As protests against racism continue across the country following the death of George Floyd, organizations have an opportunity to show leadership in preventing discrimination and bias and creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
While every organization is different, diversity and inclusion initiatives such as diversity councils, diversity training and ongoing education are among the steps that HR leaders can take to raise awareness of the benefits of inclusive thinking and the effects of unconscious bias in interactions and decisions. Together, these steps can:
Amplify senior leadership’s commitment
Getting commitment from the CEO and involving every level of management is essential for diversity and inclusion programs to succeed. In a 2018 column for USA Today, Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, encouraged organizations to “push for real diversity at all levels, including the C-suite and boardroom,” and “expect leaders to be role models, setting the expectations for a culture that values everyone and treats everyone with respect.” Diversity training offers leadership a flexible platform for reinforcing their organization’s values and expectations for inclusive behavior and encouraging ongoing conversations at every level about unconscious bias, cultural sensitivity and discrimination.
Raise awareness of unconscious or implicit bias
Unconscious bias or implicit bias − hidden attitudes based on social stereotypes which everyone has − is another concept that is part of the current conversation on race, discrimination and diversity. The Michigan Senate has just unanimously approved a bill that would require police officers to go through implicit bias and de-escalation training. And last year, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for an afternoon to train staff on unconscious bias and racial discrimination following the arrest of two African-American men waiting in one of its Philadelphia stores. The key is to help employees become more aware of their unconscious biases and other barriers to diversity and inclusion, and provide ways to manage these biases and minimize their influence.
Promote cultural competency
Another goal of diversity initiatives is to raise awareness of the benefits of collaborating with people of different cultures, races, genders, ethnicities, beliefs, experiences and ideas. Educating employees on cultural competency − the ability to interact effectively with people of different backgrounds and cultures – is becoming more prevalent. The Tulsa Police Department now includes cultural competency in its recruitment training. The cultural competency program, which includes implicit bias training, is intended to help officers better communicate with different cultures and more effectively resolve conflicts.
Encourage workplace sensitivity
By encouraging employees to be aware of the differences and comfort levels of others — and how attitudes and behaviors may cause offense unintentionally — employees can develop skills that foster better teamwork and decision-making. And, importantly, being sensitive and aware of one’s behavior towards others can also help prevent discrimination and harassment.
During these unsettling times, organizations have an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to creating a respectful, inclusive workplace. As part of ongoing initiatives to improve workplace culture, diversity training can play a meaningful role in helping organizations foster a sense of belonging, and effectively address diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias and discrimination.