If you've spent any time reading about cultural diversity or creating an inclusive workplace, you've likely run across that phrase more than once. Put simply, an unconscious (or implicit) bias is a prejudice or assumption that we might have towards an individual or group that occurs outside of our active intentions.
And while it's useful to consider how these underlying assumptions may be influencing our individual interactions, we thought it might also be useful to look at some underlying, false assumptions that we might have regarding diversity in general -- particularly relating to diversity training.
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If we're being honest, there is some truth to this claim. Workplace diversity training does provide additional legal coverage to your business, and it should be included in every compliance program. But if you let it end there, you're doing your business a disservice.
One of the core purposes of workplace diversity training is to help create an inclusive culture within your business -- where every worker, customer, and vendor feels welcome to participate.
True diversity offers your company access to a broader pool of employment candidates, new models of thinking and innovation, and a global customer base. And you won't have much success shifting the misconceptions and unconscious biases holding back your business and your workforce if your diversity efforts are limited to checking a box.
Ultimately, this myth is only as true as you want it to be.
Well, yes and no. Building off of the previous myth, there are compliance-focused elements regarding fair hiring and discrimination that your management staff and employees need to know, and every worker in your company -- from the top to the bottom -- should go through this training.
However, when trying to build an inclusive culture, research suggest that workplace diversity training is more effective when it's voluntary. A meta-analysis of three decades-worth of diversity research found that mandatory programs frequently result in decreased diversity in management teams and lower engagement.
“If you force someone to go to something, they don’t have to try to make their beliefs and actions line up,” explained one of the study's authors in a separate interview. “In fact, you can think, ‘I’m only here because they forced me to do this.'”
If you've participated in a diversity training program that's left you feeling guilty or made you think that every problem in the workplace is your fault (or the fault of some group you belong to), then you took a bad course.
A useful diversity program -- at least as far we believe -- is one that equips learners with tools and strategies to communicate with and understand people who are different than they are. It helps us identify and set aside underlying assumptions or misconceptions that we hold that could be undermining our efforts to reach customers, colleagues, and partners.
Blame -- whether direct or indirect -- should never enter the discussion.
Your "training" efforts shouldn't only occur in bundled, specifically defined sessions. Encourage department leaders to incorporate discussions of inclusivity and diversity into regular team meetings. Empower your managers and supervisors to mentor their direct reports on appropriate workplace behavior, offering guidance when workers fall short.
By extending the diversity conversation beyond a single training session, you can encourage a more inviting workplace for everyone.
If the extent of your workplace diversity program is annual training, you're wasting your time. Actively search for opportunities within your organization to promote inclusion and encourage diversity.
Broaden your recruiting pipeline to include previously overlooked candidate pools. And establish mentorship programs that match managers and seasoned staff with new hires, bridging age, gender, and race.
If possible, appoint a diversity manager whose role is focused on monitoring and enforcing corporate standards regarding diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. After all, it's hard to notice a problem if no one is looking out for it.
No two diversity programs will look the same, and developing the right strategy for your business can be a challenge. However, by making inclusion a priority for your company and by empowering your staff with the tools to embrace this vision, you'll be able to create a welcoming culture in no time.
To learn how we can help your business develop a healthy, inviting space, check out a demo of our diversity and inclusion courses today.
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