So you need diversity training? That’s great, but consider this. How will diversity and inclusion training impact your organization, if you do not have the systems in place to make diversity and inclusion work?
Recently, there has been an increase in companies gravitating towards diversity training, in an effort to make their organisations more inclusive, but is this really the way forward? On the surface, it may seem like a good use of an organization’s time and resources, particularly in recent times, when there has been a huge increase in the discourse around diversity and inclusion, particularly around race.
Training is necessary, and useful, but hold on. Is training what you need and do you need it right now? How will training benefit organizational systems and functions, and has that deep work been started? The answer can be instructive in terms of leadership knowledge around diversity and inclusion, and how to develop it.
Many in leadership are leaning towards accessing diversity training, in an effort to align themselves with calls for, and to show empathy towards, the discriminatory environments, borne of racism, that Black and Brown employees suffer within the workplace. Are they clear the ways that training supports the inclusion agenda and how it should be deployed?
Companies are seeking to ‘do the right thing’ by accessing diversity training, which they believe will support employees to become anti-racist and comply with their newly constructed, or reviewed, diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives.
Leadership has been forced to confront the gaps within knowledge and practice around diversity and inclusion. For decades, organizations have taken to delivering training to ‘tick a box’ diversity, but little has been done to implement actionable elements of systemic nature, that would serve to remove discriminatory practice.
Training, in the absence of real efforts to support a holistic agenda for demonstrable systemic change, will not bring about efficacy, within the diversity and inclusion agenda. It will remain a tick box exercise that does not have the ability to advance practice and embed real equity and inclusion.
With the changing agenda around the strategic and systemic elements of diversity and inclusion, particularly with regards to race, there has been a uplift in considerations as to how organizations can make training work internally, whilst having an external focus, for example, in regards to recruitment, and corporate social responsibility.
Training is not necessarily the first step to developing an inclusive organisation. Developing a strategy to support inclusion is. Once this is in place, with defined outcomes to support the inclusive agenda, training can commence.
Too many organisations view diversity and inclusion training as the answer to their problems. It is not, and will not suddenly rid organisations of systems that perpetuate discriminatory treatment.
Effective diversity training helps management and employees to understand, and add value to systemic changes, which are put in place to bring about authentic inclusion. Organizational leaders and change managers should be mindful of this, before commissioning training.
Do not think that training will suddenly promote diversity and increase inclusive outcomes for the business. It will not. Diversity training will support an organisation to increase knowledge and increase the required behaviours that will positively impact a well designed program of change. It should be a knowledge building and practice enhancing piece.
What is the point of deploying training around diversity and inclusion, if leadership, managers and employees, after undertaking it, are no wiser as to how it impacts their duties. Many diversity training exercises leave employees feeling that it was interesting and engaging, but asked how they can implement their learning, become hesitant with answers.
Before rushing into training, it is wise for leaders to consider the changes that they need to implement, and then commission training in those areas, at specific points of the change agenda. Doing otherwise, means an organization runs the risk of engaging in activity that adds very little value to the diversity and inclusion agenda.
Diversity and inclusion training is nothing new. The results of diversity training has, to be truthful, done little in real terms, to advance the experience of Black and Brown people within the workplace. This is because it has been done in isolation and without the focus of organizational change.
In an age where systemic change is the focus of progressive organizations and employees who suffer the ills borne of discriminatory practice , it is important to remember that the cause, and effects of institutional racism is a matter of systemic and operational design and governance.
Systems and processes must be overhauled in order to support inclusive practice and develop equitable environments, and all employees should then receive training in the use of new systemic processes to support diversity and inclusion. How can the benefits of training be calculated, if the systems within which discrimination is perpetuated, remain the same?
Diversity will never become a part of an organizations DNA, unless it is invested within the systems and functions of value, process and objectives. Rather than use catchy slogans about diversity, leadership should aim to input the means of embedding inclusion into the systems and platforms upon which the business sits. It is then that training, can be delivered to provide both knowledge, and instruction, for their employees to follow.
General training, such as introductory courses on diversity and inclusion are useful, but will not replace training that enables employees to enable actions that will support systemic avenues, to increase diversity and advance inclusive practice.
As well as providing knowledge and improving practice around diversity and inclusion, system based diversity training will also enable leadership and employees to better understand the ways in which equity is built into operational practice and improves organizational governance and operational practice.
More importantly, it supports employees to become action orientated in regards to systemic change. This should be the key relationship between any diversity and inclusion training and organizational activity to develop inclusively.
Learning and development and leadership teams should understand not only how they want training to benefit employees, but also how they seek to improve systemic avenues and processes for authentic inclusion. The effective deployment of equity and inclusion training will produce noticeable results for an organizational brand, if these considerations are noted, and actioned.
Training for efficacy is a must and in these times, when brands are increasingly scrutinised for lack of diversity and systemic racism, organizations are challenged to raise the bar in their efforts to develop inclusive environments, that monitor and measure data around diversity and inclusion.
Monitoring and evaluating the value add of diversity training, is important. For years, organizations have commissioned diversity training, in the belief that it would get rid of a diversity and inclusion problem, or help them recruit more inclusively. Training, in and of itself, will not allow you to achieve those objectives, if it is done in isolation of a systemic review.
Meaningful diversity and inclusion training will be visible in practice and behaviours, that enable diversity and inclusion to flourish, governed by a leadership led program of systemic change to remove imbalances.
It is ill advised to gravitate to training as the elixir for issues around inequitable practice. Training, aligned to an overall development strategy of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound ) objectives, will support leaders to reduce inequalities.
Deploying training in the right way, and at the right time, will support organisations to thrive around the diversity and inclusion agenda. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that training will produce results, in isolation of deep work around systems and functions, to embed authentic and systemic processes for inclusion. Enact a program of systemic change, and then promote training, as an aid to implement the change, through knowledge and skills development.
Wholesale training activity, that it not targeted to smart objectives and aligned to a holistic organizational development plan, are unlikely to achieve best in class, impactful results. Don’t tick box it. Do it right, to get it right.
By: Carmen Morris
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