Why Even the Best-Planned Workplace Diversity Trainings Fail

Written by:

Jen Simpson

Workplace Diversity Training is Beneficial

If you’ve read the research, you know that companies should focus on workplace diversity. Multiple studies confirm that companies which are diverse are also more:

  • Productive
  • Creative
  • Innovative
  • Reputable
  • Competitive
  • Profitable

To reap these benefits, however, companies need to focus on
all areas of workplace diversity; not just recruiting more women (although it
helps) and not only on bringing in minorities (although it’s a component). Diversity
should be thought about in a very broad sense: gender, race, religion,
socioeconomic background, orientation, and other facets which make members of
society unique.

Most Workplace Diversity Training Programs Fail

At the same time, research suggests that most workplace diversity trainings fail. We’ve all seen the SNAFUs in the news, too. There was the #MeToo movement and then Starbucks putting employees through racial bias training, as well as a slew of other companies facing very public shaming over the behavior of their teams. The reality is that billions are spent on D&I training each year and companies aren’t doing a whole lot better overall.

Most Programs Focus on “Teaching” Blindness

To understand why workplace diversity trainings fail, we
have to break apart what’s being taught in them. The modern take is typically
to throw employees in a room and give them some sort of scripted presentation
on how certain phrases can be offensive or make people feel excluded and how
they should ignore differences. This doesn’t actually teach tolerance. In fact,
it often makes the situation worse, simply because the skits and examples given
are laughable. They become the butt jokes and don’t inspire anyone to change
anything. Employees put in their time, forget anything they may have learned, and
move on.

True D&I Appreciates Differences

Current research suggests that attempting to teach blindness doesn’t work. Humans are conditioned to categorize people and do it subconsciously. The most successful programs don’t tell people to ignore the differences but teach teams how their own brains work, provide insights on how overcoming subconscious biases benefits them, and offer tools to overcome biases.

Workplace Diversity Begins at the Top

D&I must become part of a culture shift in order to take
hold, which means directives from the top are essential.

Enact hiring policies which bring in a diverse workforce.
Use skills tests for each applicant and hire from varying talent pools. Create
company policies that make it easier for a broader range of people to succeed,
such as flexible schedules and time off.

Create an inclusive environment. Give people the space
they need to grow and work at their personal peak. Host collaborative meetings
and gatherings everyone can partake in.

Use benchmarks to check your success. Set goals and
run the numbers to ensure you have a diverse workforce at every level with
equal pay.

Leverage employee surveys to see if your team loves coming to work. Nearly half of all discrimination complaints made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involve employer retaliation, meaning when employees complained about being discriminated against, the employer attacked, demoted, or ridiculed the person reporting. Create oversight to ensure your company is using surveys as they were intended—to improve the workplace.

Establish a mentorship program. Mentorship programs give minority groups the opportunity to flourish and develop connections with those in leadership roles. They also go a long way to ensuring people feel like they belong within the company.

Create a Diversity Manager position. Your diversity manager will pave the way to better policies and a comprehensive culture of D&I. When one person is responsible for the outcome, there are fewer chances for things to be overlooked or dropped.

Communication is Key

Communication is essential across the board. Employees
should learn more about effective communication in its most rudimentary state—how
messages are sent and what impacts how they’re received. This alone plays a pivotal
role in overcoming biases and encourages mindfulness, not just with minority
groups in the workplace, but in business as a whole. Equally, businesses
shouldn’t shy away from communicating the issues and what’s being done to
overcome them either. As companies develop better workplace diversity, effective
communication will keep everyone on track and demonstrate that D&I is an important
component of company culture.

Be Part of the Inclusivity Shift in the Energy Sector

Want to help the energy industry become more inclusive?  Members of Pink Petro agree it’s a valued resource to connect with peers, leaders, coaches, and mentors, plus offers a wealth of opportunities to learn and be part of the inclusivity shift. Join Pink Petro today.

Feature Image Credit: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

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