In today’s multigenerational, multicultural workplace, promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) contributes to an organization’s success and helps foster a more respectful, harassment-free culture. The concepts of D&I are closely linked, however, they aren’t the same and the difference is important. Diversity training can help employees gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of both diversity and inclusive-thinking and how to apply D&I principles in their interactions with co-workers, customers, colleagues and business partners.
SHRM defines diversity as “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that includes, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors.” Inclusion is “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” There’s also the bumper sticker version: “Diversity is being invited to the party, while inclusion is being asked to dance.”
How can diversity training help prevent sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct? Consider these four reasons:
- Reduces the risk of workplace harassment
Harassment is more likely to occur in workplaces that lack diversity, according to the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. In its report, the task force said that “sexual harassment of women is more likely to occur in workplaces that have primarily male employees, and racial/ethnic harassment is more likely to occur where one race or ethnicity is predominant.” Further, employees with different backgrounds than the majority can feel isolated and be vulnerable to pressure from others, while workers in the majority might feel threatened by those they perceive as ‘different’ or ‘other’.”
- Helps employees and managers recognize and manage biases
Decisions based on stereotypes and snap judgments can lead to discrimination claims when they involve who to recruit, hire, promote and work with. Training can help employees recognize their unconscious or implicit biases, gain a deeper understanding of how they can influence decisions, and develop inclusive practices in the way they think and act.
- Fosters cultural competency
The ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with people of different backgrounds and cultures — a concept known as cultural competency — is increasingly important in the 21st century business environment. By promoting cultural competency, D&I training can encourage individuals to be more open to diverse groups of people. This, in turn, can help minimize inappropriate behaviors that can lead to incidents of harassment and discrimination.
Cultural competency is relevant across industries and sectors. The National Lacrosse League in the US and Canada recently announced that its D&I program will require players, coaches and staff to take cultural competency training as part of its efforts to recognize and honor indigenous people.
- Promotes sensitivity, respect and civility
Along with cultural competency, diversity training also helps develop workplace civility, respect and sensitivity — all of which can result in more productive interactions and fewer incidents of rude or bullying behavior, which can cross the line into harassment, if left unchecked. By encouraging employees to be aware of the differences and comfort levels of others, and showing how attitudes and behaviors may unintentionally cause offense, employees can learn to be more respectful and avoid insensitive words and actions.
As part of a holistic approach to preventing workplace harassment, D&I training provides organizations with new opportunities to reinforce shared values, promote positive behaviors and inclusive thinking, and raise awareness of unconscious biases and how to overcome them when making business decisions. Diversity training also is a way to communicate to employees that their ideas, perspectives and experiences matter, and that when they speak up about harassment and discrimination, they will be heard.