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It's Time for Diversity Training to Evolve

Rita Trehan

Human Resources Consultant

I was perusing Fast Company recently when an article caught my eye. The piece challenged the effectiveness of diversity policies and training in many companies. As a matter of fact, it went so far as to say that many of them are backfiring.

In brief, a group of researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and University of Washington found that white men felt threatened by pro-diversity initiatives. What's more, citing a longitudinal study of more than 700 U.S. companies, they discovered that not only were programs aimed at reducing racial bias among the management group less effective, but also that some weren't successful at convincing underrepresented minorities that they would be treated more fairly.

I say this in my book, Unleashing Capacity: The Hidden Human Resources, a lot, but it bears repeating, "It's not about the model, it's the mindset." Merely posting policies as a blanket warning isn't effective in creating inclusion for all.

It is only going to work if you work on it, so consider delivering and reinforcing diversity in a manner that creates universal accountability. Here are three suggestions on how to accomplish just that:

1) Focus on Collaboration Without Bias

I'll be quite blunt here: The world is rapidly becoming widely diverse, with people of color comprising much of the population at large. Diversity training is meant to reinforce that we should all be able to work together to accomplish our goals, regardless of differences.

The more you can consistently deliver on this common-sense approach without calling out white males or alienating minority groups, the better the training will work. It's about collaboration without bias, education without prejudice and the advancement of the corporation without tearing it apart from the inside due to cultural concerns. Everyone from the CEO on down must drive this message home, and it must be a part of the daily culture with reinforcement from training when necessary.

2) Embrace Diversity In Your Own Organization

The populations meant to be served by diversity training must see evidence of it in the workplace. The management population must be diverse. There must be diversity of thought, reward for ideas and an embrace of different cultures, experiences, languages and histories. Ensuring that your leadership reflects your diversity program is just good business, and it sends strong message to the employees and the market that you believe in progress as practice

3) Reward Self-Directed Progress

The Fast Company article mentions the success of PwC's 4REAL diversity training, where self-directed diversity training modules are completed and progress is tracked. In a world that seems to be shoving back on the perception of "forced diversity," it makes sense that individual direction would be more widely accepted.

Giving individuals a deadline in which they must complete the training, but then leaving the progression and experience entirely to the individual creates a personal experience they'll remember. Also, utilizing technology in this manner enables efficient delivery across the entire workplace, both virtual and physical.

The future is rapidly approaching, and with an ever-diversifying world of work buoyed by rapid technological advancement, HR and the companies we support are most certainly heading toward a greater need for inclusion than any time in history. I stand ready to help you create the workplace that exceeds the expectations of current and future workforces.

Photo: Twenty20

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