There are many facets to improving diversity in the workplace but at its centre, unless we change the way people think then culture and progress will be challenging. The programs that we implement therefore in the workplace around raising awareness and training on EDI are extremely important.
How much training is needed
In any business or organisation, learning and development should be a lifelong commitment both from the employer and the employee. The answer is therefore that there will be initial training but educating a workforce on EDI will always be ongoing. A case in point took place in 2018 when Starbucks closed 8000 stores for racial bias training and the question was raised, was a four-hour session on this topic enough? The move was prompted by an incident in one of its stores went to African American men were wrongly arrested simply for sitting in a Starbucks. They’ve been questioned by the manager as they had not bought drinks and had relayed, they were waiting for a colleague
A staff member in question call the police and have them arrested instigating a PR crisis for Starbucks. Whilst Starbuck’s reaction and apology were swift, its chairman Howard Schultz acknowledged that one session was not enough to break down racial bias:
“We realise that four hours of training is not going to solve racial inequities… But we have to start the conversation“ Source: Forbes
The point was this, they could have done nothing and they could have hesitated about whether the training would have the desired impact but they took action nonetheless. They saw this training as a starting point to measure its effectiveness for their staff. There was no illusion that a four-hour training could break down years of racial bias, but it started a conversation around onboarding and ongoing training efforts. As a company, they realised the only way to see how they can evolve the training was by making a start and asking participants afterwards what impact it had on them.
It is an approach that other sectors such as healthcare, technology, digital transformation, manufacturing and so on can take. Assess opinions ask questions and from that identify areas where bias exists and have conversations, show films, give staff space to be honest, and express opinions without judgement but with a commitment to be open.
What is the most effective training
As discussed, effectiveness will be unique to the business, organisation, or sector. It will also be influenced by the socio-economic backgrounds of the employees as well as generational considerations. Some ideas are as follows:
- Diversity versus inclusion
A simple starting point is really to break down the meanings of these words and their differences. Put simply, if your workers understand diversity then they need to also understand inclusivity and what it means to belong.
- Unconscious bias
This tends to be a common training topic simply because unconscious bias is deemed one of the biggest barriers to diversity. This training is useful because it unpicks our thought processes which may have stemmed from decades of influence that we are unaware we are bringing into the workplace.
As this is one of the most inflammatory topics in society, it simply must be included in any diversity training. Often if something does not impact someone directly, it is difficult for them to understand the impact of racism on a colleague’s day-to-day life.
This acronym has grown in visibility in the last few years thanks to the efforts of many groups fight for equal opportunities. Diversity training in the workplace must cover this topic so that it educates employees on different ways that individuals express themselves.
- Cultural and religious diversity
We know that organisations benefit from the different perspectives that come from having a diverse workforce. Any business that includes religious and cultural training will increase the understanding and acceptance of co-workers and enable barriers to be broken down to benefit innovation creativity and productivity.