Tips on Developing an Effective Diversity Training Program in the Workplace
You’ve probably heard about the adage that training is not an event—instead, it is a dynamic process. When it comes to developing a diversity and inclusion training program, you need to aim beyond teaching about ‘sensitivity’. You must get down to the nitty-gritty of solving the problem, endeavoring to achieve a significant organizational transformation.
The most efficient diversity training programs can raise awareness. However, that is not what any organization has to achieve ultimately. The training itself is just the beginning of a process that develops cultural competency, understanding, and preparedness. Each employee must know what specific role they play in attaining the goals for diversity and inclusion.
Decades’ worth of studies on the effectiveness of diversity training have mixed results. Even so, they mostly concluded that the process works well when developed and executed correctly. As such, in this post, we will help you understand what a diversity training program really means. We will also share some tips on creating one that is truly effective.
What Is a Diversity Training Program?
In the simplest terms, a diversity program is a process that aims to level the playing field for everyone in an organization. The ultimate goal is to give equal opportunity to every employee, regardless of their ethnicity, race, language, color, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. The training goes beyond becoming ‘politically correct’ in organizational language and behavior. It also involves educating everyone on how to embrace each other’s differences while considering their input as valuable to the growth of the company.
Moreover, developing a diversity training program includes representing different people in a company’s literature and marketing materials. It is not simply about teaching everyone to ‘tolerate differences.’ Instead, it’s about accepting and leveraging these differences.
The Importance of Diversity Training
When developed and implemented effectively, diversity training programs make people feel like they’re part of a common goal. Consequently, workers will be satisfied, which can also lower turnover rates. Moreover, it improves the overall efficiency of an organization while lowering hiring expenses. After all, when employees are happy, they are more productive. Here are some of the benefits of creating an effective diversity training program:
Building awareness about inclusion and diversity: When your diversity training is successful, your employees become sensitive about concepts like cultural competency and unconscious bias. Once people become aware of these ideas, they can easily identify them in real-world, corporate situations.
Driving innovation and collaboration from diverse perspectives: You create smarter teams with heterogeneous members. When teams are diverse, they have an advantage in terms of understanding and solving problems. They have a broader perspective on an issue, allowing them to reduce biases and increase accountability.
Developing inclusive actions and thinking: Having a varied workforce is not the only goal of fostering diversity in a company. Instead, the process is about creating an inclusive environment. This way, each team member feels included and valued. When a diversity training program is effective, it becomes natural for employees to think about inclusion. This way, they will always make decisions that will make their co-workers feel valued.
Encouraging employees to be considerate of others: A good diversity training program also encourages team members to understand the comfort levels and varied perspectives of others. This way, they will consider how their actions and decisions can unintentionally offend or harm their co-workers. Trying to achieve this is not a long shot, and it goes a long way towards avoiding harassment and discrimination.
Making Diversity Training in the Workplace Personal
If you want your organization to become truly inclusive, every member must understand what diversity means both emotionally and cognitively. What’s more, you must remember that people do not like being forced to do something they are uncomfortable with. So, the language must be clear yet friendly.
So, when creating a diversity training course, you need to choose strategies and set goals that can develop a holistic approach to diversity and inclusion. Here are the cognitive and emotional goals that you must achieve in the training materials:
- Learning the definitions of inclusion and diversity: Your materials must clearly explain the different types of diversity. Moreover, they should illustrate the various kinds of unconscious biases.
- Getting familiar with stats and facts: The training program must show survey findings around diversity and inclusion. What’s more, it should educate participants about anti-discrimination laws.
- Developing empathy: You must show how discriminative actions can affect other people.
- Becoming relatable: Use videos like TEDx talks and social experiments to share stories about diversity and inclusion.
- Initiating self-reflection: Develop a way to collect data anonymously. You can distribute questionnaires that ask participants if they have witnessed or have become victims of discrimination in the workplace.
When crafting the invitation email for a diversity training session, you must be clear that the event will not be used to harm any employee. Moreover, explain that the training is not an evaluation. You must reassure team members that the data collected will be kept private throughout the process. The training program should be a safe space for everyone, intended for educational purposes and nothing more.
How to Create an Effective Diversity Training Program in the Workplace
Developing a diversity training program is more than writing down a list of rules and regulations while expecting employees to follow them. The truth is, the process is quite the opposite of that. You need to present acceptance of diversity as a choice that can bring benefits to everyone. Here are the steps in creating an effective training program:
Step 1: Start the Development Process
The first step is to identify the stakeholders and project sponsors to get the development phases started. Conduct interviews and surveys to learn about their thoughts about the current environment in your company. You can discuss topics like effective communication, change management, cultural awareness, conflict resolution, and dealing with gender issues.
Step 2: Define the Goals of the Program
There are various goals you can achieve from conducting diversity training. For instance, you may want to minimize misinterpretation and miscommunication. Perhaps you want employees to acknowledge and accept differences in social customs, experience, age, and behavior. Handling a multi-generational and culturally diverse workforce will become easier when you achieve these types of objectives. Aside from that, you’ll be able to address minor incidents before they begin to become serious.
Step 3: Design Your Training Workshop
Create your training materials and teach participants about the concepts and definitions related to diversity. Remember to keep the workshop informative yet interactive. So, insert team building activities, role-playing exercises, and other games. Keep the session flowing smoothly while covering all the relevant topics.
Step 4: Conduct Training Sessions
Set a schedule for your training sessions. A diversity training session can be included in a regular team meeting or even a company event. Determine the session’s duration according to the number of participants and the topics you want to cover. Don’t divide team members into categories because this may create ideas of exclusion among the people. What’s important is you concentrate on building good communication.
Step 5: Assess the Participants’ Knowledge of Diversity and Inclusion
Ask the participants to complete quizzes on diversity topics. This way, you will help them recognize their prejudices, enabling them to create a healthier work environment. You can also discuss common dilemmas and review case studies. There are plenty of resources online where you can find these quizzes and training materials.
Step 6: Evaluate the Results of the Program
Create an online survey and ask the participants to fill it out. This way, you can evaluate their satisfaction with the program. You can also learn whether the program is effective by meeting with the managers several months after the sessions. Ask them if they’ve noticed changes in the behavior of their team members.
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According to a 2015 study conducted by Deloitte, companies that promote diversity generated almost two and a half times higher cash flow per team member. It may be boring to break down the numbers, but the truth is evident. Diversity in the workplace benefits not only the employees but also the organization as a whole. As it turns out, with effective diversity training, you can have it all.