The majority of companies in the United States and abroad are diverse in terms of the workforce’s characteristics. On the one hand, this feature is often beneficial for companies because of opening new ways to decision making and problem-solving in the firm. On the other hand, a diverse workforce requires a specific approach to management. Also, the absence of diversity training can lead to more conflicts among employees than to improved decision making. In this context, it is important to refer to different approaches to setting training goals and organizing training sessions in companies. Although there are many approaches to diversity training in organizations, it is important to focus on such ways as the awareness-based approach, the guilt-inducing approach, and the legal and ethical approach because their purposes and outcomes are different, and the attention should be paid to identifying the most effective perspective.
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Approaches to Diversity Training
The majority of companies in the United States and abroad are diverse in terms of the workforce’s characteristics. On the one hand, this feature is often beneficial for companies because of opening new ways to decision making and problem-solving in the firm (Carr-Ruffino, 2012, p. 24). On the other hand, a diverse workforce requires a specific approach to management. Also, the absence of diversity training can lead to more conflicts among employees than to improved decision making (Harvey & Allard, 2015, p. 112). In this context, it is important to refer to different approaches to setting training goals and organizing training sessions in companies. Although there are many approaches to diversity training in organizations, it is important to focus on such ways as the awareness-based approach, the guilt-inducing approach, and the legal and ethical approach because their purposes and outcomes are different, and the attention should be paid to identifying the most effective perspective.
The rationale for Implementing Diversity Training Programs
Organizations with a diverse workforce need to implement different training programs to promote diversity. This approach is reasonable because employees often need the additional multicultural training to develop tolerance, to improve relations with co-workers, to understand different traditions and customs, to avoid conflicts, to promote cooperation, and to prevent biases (Bergen, 2013, p. 9). Moreover, while focusing on such problematic aspects as racism and discrimination at the workplace, Kowal, Franklin, and Paradies argue that “diversity training is one among a range of corrective interventions aimed at reducing racism on the individual, institutional and societal levels” (Kowal, Franklin, & Paradies, 2013, p. 316). Thus, implementing training programs, leaders can expect positive changes in the work atmosphere, the corporate culture, the staff’s ethical conduct, and attitudes of employees toward each other. Mcguire and Bagher also note that diversity training is important to contribute to the organization’s development because of the workforce diversity’s benefits (Mcguire & Bagher, 2010, p. 494). Moreover, diversity training in organizations is an important condition to speak about the competitive advantage in the industry and about focusing on globalization tendencies. From this point, when proposing diversity training programs, leaders work to increase the competitive advantage of their firms, while developing positive relationships in the organization and avoiding biases and discrimination.
Comparison of Different Approaches to Diversity Training
Scholars and managers identify many different approaches to diversity training in organizations that are based on various aspects that are discussed by researchers and practitioners as the main ones. It is possible to determine such traditional approaches as the awareness-based approach to training or valuing diversity; the training based on managing diversity in organizations; the guilt-inducing approach; the informative approach; the skill-oriented approach; and the legal and ethical approach (Nguyen, 2014, p. 16; Waight & Madera, 2011). Furthermore, Kalinoski and the group of researchers also determined the perspectives from which the diversity training in organizations can be viewed, and they focused on “a social categorization perspective and an information-processing/decision-making perspective” (Kalinoski, Steele-Johnson, Peyton, Leas, & Steinke, 2013, p. 1077). In this context, it is important to compare such three approaches as the awareness-based approach, the guilt-inducing approach, and the legal and ethical approach.
The awareness-based approach to diversity training is characterized by creating groups or pairs of employees for the training sessions. During the training, employees learn about diversity, its value, learn to become aware of their possible biases, learn how to cope with prejudice during interactions and cooperation, perform certain cognitive tasks, work to avoid barriers, and develop tolerance toward each other. This approach is important in multicultural corporations where diversity of the workforce is the characteristic feature, and the task of managers is to add value to the idea of diversity to promote cooperation (Kalinoski et al., 2013). The other approach is a guilt-inducing method when managers work to inform employees not only about the idea of diversity but also about negative outcomes of demonstrating biases at the workplace. As a result of this approach, employees become more attentive to the needs of minorities and immigrants (Nguyen, 2014). However, despite leading to results that are similar to the outcomes of the first approach, this method of diversity training is rather controversial and challenging, and it can have adverse effects on the organization (Kowal et al., 2013, p. 316). The third approach is a legal and ethical one. This approach differs from the previous ones because trainers aim to not only point at the ethical aspects of working in the diverse environment but also to inform employees about the illegal character of discrimination, about the necessity of fair recruitment and promotion, and the organizational responsibilities and liabilities regarding the diverse workforce. In this case, the third approach is most effective for training managers of different levels rather than all employees.
The Most Effective Approach to Diversity Training
To understand what approach to diversity training in an organization can be effective, it is necessary to refer to the criteria of successful training programs and discuss possible weaknesses of ineffective diversity training approaches. In his article, Nguyen cites the results of the recent research in the field according to which ineffective diversity training programs lack such qualities as the focus on the regular assessment of diverse employees’ needs in the organization as well as the evaluation of the implemented program’s effectiveness (Nguyen, 2014, p. 15). Referring to these aspects, it is possible to state that the program will be effective if it is based on the results of the previously conducted assessment and its impact on the corporate climate and atmosphere is constantly monitored. However, this criterion is only one aspect to understand the effectiveness of diversity training, and it is important to pay more attention to identifying the most effective approach.
The awareness-based training that depends on valuing diversity and cognitive tasks can be discussed as an appropriate variant to be successfully implemented in organizations with a diverse workforce. The reason is that to avoid personal biases and to reduce the number of conflicts in organizations, managers must promote training programs, the main task of which is to “create awareness of bias” and to change the employees’ attitudes to each other through a series of cognitive tasks and group work (Nguyen, 2014, p. 16). The research indicates that to cope with biases and to orient to cooperation with representatives of different groups and cultures, employees need to be trained in accepting the fact that they can be biased and focus on avoiding prejudice during their daily working activities (Nguyen, 2014, p. 16). While selecting the approach to diversity training, it is important to focus on its particular goal that is “to inform participants about the positive effects of diversity, to positively change attitudes, and to help participants know how to deal with diversity issues at their work” (Waight & Madera, 2011, p. 366). Even though such approach as the management of diversity can also be used to “inform participants about the positive effects of diversity”, it is important to state that according to Waight and Madera (2011), only the awareness-based training in valuing diversity can guarantee the highest results in this situation. Also, the effectiveness of the awareness-based approach to training in valuing diversity is supported with references to such two theories as to the social identity theory and the attraction-similarity theory (Waight & Madera, 2011, p. 366-367). According to these theories, employees need to become aware of their similarities and differences while interacting and discuss them from the positive point of view, while focusing on the features they can share while working.
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Development of Diversity Training in the Future
Although the approaches to diversity training reflect the basic trends in corporate diversity management, it is possible to expect that diversity training can become more team-oriented in the future. The first point to support this idea is that the main tendency in corporate training is teamwork. Focusing on the notion of diversity and content of the training programs to help employees become aware of this aspect, it is possible to state that the number of tasks, exercises, and activities involving teams in training will increase (Bergen, 2013, p. 10; Kowal et al., 2013). The reason is that it is important to demonstrate that representatives of different social and cultural groups can contribute significantly to the organization’s progress while focusing on interactions, cooperation, decision-making, and project work. Furthermore, referring to identified weaknesses in diversity training programs, it is necessary to state that managers will pay more attention to assessing the needs of diverse groups and results of programs to improve the used approaches and techniques (Waight & Madera, 2011, p. 367). If the awareness-based approach is rather popular today, more managers refer to combining it with the skill-based approach. Thus, it is also possible to expect additional changes in diversity training purposes to address shifts in management perspectives.
The variety of approaches to diversity training can be discussed as evidence to state that different effective methods can be used to improve the diversity management in the organization. However, the problem is in the fact that not all approaches can be discussed as equally effective to help managers make the workforce productive and improve their performance while facilitating their communication after the training. The question of diversity needs to be actively addressed in organizations, therefore, much attention should be paid to the choice of the approach to diversity training that can lead to the most positive outcomes. In this context, the awareness-based approach can be discussed as the most effective because it helps the trainer and manager develop strategies appropriate to avoid personal biases in employees. Becoming aware of diversity and its aspects and values, employees focus more on fairness, accountability, equity, and support while developing relations with representatives of different social and racial groups.
Bergen, V. (2013). Misconstrued tolerance: Issues for multicultural and diversity training. Development and Learning in Organizations, 27(2), 9-12.
Carr-Ruffino, N. (2012). Managing diversity (9th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Pearson Learning Solutions.
Harvey, C. P., & Allard, M. J. (2015). Understanding and managing diversity: Readings, cases and exercises (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kalinoski, Z., Steele-Johnson, D., Peyton, E., Leas, K., & Steinke, J. (2013). A meta-analytic evaluation of diversity training outcomes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(8), 1076-1104.
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