As my law career has progressed over the years several of my clients have asked me to implement programs for them. Over the last several years, and most importantly in 2020 to the present, diversity training has been a hot topic. Helping clients implement a program has been a constant request.
Establishing a diversity and inclusion (D&I) culture in the workplace has become a crucial strategy for achieving success in modern organizations. Unfortunately, however, an L&D report by findcourses.com reveals that a shocking 48% of employees never receive any diversity training at work. This statistic may shed light on the difficulties some HR managers face when recruiting global talent.
There are often numerous hurdles to jump when recruiting global talent, e.g., international timelines and communication, complicated visa requirements and scouting the talent in the first place. Nevertheless, with the assistance of well-designed diversity training programs, implementing a D&I culture is achievable, not to mention its potential benefits for talent acquisition.
Implementing workplace diversity training is also a crucial step in mitigating workplace harassment and discrimination claims. As an attorney, I can attest that when settling discrimination claims, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) usually recommends organizations to educate their employees on the necessity for diversity and inclusion and cultural competence.
What Is Workplace Diversity Training?
Workplace diversity training addresses unique employee attributes – gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, color, religion, race, age and socio-economic status – and how to work together regardless of these attributes. This exceeds political correctness and instead focuses on embracing any employee differences and the valuable perspectives they bring to the organization.
This form of training is considered functional when it:
- Promotes an inclusive company culture
- Establishes true understanding instead of a simple list of dos and don’ts
- Seeks out, embraces and respects different approaches resulting from a diverse workforce rather than merely tolerating them
Essentially, this form of training encourages organizations to go beyond tolerating differences that are deemed not worthy enough. Through effective diversity training, modern organizations can outface the #MeToo movements.
The Importance of Diversity In the Workplace
When implemented correctly, a culture of diversity and inclusion creates a feeling of inclusion among employees. Ultimately, this makes employees happier, reduces turnover rates, reduces hiring costs and improves the organization’s overall expertise.
Statistics suggest that happier employees are at least 37% more productive. Also, racially and ethnically diverse organizations have a 35% higher chance of exceeding the median national financial returns in their respective industries. For your company, the issue of diversity could all boil down to whether you desire a healthier bottom line. Either way, the benefits of diversity are clear at both the organizational and individual levels.
How to Implement D&I Training
Nowadays, laying out many restrictive rules, and expecting employees to follow them is not enough. If anything, this could achieve the opposite of a successful D&I culture. Implementing a training program that portrays diversity acceptance as a solution that benefits all employees is the way to go if you are to achieve any long-term positive results.
The important thing to remember here is that it doesn’t matter if you use a specialty in person diversity trainer, a video on diversity training, or just have an existing manager perform the training….the key is that you actually DO the training in one form or another.
As a practicing attorney, I have identified the following vital D&I training strategies that have helped nurture diverse and inclusive cultures in several organizations.
1. Implementing A Top-Down Approach
Recognizing the need for diversity in your organization is one thing, determining where to begin is another. Regardless of the size of your company, you have to realize the falsity of the claim that changing workplace culture is impossible. It is very easy for employees to backslide to their old practices and beliefs without realizing the constant changes happening in their respective industries.
Talent acquisition teams and recruiters are no exception to this phenomenon. By failing to address the realities of diversity in your organization, everyone can forget the importance of fresh and diverse perspectives. This could gradually make your business fall behind amidst a rapidly evolving business environment, especially if other organizations quickly respond to such changes.
D&I training programs help provide real solutions since they enable employees in all organizational hierarchies to appreciate the necessity for diversity and remain conscious of diversity as a factor in recruitment. However, successful implementation of any D&I training strategies requires the significant engagement of the organization’s top leadership at every stage of the process.
Research suggests that companies with leaders engaged in Learning and Development (L&D) are three times more likely to have an organizational culture of innovation. Each organization is unique, and strategies that work for other organizations may not necessarily work for yours. Organizational nuances, therefore, call for D&I training initiatives that begin from the top levels of leadership in the organization. This strategy makes it possible to align training strategies to overall organizational goals while avoiding the pitfall of implementing “copy-and-paste” training strategies that often end up unsuccessful.
2. Promoting Diversity in Talent Scouting and Recruitment Practices
From my experience working with several companies to enhance their D&I culture, I have learned that no resource or training is capable of solving prejudice single-handedly. When addressing diversity issues, it is best to take an organizational approach instead of an individual one. This implies that all the training and resources involved should help all leaders across the organizational hierarchy take systematic steps in making diversity and inclusion take center stage in their respective levels.
Whenever leadership is engaged in developing and implementing a D&I training program, employees naturally approach the training with a deeper understanding of the importance of diversity in achieving organizational goals. Employees will also have greater motivation to implement what they learn in training into practice.
Training that comes from the top to resolve diversity and hiring biases will make recruiters more aware of their own unconscious biases. Such awareness is crucial for improving cultural competence and inspiring positive change via recruitment from the bottom up.
Following a successful change in culture, developing and implementing more inclusive talent acquisition and recruitment strategies will inevitably position the organization to move in the right direction.
It is thought that roughly 65% of companies have official programs for recruiting diverse and inclusive employees. However, results suggest otherwise. For instance, approximately 71% of female Millennials feel there is an inequality of opportunities despite talks of diversity by organizations. Such statistics suggest that there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of diverse workplace culture and inclusive recruitment practices.
3. Raising Awareness
Among the goals of D&I training initiatives is raising awareness of the benefits of working together with people regardless of their different genders, ages, races, ethnicities, beliefs and cultures. Through relevant and engaging elements such as interactive training videos, diversity training helps employees comprehend how concepts such as civility, workplace sensitivity, unconscious bias and cultural competency play out in real-life situations.
While such concepts are not groundbreaking, the contexts and ways in which they are applied keeps on changing. For instance, cultural competency – the ability to effectively communicate and interact with people across different cultures and backgrounds – is now a part of recruitment training in several police departments, e.g., The Tulsa Police Department.
Through cultural competency programs, which often cover implicit bias training, police officers can learn how to better communicate and interact with people of different cultures. Even though there is still plenty of ground to cover, this is a step in the right direction, especially in terms of biases and conflict resolution.
Another concept that has gained popularity this year is unconscious bias or implicit social cognition – hidden attitudes that affect decisions, actions and understanding based on social stereotypes – following incidents such as the BLM protests. At an organizational level, research reveals an overwhelming preference for white individuals and males during hiring and promotion. Moreover, most mothers risk penalization for forgoing opportunities that could distance them from their children.
Including implicit bias training in D&I initiatives is necessary to reduce stigma and enable participants to contemplate the harmless nature of their unconscious thinking and the potentially harmful consequences. Remember, while implicit biases are often synonymous with negative consequences, they are very malleable. This malleability makes implicit bias training worth trying.
4. Introducing Inclusion Initiatives
Do not be afraid of taking radical approaches to shift your company’s workplace culture to normalize inclusion. Contrary to popular opinion, propagating the notion of including everyone and eliminating any feelings of segregation is relatively easy to achieve. While unconscious bias training is important for all employees, recognizing that D&I training sessions are one piece of a bigger puzzle is even more important.
While I cannot downplay the importance of formal D&I training, I am conscious that D&I training should exceed formal training sessions to have any meaningful effect on workplace culture. Some inclusion initiatives I have found effective in most companies I have worked with include:
- Mentorship programs
- Lunch-time learning
- Employee resource groups
These initiatives help bring together employees with shared identities to discuss matters that come up during work and life in general. Any modern organization that seeks to outperform its competitors should be willing to invest in the training, learning and development needs of its employees. The potential returns are very promising since it could enhance organizational innovation, customer service and employee retention.
5. Actualizing the Knowledge from Training
It is quite unfortunate that many companies ignore issues of diversity and inclusion until they become bigger. At this point, addressing issues of diversity and inclusion becomes a challenge due to the already established culture from its exponential years.
Learning and development are major drivers of organizational culture; therefore, they deserve integration into all organizational levels. Sadly, this is not the case with many small and mid-sized organizations. For instance, a meager 30% of employers across all industries agree that their companies’ strategies for recruitment and diversity align with their needs.
That said, until D&I training programs and initiatives become organizational endeavors, talent acquisition specialists and talent managers will not have a chance of directly impacting the actualization of what is acquired through training. Making these initiatives organizational endeavors will enhance the engagement of talent managers with diverse talent pools, thus contributing to making their organizations more diverse and inclusive.
An organizational culture that is inclusive and supportive also improves the ability of employees to respond to client needs. While D&I programs have an essential role in educating employees, inclusion should be intertwined with all company aspects for it to thrive.
The Bottom Line
Promoting diversity, regardless of the size of an organization, is a basic requirement in the contemporary workforce. Generation Z, arguably America’s most diverse generation, are just beginning their careers. In as little as five years, Millennials are expected to make up at least 75% of the American workforce by 2025. Judging by your company’s training and recruitment strategies, do you feel ready to facilitate the diversity that this workforce has to offer?
Using D&I training programs to develop a workplace culture that fosters diversity and inclusion is a direct approach to increasing diverse recruitment and making the talent acquisition team aware of their unconscious biases during hiring. Having a talent acquisition team educated on diversity and inclusion, and a culturally competent workplace culture will make the dream of a highly diverse workplace a lot easier to achieve.