The efforts of employees at all levels of an organization contribute to the success of workplace diversity training. Everyone is diverse, whether it’s based on skill set, skin colour, religion, experiences- we are all different from one another in some way. Unfortunately, in some workplaces, stereotypes continue to hold precedence over the positive value diversity adds to a workplace. In order to reduce, and hopefully eliminate discriminatory actions from the workplace, effective diversity training is required. Train employees to respect the differences of not only their fellow employees, but the customers and clients they serve. Diversity training is becoming a focal point for many companies, as organizational leaders strive to create a workforce reflective of the communities they operate in.
Diversity Training Tips
Significant company resources are committed to employee training. In order to reap the benefits of diversity training, HR personnel and other organizational leaders must carefully plan out the training process. Planning ahead provides HR personnel with the ability to analyze current situations within the workplace, identify issues that require improvement and build training programs around the specified areas. It’s important to keep in mind that training should be used to shape and guide employee behaviour in the workplace, not necessarily to change their opinions or personal beliefs. An article I came across published in USA Today titled “Ten Tips for Fostering Diversity in Your Organization,” suggests:
“A productive diversity-training session focuses on real world methods of working effectively in a diverse environment and appeals to the participant’s sense of professionalism or self interest, not guilt.”
The following 5 training tips can be used to help increase the effectiveness of diversity training programs:
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1. Diversify Training Methods
In keeping with the spirit of diversity, include a mix of training methods in the diversity training program. Employees have different learning patterns. Some people learn better through role play and practical examples, whereas some take in information better when they are required to read and answer questions. Another benefit to mixing up training methods is that it makes training seem less like, well, training.
2. Frequency of Training
As with any training program, diversity training should be ongoing. Break training down into smaller sessions to allow for better digestion of information. Some forms of training will require lengthy time commitments due to the nature of the event, such as team building exercises, retreats and diversity training excursions. Whenever possible, conduct training sessions in smaller groups and tackle one issue at a time. Sometimes it’s recommended to keep instructional training sessions to an hour in length to avoid information overload, the same goes for web based training modules. Ongoing diversity training must be built into an organization’s corporate culture to ensure change occurs throughout the entire organization.
3. Team Building Exercises
Team building exercises are an excellent tool for diversity training, as individuals must work together to develop skills through problem solving. Team building is also a good way for employees in various roles and levels within an organization to interact with one another. As mentioned above, in order for a diversity training program to work, training should focus on working together effectively, rather than pointing out the obvious differences between employees in the workplace. Team building exercises increase the effectiveness of training, as the issues portrayed focus on overcoming real life situations that are encountered daily within a particular company.
4. Train Everyone
Make diversity training mandatory for every employee within the organization- even those at the top. A major workplace diversity issue is the continuing lack of diversity amongst those who hold managerial and high level executive positions within some organizations. Diversity training, along with all other forms of training in an organization, must be offered to everyone. In the USA Today article “Ten Tips for Fostering Diversity in Your Organization,” the author, Jane Howard-Martin, writes:
“A common complaint among disgruntled workers is that capable employees do not have a chance to become qualified for advancement because training was only available to a select few. To ensure all employees have an opportunity to advance as far as their talents take them, make training available on a broad scale.”
5. Avoid Training as a Punishment
Sometimes diversity training can come off as being one sided. Avoid using examples or speaking in a way that targets a specific group within the organization. In order for employers to get their message across, diversity training should be conducted when employees enter an organization and on a regular basis. When diversity training is an ongoing process, it won’t seem like a specific event prompted the need for training.
The SHRM article “Diversity Training Shouldn’t Be Punishment ,” reinforces the fact that diversity training should be used as a prevention tool and not as a reaction to an event:
“‘When I think of diversity training as punishment I think of it as a situation when the whole team has to go when they all know it’s really because of one person,’ says Leslie Aguilar, author of Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts and founder of International Training and Development, LLC, in Orlando, Fla. Employers can anticipate such a reaction and explain the need for the training, Aguilar says, by saying something like: ‘We are having the training because it’s our commitment to have an environment that is respectful and inclusive of everyone and we want to make sure everyone has the skills to make it happen.’”