientation. Employers want to “check the box” and claim the result, not realizing this is a long game and the results don’t come until there is a consistent culture of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect. The more successful programs are results-focused, and the training is reverse-engineered to produce the results desired.
How do you become a diversity trainer?
There are several certificate programs, including the one I have in Ethno-Religious Mediation, but this does not guarantee you work as a diversity trainer. As with all professions, you will need to market yourself regularly, whether to potential employers or clients.
Want a do-it-yourself program?
Prefer a little more guidance?
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Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep you out of court and build your conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She helps managers and business owners have empowering conversations about emotionally-charged issues such as gender, race, religion, and disability. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018 & 2019), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).