illustration of diversity training

According to Glassdoor, 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse. Yet, SHRM found that 41% of managers say they are “too busy” to implement diversity training initiatives. 

The truth is that many workplaces are becoming more diverse. At the same time, many organizations aren’t prepared for this increase in diversity, and aren’t taking proactive steps to foster and celebrate diversity in the workplace.

Diversity and inclusion: are they just buzzwords?

The words diversity and inclusion have become pretty popular buzzwords recently. Many organizations are trying to tap into this trend by implementing diversity and inclusion workshops and hiring employees specifically dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion within the organization. But what exactly do these words mean?

Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.

Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive workplace promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members.

In the workplace, diversity is the “being”- the array of differences that exist between us, whereas inclusion is the “doing”- the actions that we take to recognize and celebrate these differences.

Diversity makes teams stronger

illustration of diverse team

As the workplace becomes more diverse, it is crucial that we’re not simply reacting to these changes, but proactively preparing for a more diverse workforce. Diversity and inclusion are really about setting all members up for success in the workplace. This is done by structuring workflows and processes in your organization to enhance and encourage diverse points of view and perspectives.

Fostering diversity is important because diverse teams perform better. When people work with others who are different from them, they challenge their brains to overcome stale ways of thinking and sharpen their performance. Furthermore, diverse teams have four distinct advantages over individuals or homogenous teams when it comes to making decisions. 

In decision making, diverse teams:

  • Bring a broader perspective to bear on the problem.
  • Identify more choices with which to solve problems.
  • Reduce bias.
  • Increase accountability.

Diverse teams are also more likely to consistently reexamine facts and remain objective by encouraging greater scrutiny of each member’s actions and contributions, keeping their joint cognitive resources sharp and vigilant.

If your organization is interested in learning more about how Verb can help train your employees in diversity in the workplace, schedule a demo below!

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Dual ROI: Return on investment AND impact

illustration of rainbow arrow

Fostering diversity is important because it has a positive impact on both an organization, and on society at large. It leads people to challenge their beliefs, consider new perspectives, and ultimately be more creative and more compassionate towards others. When people are not only exposed to a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, but also feel comfortable bringing their own unique backgrounds and perspectives to the table, there’s a notable positive social impact. 

The positive social impact that comes from investing time, resources, and effort into fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace is the most important thing. But the truth of the matter is that doing so also often leads to a return on investment. In fact, increased social impact often goes hand in hand with increased success of the company. 

Put simply: fostering diversity and inclusion makes good business sense. 

Don’t believe us? Let the numbers speak for themselves.

  • McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Matters report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • The same report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 
  • Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue.
  • Research from Josh Bersin found that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.

Why diversity workshops fail

In theory, diversity workshops are a great idea. They’re meant to help people who are different from each other work effectively together. They aim to reduce prejudice and increase respect and understanding. They also aim to serve compliance needs and create a productive, positive, work culture.

In practice, however, diversity workshops can, at best, be relatively ineffective, and, at worst, be a complete disaster – think the “Diversity Day” episode of The Office. Believe it or not, Michael Scott is not a paragon of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

In fact, analyses in recent years show that many formal diversity and inclusion trainings backfire and result in more resistance to inclusive hiring and practices.

Some common pitfalls of these trainings are that—when poorly executed—they may:

  • Focus on the legal implications of diversity issues.
  • Present the information as a remedial measure or “punishment” after an incident or legal problem arose at the company.
  • Alienate people on the cultural margins of the company. This could include making an example of someone or shaming people who hold certain views.
  • Focus on blaming or shaming, rather than shifting the company culture and fostering communication.
  • Skim the surface of diversity issues, but fail to bring clarification or new understanding.
  • Don’t teach people to learn to talk about diversity and inclusion in a more open way.
  • Don’t have buy-in from management and leadership. 

Poorly-designed trainings have been shown to have the following negative outcomes:

  • Divisions can be highlighted and intensified. Women, people of color, and other minority groups come to see their colleagues as more biased than they did before the training.
  • Often, white men feel angry and defensive for being framed as “the problem.”
  • Once people are taught that everyone is biased, they sometimes feel freer to embrace their own biases without feeling obligated to manage or change their biased reactions.
  • Managers, increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable after a bad training, actually hire less diverse candidates.

Diversity: from the top down

illustration of pyramid symbolizing diversity

There is hope for diversity and inclusion trainings. The key is to create a shared sense of purpose in being more aware of our hidden biases. If people understand that we all have subtle, unconscious biases, then the issues around diversity and inclusion become less taboo and less focused on shame and blame. 

But offering ad hoc workshops is not a sufficient way to build an organizational culture that truly fosters and celebrates diversity and inclusion. It’s not as simple as filling a quota or checking off boxes. It’s not a one-and-done initiative or a responsibility that can be pushed on to others.  An inclusive environment is everyone’s responsibility—it doesn’t just organically happen and isn’t the sole job of leadership or a handful of people in your office. For an organization to embody inclusivity, it takes commitment at all levels. 

First, it must start from the top. It’s critical that the leadership team embraces a holistic approach to continuously supporting representation, cultural competency, honest and respectful dialogue, and inclusion measures.  Team leaders and executives should understand the importance of having these uncomfortable conversations. Then, they need the skills or support to facilitate those conversations. And going forward, leaders can hold each other and their teams accountable for upholding their objectives around diversity.

Next, all employees must be consistently included in diversity and inclusion efforts. Employees should be regularly exposed to information and exercises that focus on two areas:

  • Awareness training, which makes employees aware of their unconscious biases and assumptions about others, and
  • Skills-based training, which helps employees develop proficiency in applying their awareness to real-life work scenarios.

3 steps you can take to make diversity training a priority now

  1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Historically, it has been a bit taboo or uncommon to discuss issues related to diversity in the workplace. Many people may be afraid to broach that territory for fear of coming across as uneducated or insensitive. But in order for any real change to occur, people need to be willing to open up and discuss difficult topics. Leadership should set the example so employees know that it is safe and encouraged to discuss topics and ask questions surrounding diversity.
  2. Provide ample opportunities for employees to connect with one another. Holding company-wide meetings may not be the best way for everyone to engage in diversity and inclusion efforts. There should be several different types of opportunities for employees to connect with other employees on these topics. 
    • For example, there can be employee resource groups (ERGs), which are voluntary, employee-led groups that organize based on common interests such as gender, race, or ethnicity. 
    • It’s also beneficial to set up mentorship programs that allow employees to connect one on one with other employees. Employees can connect with mentors that are similar to them to support one another in the workplace, and/or mentors that are different from them in order to be exposed to new perspectives.
  3. Make learning and development around diversity and inclusion accessible and consistent. As mentioned, these efforts should not be ad-hoc or a one-and-done deal. Fostering diversity and inclusion should be built into the fabric of workplace culture, and that means giving employees ways to engage with these topics continuously. Provide employees with the tools and resources that they need to learn about diversity on a regular basis, and give them opportunities to put what they’ve learned into practice.

Recipe for impact: bite-sized, continuous learning

Here at Verb, we know that when an organization is dedicated to fostering and celebrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the whole team thrives. That’s why we are dedicated to helping organizations truly incorporate diversity and inclusion into the organizational culture. We offer an online platform for adult learners with bite-sized content that enforces retention and makes learning a habit. Our collection on inclusion and diversity helps employees learn practical strategies and techniques for building a lasting culture of inclusion. 

Want to learn more about how Verb can help you make diversity and inclusion part of the fabric of your company culture? Schedule a demo today.

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