Doug Harris, CEO of The Kaleidoscope Group, discusses the biggest mistakes companies make in diversity training.

The Biggest Mistake Companies Make With Diversity Training

Many companies are struggling with diversity training efforts today, addressing the right – and wrong – practices for effective D&I training properly becomes crucial. Any company putting energy behind D&I training headed in the right direction – but they’re barely scratching the surface. Developing a diverse workforce is great – but recognizing the real reasons behind diversity training efforts is even better. Understanding the tangible benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace makes it easier to stay the course when things get tough. Approaching your diversity training with an open mind and dedication is important as well.

Diversity Training Done Right

The biggest mistake companies are making in regards to diversity and inclusion training is taking a strictly reactive approach. Companies are reacting to concerns or complaints – and with today’s climate, they’re focusing on reacting as quickly as possible. This is logical, even understandable, but according to our CEO Doug Harris, there are two errors in this approach. The first error is that of timing – taking a reactionary stance often leads to decisions that aren’t clearly explored, so they’re quickly delivered before a comprehensive understanding of issues, people, or priorities can be determined. A proactive approach works best for sustainable business impact because you can align D&I initiatives more closely to business impact – what are you trying to achieve where diversity training can make meaningful contributions. The second criteria for success is, as opposed to reacting quickly, companies should be reacting thoroughly. A knee-jerk reaction is rarely the best choice, especially in business.

D&I Training is a Process

A competent D&I program is not a single-day affair (often the stuff of a reactionary quick, we gotta do something tactical approach). Diversity training is not a workshop that you designed overnight either – it’s a learning process for both the company and its employees. Diversity and inclusion represent a lot more than just checking off the right boxes – it becomes a part of the culture of any successful company. This concept requires a dynamic approach that’s not set in stone. After undertaking diversity training initiatives, you’re going to be getting all kinds of feedback. Here’s what you should do with it:

  • Assess it.
  • Learn from it – use it to improve your diversity training program.
  • Analyze the feedback and look at what is underneath it. Are there hidden lessons?
  • Stay the course.

Some companies even cancel their diversity and inclusion initiatives after receiving complaints from uncomfortable or non-receptive participants. Unfortunately, they are making this decision to their detriment. It’s natural that some of your employees are going to be complaining. Rather than caving at the first sign of resistance, utilizing their feedback to improve the program and mentoring your employees encourages everyone to grow. See this resistance as a potentially teachable moment, exposing your employees to new concepts and ideas. As a result, this strengthens bonds between the team and helps them gain insight. It’s a big world out there. However, effectively implementing diversity training makes it much smaller and more understandable. Stay the course – the destination justifies the challenges you face during the journey.