Don’t force people to go to diversity training: Study

by L&D05 Jul 2016
The result of forcing managers to go to diversity training is that many of them end up resenting the groups they are educated to support, claims a new study.

The authors Frank Dobbin, a professor of sociology at Harvard Unviersity and Alexandra Kalev, a professor of social sciences at Tel Aviv University, wrote that “people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance”.

“Your organisation will become less diverse, not more,” they added.

The research is called “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” and is published in the Harvard Business Review.

It examined financial institutions where mandatory programs aimed at increasing diversity have not improved the amount of white women and black men in management.

In fact, five years after implementing the involuntary training, the proportion of minority managers either stayed the same or got worse (dropping by as much as 9% for black females).

It's important to highlight, however, that voluntary training produced the opposite result, with minority representation in management rising (at about 4% for black men).

The research also found that when training is not forced on workers, as many as 80% take part and the benefits are measurable.

Moreover, diversity training in general has shown to help staff become more culturally attuned when working with employees from different ethnic backgrounds.

Researchers from Ryerson University's Diversity Institute in Management and Technology analysed survey data collected from 2006-2007 from more than 11,000 managers, professionals and executives across Canada.

They found that those who perceived diversity training in their organisations to be beneficial reported career satisfaction and organisational commitment scores 7-14% higher than those working in organisations where diversity training is non-existent or ineffective.

"For companies to get the most 'bang for their buck' in offering diversity training, it's important that employees understand that the training is intended to help facilitate and enhance collaborative behaviours among today's diverse workforce," said Margaret Yap, the institute's director and an associate professor in the Ted Rogers School of Management.

Yap added that diversity training should be offered in combination with other inclusive talent management practices such as recruitment, rewards, development and advancement processes.

"If not, it's like trying to simultaneously go in two different directions. Incongruent policies create confusion in the workplace," she said.

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