Can You Teach Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Sam, a young go-getter who was working in retail while pursuing an MBA, was a rising star. Other employees were thriving, as well—many felt valued and appreciated by the company. When management changed hands, however, Sam and his colleagues immediately noticed a difference. Suddenly, they were dealing with an intolerant boss who didn't respect people from different cultures.
In an essay published by the Next Concept HR Association, Sam said his new boss “stated she could barely understand me when I talked because my accent was 'so bad.'" Eventually, Sam and several other colleagues left the company because “of the new manager's lack of understanding on how to treat employees from [diverse] backgrounds."
Sam's boss had clearly not received diversity and inclusion training. In a situation like this, not only do employees feel insulted, but the company also suffers because it can lose good workers in the process. It doesn't have to be this way, though—through proper diversity and inclusion training, companies can enable their managers to nurture a better work environment where everyone feels safe and empowered.
The State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an ongoing problem in America. According to ClearCompany, only one-third of the workforce consists of minority employees. Women hold 4.2 percent of CEO jobs in the 500 biggest companies in the U.S., and African Americans are 16 percent less likely to be called in for job interviews. Despite these diversity gaps, 41 percent of managers say they are too busy to pursue diversity plans.
In fact, managers remain resistant even though it has been proven that a diverse workforce is a better workforce—one MIT study found that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 35 percent. Today's most well-known companies including Uber and Facebook are setting admirable goals and working to increase diversity through various programs. Still, while setting goals is an important first step, even the boldest diversity and inclusion efforts won't work without proper training.
Why Diversity and Inclusion Training Is Important
At any business, managers must be trained to understand various cultures or else they could face a barrage of issues. Along with alienating workers and causing them to leave, they may face discrimination lawsuits, earn a bad reputation, struggle to attract top talent, hurt productivity and ultimately encounter business failure.
The right training will also teach managers the nuanced difference between the diversity and inclusion. For example, they'll learn that while diversity involves the who and what (who is hired and promoted), inclusion is the execution (how the company handles diversity). Most importantly, managers will be taught how to cultivate cultural sensitivity, strengthen teams and attract the top talent from every age group, sex, race, religion and culture.
Executing Diversity and Inclusion Training
To get started, companies need to collect data on their employees including their age, disability, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, race and language to determine where the organization stands with regard to diversity. With the data in hand, pinpoint any areas of concern. For example, are all the managers Caucasian males? Is it because HR only hires a certain type of person? Managers should identify any existing bias (conscious or unconscious) that may be discouraging diversity, and focus their training on eliminating that bias.
When it comes to the actual training, there's no one way to do it—managers can use online learning modules, attend workshops hosted by the company, take courses from a knowledgable third-party learning provider or host one-on-one meetings to provide personalized training to managers. The key is to regularly assess progress and track what managers are learning, whether that be inclusion practices, or more diverse hiring tactics. After trainings, it's also crucial to collect feedback from everyone who participated to improve the process.