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How Diversity Training in the Workplace Drives Organizational Change

Dec 27, 2021| Reading time: 10min

BY Sharon Rusinowitz

Director of Content Marketing

When it comes to representation of different genders, races, and sexual orientations in the workplace, it’s evident that lack of diversity remains a lingering issue.

According to McKinsey’s Diversity Wins report, “progress on gender and cultural representation has been slow” in the workplace.

The positive news, however, is that the same report also shows that the “likelihood of outperformance” for companies with diverse racial and gender representation is much higher than companies that are less diverse.

Organizations that want to improve diversity need to consider systematic changes in everything from hiring and talent development to programs for existing employees. While it’s certainly not an end-all solution, requiring employees to participate in diversity training can help drive the desired organizational change.

Diversity training may include:

  • Awareness training: Calling attention to potential prejudices and imbalances to help employees better understand others’ backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences.
  • Skill-based training: Improving the interpersonal skills of employees to ensure they work fairly with teammates of any kind.
  • Intermediate training: A combination of awareness and skill-based training that helps employees enhance and apply intercultural knowledge to improve cooperation, communication, and inclusion skills.

But how exactly does diversity training drive organizational change?

Diversity training in the workplace assures that diversity, equity, and inclusion is understood throughout the entire organization. It promotes a culture of understanding, brings awareness to biases, gives a basis of measurement for change, and lays a long-term foundation for true action.

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How Diversity Training Drives Organizational Change

1. Assuring diversity and inclusion are understood throughout the organization

It’s a simple fact: true organizational change is not attainable unless every team and everyone in your organization is on board.

Requiring diversity training for all employees ensures that more than just your people team practices proper inclusion and etiquette—these practices should extend to every team and individual within the org.

Focus groups and employee resource groups work well to open dialogue, build awareness, and build comfort among employees, but they don’t directly interact with all employees the same way a training program does.

With diversity training, you relay the same message—and more importantly, the same requirements—to every employee in terms of how they should work with and treat others.

2. Promoting a culture of understanding

Driving organizational change is about setting and maintaining standards. Continued diversity training keeps your defined standards in check and ultimately allows you to establish the importance of open-mindedness among everyone that works for your company now and in the future.

Awareness training can show the benefits of working in diverse environments and teach individuals how to approach projects and communications with a more inclusive, sensitive mindset.

Not only does this promote better equity, but it also tends to encourage better communication and trust, which leads to more productive work environments. By ingraining a more sensitive mindset into your holistic company culture, you’ll help establish a culture in which change is sustainable.

3. Bringing awareness to biases

Unconscious/implicit bias is among the toughest workplace issues to combat due to its mostly-impalpable nature. It’s difficult to audit and measure, causing many companies to debate whether bias training is even worthwhile.

Unconscious bias training exists to help organizations and individuals realize how their actions and intuitions can end up shortchanging (figuratively and literally) employees of certain genders, races, ages, backgrounds, etc.—regardless of what they believe their intent to be.

Aside from gender, race, and age biases, there are also many more intricate biases to be aware of, including affinity bias, beauty bias, confirmation bias, conformity bias, name bias, and weight bias. These biases can be very detrimental to inclusive hiring, pay, and talent development efforts.

Despite the many challenges that exist, bias training can fuel positive change when companies pair the training sessions with ongoing efforts to strategically apply these principles to company goals and objectives. By training your team to be more aware of how unconscious biases play into decision-making processes, you’ll lay the foundation for more equitable pay, hiring, development, and retention programs for all employees.

4. Providing a basis of measurement for organizational change

Diversity training also provides a foundation for measuring true progress toward organizational change.

To start, you can track employee involvement in training programs. Tracking attendance and sending employees surveys and follow up discussions can help your team understand engagement with training materials and help define takeaways from the training. Engagement can show who may or may not be buying into diversity from the start and whether or not you can expect any real progress as a result of it. For example, if you have low engagement, you should consider reimplementing or reinforcing training materials.

With diversity training in place, proven engagement, and an assessment of your people and performance data, you can set tangible goals and benchmarks that tie directly to the language and ideals presented to employees in their diversity training.

Formulating your benchmarks based on diversity training ideals not only helps reinforce the training itself, but also gives everyone in your organization a common understanding as to what progress can and should look like. Diversity training can tie into benchmarks relating to:

  • Hiring Practices: Are all new candidates accommodated and considered in the same way in the new hire process?
  • Pay Equity: What pay gaps do you need to address, and are they closing over time?
  • Leadership: Is there proper representation of different genders and races in your organization’s leadership positions?
  • Talent Development and Retention: Do all teams offer fair and equitable growth opportunities to members, regardless of age, gender, race, etc.?

By centralizing all of this data from your HRIS, ATS, and equity and performance tools, you can monitor progress toward goals over time—either from a high-level view or down to specific teams or employee tracks (based on gender, race, and other factors).

You can then combine that centralized data with feedback from your team—survey employees regularly, create focus groups, and compile information from exit interviews to get real anecdotal examples of why and how your diversity training is (or is not) impacting the way your company operates.

5. Laying the foundation for true action

Diversity training needs to be part of a much larger equation to drive lasting organizational change. That said, it lays the foundation for true action to occur because of the factors mentioned above.

With an ability to build awareness around specific mindsets, define and standardize goals, and track those goals over time, diversity training plays a large part in the structure needed to build momentum and prove the success of your efforts to drive progress within your organization.

In many ways, diversity training makes change tangible. It shows that your organization desires progress from the top-down. It also demonstrates that your company is actually taking action, which, along with the training itself, can influence the collective mindset of your employees.

Overall, a more inclusive mindset is what sets the stage for true action, and true organizational change to occur.

Progress is Incremental

While diversity training is a helpful resource for organizations to build positive momentum around their diversity, equity, and inclusion standards, it’s important to acknowledge that progress is incremental. Diversity training is by no means an end-all solution.

With the right infrastructure in place, proper research, and sharp training, progress becomes attainable. Combine all of that with real action taken, and true, lasting organizational change becomes a reality.

Ready to turn your DEI strategy into action? Discover what it takes to get started with ChartHop’s DEI Reporting Guide.

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