Training employees on diversity, equity and inclusion is top of mind for HR professionals pursuing strategies and actions to address racism and create more inclusive workplaces.
According to a new report by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), over half (52%) of the 1,275 HR professionals surveyed in June, 2020 are providing or plan to provide new training on implicit/unconscious bias, equity, inclusion or other diversity-related topics. And 49% have already added or plan to add training on these topics to existing educational initiatives.
Along with new or expanded diversity training programs, SHRM reports that 25% of organizations are putting together new policies and systems to reduce systemic and structural bias; another 30% have or plan to modify or expand existing policies and systems. And some organizations are demonstrating their commitment through financial investments. Nearly 15% of organizations have added or plan to add to existing funding for initiatives supporting the Black community and racial justice.
Some other findings from the study that examined race and inequality in the workplace:
- Almost half of HR professionals say incivility (rude comments or slights) based on race exists in their workplace.
- More than 1/3 of HR professionals say their organization is not doing enough to promote racial justice in the world.
- 60% of HR professionals believe organizations have a responsibility to take a stance on important social/societal issues and to communicate that position.
- 67% of organizations have not solicited their workers’ thoughts about racial injustice and the related protests.
- 21% of HR professionals say racial discrimination exists in their places of work.
- 38% of both Black and White American workers claim they don’t feel comfortable engaging in candid conversations about race at work.
How can diversity training help?
First, training should be part of a multifaceted approach to improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In tandem with other communication and educational efforts, training can help employees understand and reflect upon complex topics such as race and racial bias, and participate in honest conversations about creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
Topics diversity training should cover include:
Racism and racial identity
The topic of racism is a difficult and uncomfortable one, requiring leadership’s support to create an environment in which individuals can learn about and reflect on the impact of racism, social identity and class on the workplace and society. Training is one of the tools organization’s can use to increase employee understanding of the different forms of racism and inequity and equip them with constructive ways to respond.
Whether positive or negative, everyone has biases — unconscious, implicit or explicit — it’s how the human brain operates. Unconscious biases are attitudes and social stereotypes that people have but aren’t consciously aware of. If not recognized and managed, unconscious bias can lead to discrimination and other behaviors that harm individuals and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Training can help employees gain a deeper understanding of unconscious bias and how to address and counter it when interacting with different groups and making workplace decisions.
One of the results of unconscious bias is microaggressions, which have been compared to death by a thousand cuts. These everyday slights and insults, often unintentional, communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to members of marginalized groups. As a result, people who regularly experience microaggressions may feel judged, excluded, disrespected, vulnerable and unsafe. Increasing awareness through training and ongoing discussions can help stop microaggressions and prevent their harmful effect on individuals and organizations.
Allyship and bystander intervention
Active bystanders and workplace allies can be a positive influence on diversity and inclusion. By being vocal and visible in their support of people of color, and others who may face discrimination, allies and bystanders can intervene and stop non-inclusive behavior and microaggressions. Along with defusing potentially harmful situations, allies and bystanders foster a feeling of belonging and acceptance — key concepts in creating a positive, inclusive workplace culture.
Workplace respect and civility
Workplace respect, civility and sensitivity are other topics that help create a positive work environment for everyone. Whether employees are working from home or back in the office, the ability to communicate with respect and civility and consider how others may be experiencing the world is an important step in expanding the notion of diversity and building inclusive workplaces.
Recent SHRM survey data highlights the role of diversity training in the journey to address racism and improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. Starting with onboarding new hires, regular training, communication and education can help employees, at all levels, learn about these complicated topics and participate in positive conversations and actions.