Is Your Diversity Training Focusing on Improving and Enhancing?

Julie Shenkman
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Many companies use diversity and inclusion training to try to foster a more respectful and productive workplace. However, it's easy for diversity training to become something that employees endure for a few hours each year while nothing really changes in the day-to-day culture of the organization. Making diversity efforts both more universal and more specific within a company can start to break down the barriers and effect real change.

Diversity Means Everybody

All too often, diversity training sets up a result that's different from the intended effect of inclusion. When the focus of inclusion training is on minority groups, such as people of color, the LGBTQ community, or women, those in the dominant group within a workplace — typically white males — experience the feeling of being left out, often for the first time. They can easily end up feeling as if they are being discriminated against, regardless of what statistics show. They can also walk out of diversity training sessions feeling as if they're being blamed for inequity, and they can easily feel intimidated about ever bringing up diversity topics themselves.

Because of this sometimes unexpected effect of inclusion training, it's important to design diversity efforts to make sure that even those in the dominant group understand the effects of inequity on them and on the workplace as a whole.

Dig Into the Specifics

Rather than approaching diversity training as a one-size-fits-all endeavor, human resources and diversity departments can reach a wider and more receptive audience by personalizing training. People come in to your company from all backgrounds, bringing different expectations, presuppositions and thought processes that may need to be addressed through diversity training. Rather than treating diversity as a one-size-fits-all endeavor, like getting a driver's license, space must be created to allow people to approach diversity and inclusion issues from different angles and without feeling as if they're being judged.

Instead of treating diversity as a "blame game," try developing a program that provides safe spaces for people to discuss sensitive issues. Focus initially on creating a company-wide awareness of the issues that your particular organization faces before moving on to solutions.

Take Diversity Efforts Company-Wide

It's easy to design a diversity program that affects most of the employees but leaves those in the C-suite untouched. To show support for the concepts of diversity and inclusion, everyone must participate in diversity efforts, including executives at the highest levels. When a company creates a true culture of diversity, efforts to improve and enhance promotions, hiring and behavior don't rely on support from an often isolated human resources or diversity department. Rather, they become a part of everyday life.

As you approach diversity training for your organization, pinpoint the specific areas in which you can find room for improvement. Focus on awareness of the issues first, and then find ways to make sure everyone, even those in the dominant group, understand the value of diversity to enhance your company's productivity and make it a better place to work.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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