Diversity training can be defined as any program designed to facilitate positive intergroup interaction, reduce prejudice and discrimination, and generally teach individuals who are different from others how to work together effectively. Diversity training is instruction aimed at helping participants to gain cultural awareness in order to benefit the organization or company. Diversity training is the reality that is facing many human resource management teams, one of the pressing reasons is the growing ethnic and racial diversity in the work place. Diversity training is not only effective in terms of improving overall attitudes toward diversity, effects are far more valuable when it comes to attitudes toward specific stigmatized groups. They want this training done so that hopeful individuals who are different from one another will be able to work in harmony together. Trainers use diversity training as a means to meet many objectives, such as attracting and retaining customers and productive workers; maintaining high employee morale; and/or fostering understanding and harmony between workers.
Diversity training has been a controversial issue, raising questions about moral considerations and counter-productivity. Observers characterize diversity training in very different ways. Its proponents consider it morally right, because it respects diversity, recognizing the value and contributions of every human being. They also view it as economically sound, because it enables organizations to draw on multiplicities of talents and strengths. According to Hans Bader, its opponents consider it an oppressive, ideology reeducation tactic that actually reduces the ability of organizations to attain their goals. It has been suggested that diversity training reinforces differences between individuals instead of fostering their commonalities, thus helping to further racialize the workplace, creating situations where people "tiptoe" around issues such as how to relate to people of different cultures as opposed to people learning to communicate with and truly understand each other. Programs which established specific responsibility for diversity, such as equal opportunity staff positions or diversity task forces, have proven most effective in general. However, the results also indicate that White females benefit significantly more from diversity training. The benefits for African American females and males were appreciably lower than European American females. Networking and mentoring, which were considered bias mitigating approaches, served African American females the most. African American males were the least likely to benefit from any of the methods. One problem with current approaches stems from the attitudes and processes used to implement diversity programs. Therefore, we advocate for a realignment of the way managers currently think about and conduct diversity training. This change requires an attitudinal shift away from a "managing diversity" intendance toward a strategy of "managing for diversity." Even though controversy can lead to a negative outcome and an unfair advantage, controversy can actually be used as a cooperative learning style. Many people are only used to seeing life through their own lens, however if the individual takes the heated controversy and tries to see it from the other perspective, they are more understanding and empathic than before. When there is conflict it needs to be well managed to make sure the individuals understand themselves and others more. This also allows for better conflict management.
Diversity training can be beneficial to an organizations' cohesiveness and adaptability, by allowing groups to work effectively. The success of organizations may depend solely on the ability to embrace the difference among its individuals. According to Josh Greenberg, the ability of an organization to assess their workplace diversity issues and implement plans accordingly results in several reported benefits. Benefits such as increased versatility, more effective execution, and a variety of viewpoints are associated with diversity training within organizations. Qualities such as these allows for varied means to problem solving and higher productivity from employees.
Taking part in diversity training, and working among a diverse staff benefits businesses. As organizations and communities are becoming more globalized, there is a need for an expansion in relation to communication among individuals from all over the world, operating within a diverse environment. Scholars believe it is beneficial for companies to train a diverse staff, as a reflection of the market in which you wish to serve. According to Jalai Armache, in a heterogeneous workplace environment filled with people knowledgeable of those with different backgrounds and nationalities, there is ability to easily expand an organization. There is an ability to create inventive solutions to issues being faced in the world market. According to Kim Abreu, there are five key benefits of diversity in today's workplace. One of these benefits is increased creativity, which bases from the belief that teams including workers from different experiences and backgrounds are able to produce creative solutions to problem solving. Additionally, benefits of workplace diversity also include drives in innovation. According to an innovation study done by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall and Laura Sherbin, a term called "two-dimensional diversity" was coined, referring to individuals with inherent diversity traits and acquired ones. From this study, it was found that correlating diversity in leadership, organizations with two-dimensional diversity were able to out-innovate others. Another benefit identified is easier recruitment. When talent is vital, and companies are not hiring someone to fit an ideal image, there is a greater chance for recruiting the best people in the labor market. Following along with the same idea, avoiding high turnover is another benefit to the workplace. Supporting diversity in the workplace creates cohesiveness among employees, who feel they are more invested in the company. Lastly, Abreu identifies diversity as a way to capture more of the market. Teaching diversity training, and having a diverse staff allows for you to market to a range of racial and ethnic groups, and individuals that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Activists, educators, and public speakers have become a vital part of diversity training seminars. Some have become known specifically for their effective methods and their commitment in social issues. Conferences often get owners of companies, human resources specialists, managers, and others involved with worker's rights to speak at these events because of their experience working with a diverse group of people. The most well-known speakers and activists include:
- Jane Elliott: Known for being the founder of diversity training. She has conducted training for big companies including Exxon, AT&T, General Electric, and US Postal Service. Elliot's model and thinking for communicating culture and gender differences has become an important feature for companies especially in the past thirty years due to an increasing number of minorities working for organizations.
- Peggy McIntosh, PhD: Activist and founder of National S.E.E.D. Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) which is the largest peer led project in the United States. It specifically serves those in the field of education in which they can discuss personal experiences they've encountered regarding gender and race and how it can improve in the school system.
- Tim Wise: Speaker, activist, and author that travels across the nation to speak at college campuses regarding dismantling racism.
Numerous types of diversity training conferences exist currently throughout the world. They have become an essential tool that a company now seeks for their employees. While most trainings are the same, some differ based on the type of sector and work the company does. Businesses look into diversity within the workplace but also within consumers while educators use diversity training as a way to learn adequate communication among students and parents. Most training is done through companies that specialize in the matter and certify those who conduct the conference. Examples of some of the biggest conferences include:
- A Dream Deferred: A College Board seminar that focuses on the future of African American education
- National Conference on Diversity, Race & Learning: An annual conference that takes place at Ohio State University known for its focus on issues of acceptance, diversity, cultural inclusion within universities and workplaces
- International Diversity Conference: Recently took place in Isle of Man which was the midway point for the UK and Ireland. Focuses in decision making for businesses and communities to "ensuring fairness and full social inclusion".
- Texas Diversity and Leadership Conference: Known for having various speakers addressing a wide variety of issues that allow for growth within a company and individuals.
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