A new study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior took a look at what the relationships are between diversity training, ethnic discrimination, and employee satisfaction in the workplace. It had some unexpected findings on how effective diversity training is within an organization. This new study is unique because it examines whether or not diversity training on the topic of ethnicity has an effect on racial discrimination in the workplace - something every organization hopes that diversity training would reduce.
It turns out that diversity training not only significantly reduced discrimination, but that it changed the framework employees have for understanding unpleasant incidents in the workplace. When someone is discriminated against, all they have to make sense of what has happened is to use context clues. If there's no organizational commitment to valuing diversity, it's easy for an employee to see systemic discrimination at work. Where diversity has been prioritized through training and messaging, employees are more likely to see the same kinds of incidents in a different context - interpersonal problems, personal job performance, etc. This results in greater job satisfaction, which means lower rates of turnover and the ability to retain skilled employees.
The power of diversity training to reduce discrimination is a big deal - and it has an impact on all employees. Previous studies on gender discrimination found that even employees who don't suffer being discriminated against are negatively affected by it happening around them. Training alone can't wipe out employees feeling or being discriminated against. It takes positive attitudes from management, follow-through to demonstrate that an organization really does value diversity, and attention to what the organization's needs are in furthering diversity efforts so that the work done can have the biggest impact.
Study citation - Eden B. King, Jeremy F. Dawson, David A. Kravitz, and Lisa M. V. Gulick (2012): A multilevel study of the relationships between diversity training, ethnic discrimination and satisfaction in organizations, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33, 5-20
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