You may have heard the adage that training is a process and not an event. As you build a diversity training program, you must go beyond basic ‘sensitivity training’ and a problem-oriented approach, and aim for a deeper level of organizational change. In the best diversity training programs, raising awareness, although important, is not the ultimate goal. It’s the beginning of a process to build understanding, cultural competency and the skills to prepare employees and managers at all levels to understand and own their role in attaining the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals.
Effective diversity training programs are aligned with business strategies. They improve relationships within the company and with customers. They don’t just address problems such as discrimination and sexual harassment, and they provide knowledge and develop skills that lead to business opportunities and optimized talent.
Whether you’re just beginning to create a company-wide diversity training program, or you’re working to strengthen an existing initiative, keeping the following points in mind will help ensure that you transcend sensitivity training:
Training is a process. One class does not make a diversity training program. As with leadership development learning, managing diversity is a journey that includes a long term commitment to
building your knowledge and developing and applying skills and abilities, such as intercultural communications, self awareness and managing differences. To bring about real change, you need a robust program covering a broad spectrum of topics, and tailored to your company’s objectives. Your suite of courses might cover topics such as defining diversity, the business case for your organization, managing different generations, and how to attract and retain a diverse customer base.
Integrate diversity training. In addition to offering standalone D&I classes, diversity concepts should be integrated into other corporate training programs. For example, it’s important to include cultural awareness content in behavioral interviewing courses for managers. Some people are reserved about taking credit for individual achievements because of their cultural background or personality; managers need to be aware of how cultural values and norms can impact communication as they assess job candidates. Diversity concepts and scenarios are also particularly relevant to courses related to sales and customer service.
Go for a hybrid long-term approach. The most effective diversity training programs include a hybrid or blended approach—combining instruction, led in a traditional classroom setting, with the use of the latest technology; making presentations through “webinars” or developing interactive, self-paced online training programs. Include everyone. Employees and managers at all levels should complete a stand-alone class emphasizing what diversity means to the organization and how it relates to business strategy.
Training should also stress that all employees—not just management— are responsible for creating an inclusive environment and enhancing service to customers. Choose trainers carefully—and train them well. Many organizations use internal trainers, employees, and/or managers to deliver diversity training. It’s crucial to create and use criteria that ensures the trainer will have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities, along with a reputation for working well with people of all backgrounds, and the ability to create an environment in which employees can speak candidly without fear of retaliation. Trainers need to be more than simply passionate about the work of diversity and inclusion to train others and deliver the message. Passion is one prerequisite, but a selected list of knowledge, skills and abilities should also be applied.
These steps are all part of making a commitment to create a comprehensive diversity training program that not only addresses business risk, but also uncovers business opportunities. Effective diversity training is crucial to success in today’s multicultural marketplace. At its best, it can help create a positive environment in which people from all walks of life work as a team—with everyone focused on doing their best and doing what’s best for the company.
Tisa Jackson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Union Bank, N.A., has more than 13 years of experience in this field, as well as strategic human resources management, community development and organizational development. She is founder of the Professional & Technical Diversity Network (PTDN) of Greater Los Angeles, a diversity consortium comprised of companies committed to diversity and inclusion. Union Bank, N.A., is a full-service commercial bank providing an array of financial services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. The bank has 337 banking offices in California, Oregon, Washington and Texas and two international offices. Union Bank is a proud member of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG, NYSE:MTU), one of the world’s largest financial organizations. Visit www.unionbank.com for more information.