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The definite guide for business leaders to choose a diversity training that works

Business leaders are under a lot of pressure to deliver strong business performance consistently, whether they lead a micro-company, a mid-sized organisation or a large enterprise. While most business leaders are very familiar with sales strategy, operations management and people operations, very few senior leadership teams know about diversity and inclusion or even diversity training. Considering the significant social changes that are reshaping our society, it is becoming inevitable for today’s business leaders to deal with diversity and inclusion as part of their roles as leaders and they need to prepare for it. The reality is that many leaders are unsure how to choose a diversity partner, or what a diversity training entails, or even why to do a diversity training in the first place. Many business leaders also fear saying the wrong thing, or being judged for asking the wrong questions regarding diversity training. Here is the definite guide for business leaders to choose the right diversity training for their organisation.

What is diversity training and why it matters?

Diversity training is an initiative taken by organisations to create awareness of diversity and inclusion and achieve greater team collaboration and engagement. It is often a part of the leadership development programs and focuses on levelling the playing field for all. Organisations and business leaders often misunderstand the real value of a diversity training that’s done right for their organisation. Diversity and inclusion training programmes that are done right promote business performance, productivity and growth, consistently.

A Boston Consulting Group research revealed that over a quarter of employees at large companies do not feel that their direct manager is committed to diversity and inclusion.

Many line managers have never received any training or have no awareness of diversity and inclusion, despite representing the wider group of role models for employees and having significant power to implement or ignore diversity.

Employees whose line managers are not committed to diversity and inclusion are twice as likely to feel excluded at work and nearly three times more likely to seek employment elsewhere, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Meanwhile, an increasing body or research consistently demonstrates that diverse and inclusive teams are more productive, generate more profits and more value. In 2018, McKinsey ran an analysis by drawing on a data set of more than 1,000 companies covering 12 countries. In that research, McKinsey found that companies with better gender diversity are 21% more likely to show financial returns above their respective national industry medians 27% more likely to have superior value creation; meanwhile, firms with better ethnic diversity were 33% more likely to financially outperform their respective industry medians. Likewise, companies in the fourth quartile on both gender and ethnic diversity are 29% more likely to underperform their industry peers on profitability. The 2018 McKinsey research also found that gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, is correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide.

Here are the most important questions business leaders should ask when choosing a diversity training for their organisation:

What business benefits does the diversity and inclusion training offer?

As a business leader, you should make sure that the diversity training offers real, tangible business benefits for your organisation. The diversity and inclusion training’s benefits should be clearly articulated by the diversity consultant and should include:

  • Better attract and retain top talent: by removing bias in hiring, giving feedback and promoting, the training should help attract more diverse candidates and create a more inclusive culture where diverse talents thrive, are promoted and feel engaged and valued

  • Promote a greater diversity of thoughts: a good diversity training should ultimately boost creative-thinking and innovation in your organisation because it will teach leaders how to attract and retain diverse talents who will see things in a variety of ways.

  • Better understand your customer base: by educating leaders on creating an inclusive work environment, a good diversity training should promote a better understanding of your diverse customer base, which will help you build better products and services that sell well, increasing your revenue, customer retention, customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score.

  • Increased employee engagement and productivity: by teaching how to mitigate unconscious bias and microaggressions, preventing biased language and discriminations, a good diversity training will make all employees feel more included and engaged, increasing the productivity of the organisation

  • Better decision-making: by teaching all leaders and employees how to effectively work together, a good diversity training will help you build teams that are better at solving difficult problems faster.

What systems are used to make the diversity training effective?

Diversity and inclusion training can be very effective when done the right way. Business leaders should ask their diversity and inclusion consultant questions about what specific systems are being used to maximise the effectiveness of the training.

  • The content should be action-oriented: The topics covered in the diversity training should include real, day-to-day workplace scenarios that all employees can relate to. The diversity training should provide many practical examples and exercises that every employee will immediately recognize and be able to use in their day-to-day work.

  • The audience of the diversity training should include the leadership team. The top leadership of the organisation, including the CEO, should attend the diversity training, in order to fully understand what it is, to buy-into it and to commit to be held accountable to proactively fight unconscious bias at the organisational level.

  • The diversity training should be part of a diversity strategy: the diversity training should be positioned as one of the initiatives that the organisation is undertaking to promote diversity and inclusion. The diversity consultant should work hand in hand with the business leaders to articulate to all employees why it is important and how it ties to real business outcomes and to the business mission. Unless the diversity consultant works closely with the business leaders and clearly articulates how the diversity training ties to real, business outcomes, it won’t be successful.

  • Evaluating the impact of the training: by measuring employee engagement before and after the diversity training, the diversity consultant and the organisation will ensure that the impact of the training goes beyond just the week of the training and is measured and assessed over a longer period of time.

  • Creating a diversity and inclusion taskforce: many organisations that have succeeded with diversity and inclusion, including fighting unconscious bias, have created a diversity and inclusion taskforce whose role is to constantly measure and evaluate the progress made in regards to diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias and who will speak up when no progress is made. There must be executive sponsors in this taskforce for it to be successful. A good diversity consultant should advise you to create your own diversity and inclusion taskforce during or after the training.

  • Following-up with goal setting exercise to drive behaviour: in order to translate positive intentions into measurable actions, the diversity consultant should work with you to set goals tied to monetary bonuses for the leadership team. These goals should hold leaders accountable and drive behaviour.

  • Making the training voluntary, not mandatory: the diversity consultant should advise you to make the diversity training voluntary because any mandatory training could backfire and have a counter-productive impact.

  • Making the diversity training repeatable: the diversity consultant should advise you to repeat the diversity training over time. I recommend every 3 months to keep the awareness top of mind and to ensure that the impact of the training is long-lasting.

  • Embed the diversity training as part of a larger approach to tackle unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion. For example, the diversity consultant might recommend that any employee who takes part in the hiring process reads some common bias behaviours before interviewing, setting diversity and inclusion goals for the leadership team tied to monetary bonuses, etc…

  • Striking a balance between limiting defensiveness about diversity training, while communicating the importance of diversity training. A common response to diversity training is defensiveness so it is critical that the diversity training is positioned in a way that limits defensiveness and articulates the benefits.

What industry events has the diversity consultant spoken at and what industry credentials can they share?

When choosing a diversity consultant to deliver the diversity training, business leaders should enquire about any industry recognition and credential. A good diversity consultant should be a frequent contributor to the industry and regularly educate the market on diversity best practices through public speaking, contributing articles, podcasts, videos and more. Ask the diversity consultant if they have been involved with any diversity awards, such as the diversity in tech awards, as part of the judging panel or by partnering with any sponsor. Ask the diversity consultant what industry event they speak at regularly, what publication they contribute to and what kind of content they share on diversity and inclusion to educate the market on diversity best practices. Diversity publications such as DiversityQ and Fair Play Talks should feature your diversity consultant. If your diversity partner is really committed to creating a more diverse, inclusive society, they should contribute to diversity education outside of just their clients. Ask your diversity consultant to share any diversity award, credential, recognition they have gained from the industry as part of their work as a diversity consultant.

What type of organisations have you provided diversity and inclusion training for? Will you share references and customer reviews?

Business leaders should ask their diversity consultant to share names of organisations they have helped and share references of work. A good diversity consultant should have helped organisations similar to yours with diversity training programmes, consultancy and diversity awareness. Ideally, they should share customer references of organisations similar to yours, from the same industry and of a similar size. Your diversity consultant should be able to make introductions with business leaders and HR professionals they have worked with so you can ask for references. You should also search for online reviews to check the reputation of your diversity consultant.

In summary

Choosing the right diversity training for your organisation can feel like a daunting task, especially for business leaders who might feel outside of their comfort zone. However, as social changes become more and more part of our society and business leaders are expected to take action to promote diversity and inclusion, senior leadership teams must educate themselves on diversity and inclusion. By asking simple questions to their diversity consultant, leaders can select the right partner to deliver the most effective diversity training for their organisation. Take the first step to promote diversity and inclusion in your organisation today by contacting us for a complimentary diversity consultation.

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