Harvard University Professor Frank Dobbin published a controversial article in 2016 – Why Diversity Programs Fail – that boldly concluded diversity training generally doesn’t work.
This article shook the confidence of many in the diversity and inclusion profession. Even worse, it came just before an era, when the world needs awareness and inclusion more than ever.
But the good news is, buried in the research – and in other articles like it – is a simple formula on how to make diversity training work.
The Key to Effective Diversity Training: Daily Practice
Dobbin’s research concludes it’s unrealistic to believe an annual two-hour training session – on its own – will improve behavior. It’s more effective for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, as part of an everyday practice.
Effective diversity training must be part of related efforts, emphasizing anti-bias training throughout the year, wrote Katerina Bezrukova. She’s co-author of a diversity training study in Psychological Bulletin, and an associate professor at the University of Buffalo’s School of Management.
Shane Green, author of Culture Hacker, concludes: “Like all training, bias and diversity training cannot be a once-a-year event that ticks the box for corporate compliance. For training to be effective, the message must be reinforced regularly.”
How: Put Diversity on Your Calendar
Perhaps the best way to make awareness and inclusion part of your daily workplace, is to leverage a calendar. This can be done by getting a diversity calendar – electronic or print – or by adding some key events to your company Outlook.
Here are some ways to use a calendar to instill awareness & inclusion:
1. Monthly Themes – there are dozens of monthly diversity heritage themes throughout the year. These include Black History Month, Women’s History Month, LGBT Pride Month and more. These provide great opportunities to shout out to these diversity groups.
2. Religious Events – most people identify with some religion. Many religious holidays affect the workplace, and require respectful time off from work. These include Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist holidays. In the United States, Christianity is by far the most widely-practiced religion, so be sure to not take Christian holidays for granted.
3. Notable Birthdays – our nation celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. But what about living diversity pioneers, such as Barack Obama (first Black president), Hillary Clinton (first female major-party nominee for US President) Tim Cook (first openly-LGBTQ+ Fortune 500 CEO), Roberto Goizueta (first Hispanic Fortune 500 CEO), etc.
To make diversity and inclusion real, use these calendar events as opportunities for learning about inclusion. If it’s LGBT Pride Month, for example, provide tips on do’s and dont’s with LGBT co-workers and customers.
Students do best when they learn a little bit every day, rather than cramming the night before exams. It’s the same, with how to make diversity training effective and work. A steady stream is the best way to instill awareness and inclusion, avoid the high cost of discrimination and harassment, and profit from our vibrantly diverse society.
What about you? How do you instill awareness and inclusion – on a daily basis?