October is Global Diversity Awareness Month, and this year the annual celebration holds new relevance. The spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has spurred HR leaders to consider how to strengthen workplace culture and improve opportunities for underrepresented individuals and groups.
Diversity training is one of the essential steps in raising awareness and increasing understanding of diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias and other topics that influence decisions and shape workplace culture. Aligning diversity training with an organization’s strategy, policies and programs to tackle these critical issues can serve to empower and engage employees to participate in the ongoing process. 4 tips for effective diversity training include:
1. Promoting cultural competency
Cultural competency and being sensitive to the differences and comfort levels of coworkers, customers, partners, vendors and others is increasingly important in a global business environment. Incorporating cultural competency in diversity training helps foster a healthy curiosity about unfamiliar cultures, and promotes understanding, appreciation and positive interactions between people from various backgrounds, cultures or belief systems.
2. Increasing awareness of unconscious bias
Incidents this year have brought the concept of unconscious bias to the forefront. Also known as implicit or hidden bias, unconscious bias occurs when individuals make snap judgments — whether they realize it or not — about people based on stereotypes or preconceived opinions. For example, assuming job candidates with disabilities won’t travel for business or believing individuals are better or worse in certain functions because of their race or ethnic background. These social stereotypes result, in part, from the brain’s need to store and categorize vast amounts of information. While unconscious bias can’t be eliminated entirely, training can raise awareness and provide ways to manage and minimize its influence so it doesn’t lead to unfair or discriminatory decisions and practices.
3. Inspiring respect and civility
Encouraging workplace respect and civility is another way to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment, especially during a global pandemic, calls for social and racial justice and a contentious political climate. Whether employees are working from home or back in the workplace, they should be mindful of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior and the effects of incivility on productivity, morale and individuals’ health and well-being. Including a respectful workplace policy in the organization’s code of conduct can also help prevent behaviors that lead to bullying, harassment and discrimination.
4. Encouraging a speak-up culture
The #MeToo movement brought attention to the importance of speaking up and reporting sexual harassment and other misconduct. A speak-up culture also applies to diversity and inclusion. One of the ways that leadership can show their support of underrepresented or marginalized groups is by encouraging employees to ask questions, raise concerns and report incidents of bias, racism and xenophobia. Equally importantly, employees should be reassured that their concerns and complaints will be taken seriously and they won’t face retaliation.
October is Global Diversity Awareness Month. In 2020, the annual celebration provides an opportunity for organizations to highlight what they are doing to address the challenges of diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s also an opportunity for HR leaders and senior management to take a fresh look at how training, policies, practices and other initiatives are working together to eliminate roadblocks to advancing DEI in meaningful ways.