What is Diversity Training all about?

By Teresa Oakley-Smith

Diversity training appears to be one of the most misunderstood areas of the change management process and transformation. If effectively implemented it has a significant role to play in combating prejudice in the workplace and in promoting productivity and profitability. Diversity management is essentially a bottom line issue. Teams that relate well tend to be retained and are more productive than their monocultural counterparts. Conflict management is also more easily facilitated in diverse teams if they are routinely are well managed.

Diversity training should be approached as a process and undertaken in stages with much work happening in between to ensure sustainability and monitoring the effectiveness of the training should be routine as in all change management initiatives. Usually Diversi-T follows the process outlined below.

Even if companies call us for help, we like to begin with a diagnostic or diversity survey. Organisational diagnostics or diversity surveys form a solid platform for effective diversity training. Diversity training programmes cannot be conceptualised and implemented as a “one size fits all” and depending on the sector and the specific company different needs will be identified in the culture or employment equity survey. These may be to do with race and gender but more and more these days we see generation and religion emerging as important diversity issues.

The initial workshops are usually focused around creating an awareness of the value of diversity in companies. Diversity needs to be explained in all its facets, and critically employees need to learn through participation with each other. Diversity training should be an experiential process, where employees have a chance to interact with each other and begin to build same status contact.

The initial “Awareness Creation” needs to be followed with workshops designed to impart important competencies in Managing Diversity in the workplace. These workshops target managers specifically and we advise that diversity competencies be incorporated in the performance management at these levels. Effective managing of diversity should be recognised and rewarded in performance assessment in the same way that other management skills are rewarded.

The company or institution should consider incorporating managing diversity in its skills development planning so that accredited training can be appropriately reimbursed.

Companies should take internal responsibility for sustaining diversity initiatives and to this end Diversi-T often develops and trains teams of internal champions. The internal champions have the task of sustaining the transformation or change management initiative within their organisation or institution.

If you are thinking of embarking on a diversity journey as part of your change management strategy or employment equity plan, we would like to hear from you. We have twenty years of experience in the field of diversity training and are the thought leaders in all aspects of transformation and diversity management in the workplace.