A group of diversity professional recent debated the snail pace that diversity programs moves in creating changes in organizational culture. While a few applauded accomplishments made to date, a slight majority felt that the drive for inclusion was going too slow and focusing on the wrong things.
This latter is precisely what I have been pointing out to anyone that listens. Organizations need to stop reinventing the “business case for diversity” and start doing more than creating diversity hugging ads.
We know attitudes is a barrier. That argument was made ages ago and it dismayed me that a few diversity conferences to which I attended last year were still talking about it and celebrated a ‘groundbreaking’ white paper that covered the same ground as many documents that preceeded it. This fixation on the discovery phase of diversity only serves those who wish to do nothing.
In my view, INACTION – not attitude – is the big barrier.
Mandatory diversity training is a good thing in my book. It increases awareness and knowledge of the human-cultural tapestry.
However, I don’t support simply marching people through training sessions on topics that they already have in-depth experience and/or applying programs that speak only to the lowest common denominator. This gives diversity training the type of reputation that makes employees eyes roll with frustration at having to sit through “another boring meeting“.
To be effective in the delivery of training, organizations working to create welcoming environment must develop a training scheme that addresses diversity at the experience level of their employees and the provide the right tools for the roles that exist in the company hierarchy. This was the approach that I used while lead the Diversity Outreach and Intake Program as CIBC.
Working with the Employment Equity Department and the CIBC Knowledge Network, we created a diversity awareness scheme that addressed the roles that existed in the bank and the type of information someone in those roles would need to know in order to become a diversity promoter. Next, we surveyed employees to get a better understanding of the knowledge that already existed in the company. After this was done, a diversity communication plan was created and implemented.
While this took a bit more work, I believe that the outcomes (e.g., engaging training sessions, growing support for inclusion, and a truly equitable workforce) were worth the effort.