If you’ve been tasked with starting a diversity training program for your company, you’re making the right move. Besides, making each and every one of your employees feel empowered and accepted at your company, it has business incentives as well. According to McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Matters report, companies in the top quarter for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15 percent and those in the top quarter for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 35 percent. So a diversity training program can unite your company leading to a healthier bottom line.
It’s important to gain buy-in from the entire company on your new training. Even if your company has given you the green light to start this training, not everyone within your organization may understand why the training is needed. This is especially true if everything seems to be running smoothly. But besides the benefits we’ve mentioned, there are other factors for initiating this training. Listing these benefits will help everyone within your company understand why a diversity training program is a must.
Why organizations need a diversity training program
Attract and retain employees
Employees want more out of their companies these days. Besides a paycheck, they want culture. And even if you are a small company, you can offer these employees a great working environment. If you provide a collaborative and welcoming company, you will attract key candidates. A diversity training program is key to creating this and also retaining these valuable team members long-term.
Positive team collaboration
When you spend eight-plus hours a day at work, you want to enjoy your co-workers. And you also want team members who bounce ideas off each other and help when one team member is stuck on a task. One way to foster team collaboration is with diversity training. This will help everyone understand each other better and fosters more open communication.
This goes hand and hand with number two. The better your employees interact and bond with each other, the stronger the teams become. And the more teams communicate, the more productive the company becomes.
Better customer relationships
It’s no secret that business is becoming more global. And with the Internet, your company reach is farther. So businesses these days are attracting a wider range of customers from different backgrounds. In order to retain and gain new customers, you must understand your customers better. A diversity training program will not only help internally but externally with these customers.
More creative solutions
No matter what industry you are in and what competitors you may have, you want to stay ahead of this competition. This includes thinking creatively and coming up with new products or services. Diversity training can help team members better brainstorm with each other. And when they collaborate, different opinions can bring about the most innovative solutions.
Less legal and human resources issues
You may think your employees and managers are well versed in how to treat one another, but this is not always the case. There are several cases of discrimination every year by employees. A strong diversity training program can educate your employees on how to correctly interact with each other.
Best practices for a diversity training program rollout
Once you gain buy-in from your organization and employees, it’s time to initiate your diversity training program. But in order to ensure the success of your program, you need to follow some best practices.
1. Integrate into company training platform
If you are using a learning management system, you want to make sure your diversity training program is rolled into it. If you’re using something like a company Intranet or relying on emails to get the training done, consider moving all training to a learning management system. Having all your training in one centralized LMS will make it easier to assign, track, and assess whether employees have taken the diversity training you have set up. Plus, it will make it easier to discuss this topic within other training tracks like customer service or sales for example.
2. Vary training methods
Not every employee learns the same way. So you want to vary the types of training you use. For example, you can use classroom lectures, online discussions, mentoring, and group exercises to ensure employees retain what’s being taught.
3. Company-wide initiative
Your diversity training program should not be geared to just one sector of your employees. Everyone in your organization from C-suite managers to customer service employees to support staff can benefit from this training. It will strengthen both internal and external relationships for your company.
What is the best process?
Once you are ready to create your diversity training program, there are some key steps that will help you get started.
The best place to begin is with your employees. You want to do an internal census to determine the demographic makeup of your company. This includes race, gender, religious affiliation, disability, sexual orientation, age, and nationality. Plus, look at “non-government protected classes” like education level, years of experience, family status, and languages spoken.
To collect these details, you should refer to EEO data collected for compliance obligations. However, other data that falls outside these lines will need to be collected from employees voluntarily.
Gain employee feedback
Once your internal census is complete, note gaps in demographics like age, sex, and ethnicity. Next, turn to your employees to gain additional feedback. Develop a questionnaire to find out these demographics from your employees. Remember to stress this is optional and confidential. And, that this is being done in an effort to roll out an effective diversity training program creating a more cohesive workplace.
Besides questions you initiate, ask open-ended questions. For example…
Is management balanced demographically?
Does the company do a good job of hiring a diverse workforce?
Do you feel accepted for who you are by your team?
What can our company do better in terms of diversity?
Next, you’ll want to appoint a diversity task force. This is made up of team members from each department. This group will put together goals for the new diversity training program to be rolled out. These should be measurable and address any issues raised during the employee feedback.
Develop training plan
Once you’re armed with facts, opinions and clearly defined goals, it’s time to develop your training. As we mentioned before it’s important to vary your training. You want to use different methods and approaches. This will keep your employees more engaged.
Before you open up your diversity training program to all employees, start with your managers. This training should be how to lead by example. It should also include exercises for team cohesiveness and how to handle diversity issues if they arise.
You may associate executive coaching with your managers, but really coaching can be a great training tool when it comes to diversity training for all employees. Every team member has a different personality and because of this interacts uniquely from other employees. This can lead to friction and problems with “gelling” as a group. A coach can pinpoint each employee’s personality and offer suggestions on how to interact better with those around them, By a coach pointing this out, it showcases everyone’s unique personalities and then teaches how best to interact as a team.
Gamification is a great tactic for diversity training because it’s a fun way to learn. Some employees look at diversity training as a formality and therefore do not take it seriously. But when you incorporate gaming, you can have different team members work together to solve a problem. Instead of a lecture about diversity, training becomes a tactic to bring employees together.
Microlearning is training broken up into smaller sections. Why some diversity training programs fail is due to employees’ feeling lectured. And when they feel spoken to like this, they don’t pay attention and certainly do not take what was learned and apply it. Instead, microlearning breaks up this training. This keeps employees focused, engaged and leads to better retention.
If you employ freelancers, global workers or employees who travel frequently, you’ll want diversity training that is mobile-friendly. Employees who can easily log onto a learning management system and take the needed training from their phone will make training convenient. Plus, if employees are given the freedom as to when to take their training, they will be more receptive to the training and more focused on what’s being taught.
Role-playing can be a great learning exercise when it comes to teaches diversity. Employees are given real-life problems and then are told to act out the solutions. It’s one thing to be taught what is appropriate and what is not, but it’s different when employees see it in action. A moderator can suggest better ways for dealing with these situations and employees can see first-hand how to react.
Peer to peer learning
No one likes to feel lectured and some employees view diversity training as a lecture on how to act. A better way to deliver diversity training is a roundtable discussion of employees and a moderator. The moderator can ask questions and elicit responses. This creates an open dialogue where employees can give each other feedback and advice. It’s also a chance to bring up questions or real-life problems employees have had and how best to address these in the future.
Evaluate your training
After your diversity training program has been up and running, make sure you survey both managers and employees to see how it’s going. If you use a learning management system, you can easily pull reports to help with this analysis. It’s important to note if managers notice any needed improvements and employees seem engaged during the training.
Additional diversity training tools
If you find out your diversity training program still needs some improvements, there are some tools that may help. Here are some ways to strengthen your training.
1. Hire a diversity officer
Whether you are a small business with limited resources or a large corporation focused on multiple tasks, managing a diversity training program takes time. One of the reasons diversity training programs fall flat is due to managing it. So it may be beneficial to hire a diversity officer This person is trained in diversity so they can oversee and evaluate your current program. He or she can then recommend how to further improve it. Although this does require an added salary, this is less expensive than facing lawsuits from diversity issues.
2. Hold a diversity retreat
Business retreats are great ways for employees to connect with each other on personal levels. When you remove everyone from the office, work takes a back seat and training can take place informally, This retreat can take place at a restaurant, hotel or even on a ropes course. No matter where you host your retreat, it should include some time for socializing and some time for training. Some topics to include should be ways to communicate effectively, self-awareness and problem-solving. Make sure either a human resource office or your diversity officer is in attendance to facilitate the event.
Another diversity training tool is volunteering. Charity and giving back should be part of your organization’s central values anyways.. But to further strengthen this mission, have employees complete volunteering hours as a team. It’s a great informal way to bond and by choosing an organization that champions diversity, it further creates awareness of people from different backgrounds.
A strong diversity training program will help strengthen your company and bring more cohesion to each team within your organization. It’s also important in attracting new employees. According to Glassdoor, 67 percent of active and passive job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. So if you want to attract and retain the best talent, it’s time to build a strong diversity training program.
With the right tools, techniques, and plan in place, you can create a welcoming environment that all employees are proud to call “their company.”