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DIVERSITY TRAINING


Although organizations are using a broad range of initiatives in their efforts to value and manage diversity, training is one of the most widely used strategies (Tomervik, 1995). The definition for diversity training varies from organization to organization, and many times the way the organization defines diversity training is heavily influenced by the way the concept of diversity is understood in the organization (Wheeler, 1994). According to Wheeler, from the broad corporate perspective, diversity training is defined as raising personal awareness about individual differences in the workplace and how those differences inhibit or enhance the way people work together and get work done. In the narrowest sense, it is education about compliance--Affirmative Action (AA), Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), and sexual harassment (p. 10).

Training is often the first exposure many employees get to diversity issues (Wheeler, 1994). Training can be critical to whether an organization will be able to effectively and successfully achieve its diversity goals. Diversity training is frequently referred to as training and education to raise awareness about individual differences and the changes in the workforce and to create the behavior changes that are required to effectively manage and work within a more diverse workforce (Hanover, 1993; Wheeler, 1994). Wheeler conducted a comprehensive study on diversity training and found out that as an increased number of companies accept the concepts of diversity, many are implementing diversity training as a key to and even a primary piece of their diversity initiative. Similarly, Hopkins, Sterkel-Powell, and Hopkins (1994) conducted a study on the preparedness of organizations to manage a diverse workforce. They surveyed 90 companies and found that "training is the key to minimize any disruptions which may be associated with significant increases in workforce diversity" (p. 435).

Many studies show that companies are providing diversity training. A 1991 survey conducted by New York City-based Towers Perrin found that 75% of the companies plan to or currently have diversity training programs in place. Just a year earlier, only 47% of the organizations surveyed expressed an interest in diversity. In 1992, Training magazine's annual Industry Report found that 40% of U.S. organizations with 100 plus employees sponsored some kind of diversity training (Rossett & Bickham, 1994). In 1996, this went up to 47% ("Vital Statistics: 1995 Industry Report," 1996).

A survey conducted by Winterle (1992) found that 63% of the 406 responding companies had diversity training for managers, and 39% provided diversity training for employees. When they were asked about future plans to offer diversity training, those numbers rose to 79% for managers and 65% for employees. Morrison (1992) also encountered similar findings that indicated that 65% of major U.S. firms conduct diversity training. In a survey conducted by Harris and Moran (1991), they found that almost two-thirds of the 406 companies participating conducted diversity training for managers. Almost 40% conduct diversity training for all employees. In addition, most indicated that they have future plans to train managers (80%) or their entire workforces (65%).

A survey of factors affecting the adoption and perceived success of diversity training (Rynes & Rosen, 1995) found that the majority of the training programs last a day or less and consume less than 10% of the total training budget. They found mixed perceptions on the success of their training programs. The majority of the respondents evaluate participants' reactions but very few conduct long-term evaluations. It was also found that diversity training success is associated with diverse management teams, high priority for diversity issues, top management commitment and support, presence of a diversity manager, mandatory managerial attendance, and long-term evaluations. This study only studied the perceptions of human resource managers and not employees.

In a comprehensive study conducted by Johnson (1995) on the status of valuing and managing diversity in Fortune 500 manufacturing and service organizations, she found that the majority of organizations in both sectors either already had a diversity effort or were in the planning stages (72% in the service sector and 80% in the manufacturing sector). When study participants were asked which development efforts were used to support their organization's diversity efforts, more than 80% reported cultural diversity awareness training (84%), training for managing diversity (83%), and training for valuing diversity (81%) as the most extensively used by their organizations.

Employees in many private companies are also required or encouraged to participate in diversity training. For example, Federal Express strongly recommends that all of their 5,500 managers attend a four-and-a-half-day diversity training program, and Pacific Gas & Electric Company requires a minimum of four hours of diversity training for all of their employees (Rossett & Bickham, 1994).

Many authors believe that evaluation should be conducted as part of an effective diversity training program (Carnevale & Stone, 1995; Cox, 1993; Lublin, 1995; Rynes & Rosen, 1995; Tomervik, 1995). Evaluation provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the diversity training that the organization has provided.

Benefits of Diversity Training

If conducted properly, diversity training can bring many effective benefits to the organization and its employees. Simons (1992) noted many possible areas in which substantial gains can be accomplished. These areas can be categorized into three groups. First, the managerial level may get many benefits when there has been effective diversity training in the organization. Managers become more effective because they can provide suitable job assignments and at the same time they can evaluate employees properly. In addition, diversity training can help managers improve recruitment and promotion policies. Managers' jobs are made easier because absenteeism decreases and cooperation increases. Employees may also become more active participants and, therefore, become more efficient and effective work team members. Consequently, through diverse work teams, management gets more new ideas for innovation.

Second, employees also gain benefits. As their motivation and morale increases, employees become more satisfied with their work. They can also have access to better mentoring and coaching. In addition, they are more committed to their professional growth because performance becomes the criterion for success.

Finally, the organization and its environment improve. The workforce becomes more loyal to the organization because employees develop a sense of ownership. At the same time, communication is improved because more information is shared. In addition, the organization is able to save in training costs since greater retention reduces training expenses. The organization's profit will then increase because diversity improves client relations and intensifies customer loyalty due to less conflict. This, in turn, may lead to a decrease in law suits and the environment in general should become safer for workers. In addition to these benefits, Loden and Rosener (1991) have identified that organizations that value diversity will have a competitive advantage at home and abroad. They will be in a better position to cope with change.

In a 1991 survey, Towers Perrin found a growing concern for the diversity issues originally raised in the landmark Hudson Institute study, Workforce 2000. More than half (61%) of the corporate respondents to the Towers Perrin survey acknowledged that workforce programs were implemented in large part because senior management believed that such programs would enhance the organization's competitive position. Similarly, in a 1992 survey of 131 leading organizations in human resource practices, 42% of executives surveyed agreed that learning to capitalize on diversity will increase productivity and competitiveness (Winterle, 1992). The motivation for diversity training is intertwined with the overarching, long-term goals of addressing diversity issues that impact business success. The primary motives for offering diversity training were based upon business needs and the perception that it is a competitive issue (Wheeler, 1994). Diversity initiatives seem to have gained importance and many executives see a connection between diversity management and the bottom line.

Other factors influencing decisions to support workforce-related programs include the need to attract and retain a skilled workforce, the effects of workforce trends on the company, similar actions being taken by each organization's competitors, employee demands, retention and turnover problems, and government mandates or social pressure (Carnevale & Stone, 1994, p. 34). The Society for Human Resource Management and the Commerce Clearing House (SHRM/CCH) (1993) survey, which questioned human resource professionals about a range of diversity-related issues, found that more than 50% of human resource professionals think diversity programs are "socially desirable," and almost 41% believe they would lose some of their best employees if they did not have diversity programs. Diversity training can also help create an environment where all employees perceive that they are valued and can contribute to their full potential.

Types of Diversity Training

There are many kinds of diversity training programs; however, the literature shows that diversity training is often grouped into three types of training and/or phases: (1) awareness-based, (2) skill-based, and (3) integration into other types of training (Carnevale & Stone, 1994; Cox, 1991; Wheeler, 1994). The three different approaches may overlap and can reinforce each other, but are not necessary sequential. All three types of training are described in more detail in this section.

Awareness-Based Diversity Training

Awareness-based programs are among the most popular programs related to diversity training (Carnevale & Stone, 1995; Johnson, 1995; Tomervik, 1994; Wheeler, 1994). Awareness-based diversity training aims at heightening awareness of diversity issues and revealing workers' unexamined assumptions and tendencies to stereotype. Awareness-based training is designed to increase employee knowledge and sensitivity to diversity issues. The major objectives of awareness-based training are to provide information about diversity, heighten awareness and sensitivity through uncovering hidden assumptions and biases, assess attitudes and values, correct myths and stereotypes, and foster individual and group sharing (Carnevale & Stone, 1994, p. 30).

Awareness-based training is designed to promote feelings of unity, tolerance, and acceptance within the existing organizational culture and structure (Martin, 1995). Winterle (1992) stated that awareness-based training frequently includes skills to begin behavior change and centers on creating an understanding of the need for, and meaning of managing and valuing diversity. It is meant to expand participants' self-awareness of diversity-related issues such as stereotyping and crosscultural insensitivity.

Awareness-based diversity training programs differ in emphases. Many training programs of this type attempt to familiarize participants with the demographic trends of the workforce, create an understanding of the benefits of a diverse workforce, reinforce the business impact of diversity, increase awareness of the barriers faced by employees, and demonstrate the organization's commitment to the diversity issue (Hanover, 1993). Some focus on heightening awareness by providing substantive information about the cultures of the various identity groups in the U.S. workplace. Others are process-oriented, aiming at uncovering participants' unconscious cultural assumptions and biases. In addition, many programs focus on creating attitude change around workforce diversity or specific groups of employees. This can take the form of bias-reduction training, which encourages participants to identify and modify negative attitudes toward people from different backgrounds. This often involves surfacing stereotypes of different groups and recognizing prejudice that might typically remain at the subconscious level (Deutsch, 1991; Petrini, 1989). Simons (1992) explained that training programs can help the organizations to become aware of, respect, and value the diversity that exists around it. This type of program involves "awareness of cultural groups (including one's own), their values, behavioral tendencies and lifestyles" (p. 85).

However, awareness-based training in and by itself may not be enough. Awareness is not enough to change behavior; there is a need to develop skills as well: "Usually some blend of awareness training and skills training is desirable so employees can convert understanding into action" (Simons, 1992, p. 80). Awareness-based training is far too "squishy," psychological, and unmeasurable (Geber, 1990). It seeks to heighten awareness, but it does not provide skills to enable participants to act more effectively. Many companies are finding that without skills training in how to deal with cultural differences, employees may be at a loss as to what to do with their new understanding. This is where skill-based diversity training comes in.

Skill-Based Diversity Training

Skill-based diversity training goes beyond consciousness-raising; it provides workers with a set of skills to enable them to deal effectively with workplace diversity. It focuses directly on changing job performance. Programs that have this focus emphasize specific actions that contribute to effectively managing diversity (Hanover, 1993). Skill-based diversity training has three important objectives: (1) building new diversity-interaction skills, (2) reinforcing existing skills, and (3) inventorying skill-building methodologies (Carnevale & Stone, 1994, p. 31).

Skill-based diversity training is in most cases either addressed as a second phase or integrated into other skill-based programs that provide more specific information on cultural norms of different groups and how they may affect work behavior. In addition, it educates employees on specific cultural differences and how to respond to differences in the workplace. This type of training encourages mutual learning, acceptance, and improved understanding between different cultural groups in the organization (Cox & Blake, 1991). Skill-based training provides tools to promote effective interaction in a heterogeneous work setting. The skill-based training may be directed to managers, supervisors, or other types of employees. For example, typical skills taught to employees may include coaching, empowering, giving feedback to diverse individuals, interviewing, mentoring, delegating, and conflict resolution (Carnevale & Stone, 1994; Wheeler, 1994). Simons (1992) noted that skills training requires people to understand the context, content, and use of the skills they learn. Simons also suggested that trainees must have sufficient hands-on practice to be able to utilize and develop the new skills. In effective skills training, trainees learn how to learn. Henderson (1994a) classified skills training into "technical training" specifically designed for managers and supervisors to develop technical and administrative skills. Its learning process is, therefore, mainly cognitive. This type of training is trainer-subject oriented and has as its principal goal to improve job efficiency.

Integrated-Based Diversity Training

Some companies mainstream their diversity learning objectives into existing training programs. Integration takes place when diversity concepts are implemented into training programs that already exist within the organization such as management development, team building, and leadership training programs (Wheeler, 1994). This requires working with all appropriate groups to make sure the diversity context is integrated into the different programs that the company offers, whether it is sales and service, orientation programs for new recruits, supervisory and management development, or product development (Wheeler, 1994).

Conducting Needs Assessments

Assessment is a tool for diagnosing organizational conditions (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1993). According to Leach et al. (1995), "This is the inquiry phase of the diversity initiative, a period of time devoted to asking questions, investigating and seeking information" (p. 25). It is the way of discovering what is the level of awareness, knowledge, and skills trainees have so that the teaching/learning resources and methodology used in the training program are the appropriate ones. Rynes and Rosen (1995) concluded that needs assessment is "one particular useful step toward enhancing the success of diversity training" (p. 268). This process is very important because ethically, training should not be conducted before understanding the issues employees face.

Diversity experts differ as to the specific diversity training required for effective management of diversity. Ideally, companies should conduct a needs assessment to identify the particular diversity needs within the content of their organizational goals. This is particularly important since diversity needs are going to vary greatly among companies. For example, a company in northern Illinois is going to have very different needs than a company in Miami, Tucson, or Los Angeles. This is due to the workforce makeup. Every organization has a culture all its own, shaped by the people who founded it and staff it (Simons, 1992). Therefore, a critical challenge of diversity training is to understand the organization's needs and to develop objectives which meet those needs.

Wheeler (1994) points out, "Once the organization's diversity needs have been identified, objectives can be set, a strategy put in place, and measures of how well those objectives have been met can be determined" (p. 14). In addition to helping state objectives, needs assessment is a useful tool in prioritizing the dimensions of diversity that are important for the organization to address. This process allows management to target and develop action plans to address diversity issues particularly salient and important not only for the organization, but also to the employees (Sessa, Jackson, & Rapini, 1995).

The process of identifying what the organization's unique needs are and what the cultural climate is are critical steps before developing and implementing training. Thiederman (1991) noted that before spending any money, energy, or time on providing diversity training, it is essential that some of those resources are put into determining the kind of training the organization needs. The needs assessment step is extremely important because it gives the organization the opportunity to carefully assess what type of training is most appropriate for their managers and employees. If organizations do not conduct needs assessment, training may focus on an issue that is not a real problem in the organization (Caudron, 1993), resulting in a waste of resources without achieving changes in behavior.

Despite the importance of conducting needs assessment, many organizations have ignored this process in the development of diversity training. Rynes and Rosen (1995) observed that needs assessment is an area of diversity that has been very much neglected. The common mistake organizations make is to assume what the needs are. Most diversity training seem to have been designed around implicit assumptions rather than explicit demonstration.

Conducting a needs assessment is not always a simple task. The organization must be understood in many dimensions. Moreover, diversity issues are subjective and difficult to measure. Sessa et al. (1995) grouped these issues into two categories: (1) current practices and policies, and (2) current workforce demographics. They advise that before launching any diversity program, it is essential to investigate the organization's current practices and policies. In addition, people in charge of developing diversity training must learn about the nature of diversity in the organization's workforce and how it impacts attitudes and behaviors (p. 270). Even when the diversity needs assessment is difficult to carry out--because it is time and resources consuming--it is possible to do it. Thiederman (1991) gives the following suggestions to make the task of conducting a needs assessment easier:

Simons (1992) pointed out that diversity assessment is critical for the future of organizations and their workforce. He identified nine goals or purposes of diversity assessment:

  1. To make clear the importance of, and set priorities for diversity awareness as well as knowledge and skills training at every level of the organization.
  2. To help managers as well as internal and external consultants to identify specifically what diversity interventions might be required for the further development of the organization and its personnel.
  3. To estimate the size of diversity factors in the organization and their impact on performance.
  4. To provide information which will help in the design or acquisition of appropriate diversity programs.
  5. To provide an organization with insights into what further assessment might be needed to address the opportunities and challenges created by diversity. To provide rough instruments which could be refined and customized for the organization's specific needs.
  6. To provide an assessment of an individual's proficiency and ability to use the competencies appropriate to their function, level, and responsibilities in the organization. Inversely, this tool can be used to suggest the skills needed for a given organizational role.
  7. To assess how successful the organization has been at transcultural thinking and behavior.
  8. To assist the organization and its leadership to develop a diversity direction, maintain it, and allocate resources to actualize it.
  9. To accelerate desirable individual and organizational change through feedback. (pp. 3-4)

Morrison (1992) provided guidelines for organizations to discover their diversity issues. To find relevant information, it is necessary that managers as well as employees be directly involved in the internal investigation. It is important to keep in mind that one of the advantages of needs assessment is to generate commitment through input (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1993). When employees are directly involved, they are more likely to get involved in the solutions (p. 164). Early involvement from different groups and individuals in the needs assessment data collection process tends to gain more support from throughout the organization for the diversity training strategy.

The needs assessment phase or "inquiry phase" should start with a well-designed plan (Leach et al., 1995). Leaders of the diversity efforts should carefully plan the entire organizational assessment. They should "outline a specific plan of action, including timetables and roles and responsibilities to be assigned" (p. 24). In the planning of the needs assessment process, the leaders of the diversity initiative have to determine which approach(es) to use, how to develop data-gathering guides, when to conduct it, how to select participants, how to involve the participants, and how to communicate with them. In other words, the process of needs assessment requires clear communication; involvement strategies; and much time, dedication, and effort.

A study conducted by Wheeler (1994) on diversity management found that most participants used a variety of methods and tools to gather needs assessment information. Some assessments are developed in-house, while others are provided by external consultants. Approaches or methods to determine the needs of an organization vary greatly and may include interviews, focus groups, surveys, document reviews, observations, site visits or walk-throughs, benchmarking, and cultural audits.

Interviews are an oral question-and-answer method used to gather data on people's perceptions about the organizational culture and environment. An interview is essentially a conversation and it can be formal or informal. Interviews can be one-on-one or in small groups, and they can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. Leach et al. (1995) recommends interviewing the top executive since that individual reflects the cultural root of the organization.

Focus groups are guided discussions used to gather diverse employees' thoughts and perceptions about the organizational culture. Focus groups typically include eight to ten people and can be as small as three or four people. Surveys are a systematic method of data collection that explores and evaluates different aspects of the organizational culture. A survey requires respondents to reply in writing. Surveys can be open-ended, closed-ended, or scaled. It is a very useful tool when there are time constraints and/or there are many employees from which to obtain information. A document review is another data collection technique in which documents that include data related to employment, salary, attrition, hiring, promotions, complaints, and workforce composition are collected and analyzed.

In observations, site visits, or walk-throughs, the diversity leader observes the climate and culture of the organization. The physical environment, the diversity of the culture, employee interaction, activities, organizational processes, and so forth can be observed during these data collection techniques. These data collection methods are critical when the diversity leaders are not familiar with the environment or do not have a clear understanding of the organizational culture.

Benchmarking is a comparative investigation in which the diversity leaders study what other organizations have done related to managing diversity (Balm, 1992). The information obtained is then compared to what their organization is doing and changes and adaptations are made as deemed necessary.

The cultural audit is an in-depth analysis of the organization to assess its cultural roots. It specifically provides up-to-date and useful information about diversity-related issues (Hayles & Russel, 1997). It is a comprehensive technique which combines interviews, surveys, document reviews, focus groups, and direct observations. Data from managers and employees that relate to, or reflect their attitudes toward, diversity is collected (Thomas, 1991). All approaches already mentioned can be used individually, they can overlap, or be conducted so that a sequence can be developed.

To finish the needs assessment process, it is important to analyze the data gathered. In this phase, the diversity leaders summarize the information collected quantitatively and qualitatively, determine the themes that emerge, and look for commonalties and differences across groups. This process allows them to determine the findings and suggest recommendations to develop an action plan. It is essential, however, that the findings are reported to the ones that provided the information in order to attain their feedback.

Content of Training

Once the needs assessment has been conducted and the objectives have been identified, the next step to consider is what should be included in the diversity training program. Wheeler (1994) recommended asking the following questions when considering what to include in a diversity training program:

Wheeler (1994) conducted a study on diversity training in 45 organizations and found that the most important items of training content included race (94%), gender (89%), stereotypes (89%), ethnicity (89%), business objectives (80%), work-family (71%), age (69%), sexual harassment (67%), national demographics (65%), American Disability Act (ADA) (62%), internal demographics (60%), and sexual orientation (51%) (p. 21). Similarly, Johnson (1995) reported that of the Fortune 500 companies that participated in his study, the greatest percentage of them emphasize race and gender (97%), age (90%), ethnicity (87%), physical disability (87%), religion (70%), language (70%), and sexual orientation (60%) as part of their strategy.

There are commercially available packages in the market that organizations can use to design the content of a diversity training program. Simons (1992) concluded that this may be the easiest way to conduct diversity training. It can also be advantageous because "it may speed up delivery time" (p. 80). However, it may be the least effective because it may not meet the organization's needs. Commercially packaged training programs can be tailored. If they are carefully scrutinized, they can have good results. This approach may be time consuming, however. The training program can be customized by internal trainers, external trainers, or consultants. Or a combination of internal and external trainers can customize the program. Finally, a design team--managers, managers and employees, a cross-section of internal employees, or demographically diverse employees--can plan and implement the training programs.

Simons (1992) recommended first determining what the broad content of the diversity training program should be. The broad content may be for awareness, skills, action planning, organizational change, or a combination. Once the broad content is determined, a more specific content focus may be identified for the diversity training program. The diversity training program, for example, could then be focused on race, culture, gender, family status, age, or sexual orientation, as well as on other issues. In addition, the diversity training may have a domestic and/or global focus. The diversity training program could also address all these issues combined.

A study conducted by Hopkins et al. (1994) found that, as a whole, organizations give first priority to diversity training programs designed to improve interpersonal skills of managers and employees. Programs aimed at helping employees to understand value and cultural differences were ranked second. Training programs designed to improve technical skills were ranked third. The fourth priority were diversity training programs that intend to indoctrinate employees into the corporate culture.

The Hopkins et al. (1994), study also found that the priority of diversity training depends on the type of employee. For example, diversity training programs for incoming or newly hired employees are ranked in the following order: (1) improving technical skills, (2) improving interpersonal skills, (3) indoctrination into corporate culture, and (4) improving English proficiency. For current employees, diversity training programs are ranked as (1) improving interpersonal skills, (2) indoctrination into the corporate culture, (3) understanding and valuing cultural differences, and (4) improving technical skills. For current managers, the four most valuable programs were ranked as (1) improving interpersonal skills, (2) understanding and valuing cultural differences, (3) training in methods of stress reduction, and (4) employee mentoring. This study found that improving interpersonal skills is the type of training most recommended by human resource directors.

Whoever designs the diversity training programs has to consider potential participants (Simons, 1992). Senior managers, managers, supervisors, other employees, and even suppliers and customers can be incorporated into the training program. The designer should also consider attendance. Simons stated that there are three options: (1) the training program can be required for all employees; (2) it can be required for some employees, while voluntary for others employees; and (3) it can be voluntary for all employees, depending on the needs assessed. The individuals in charge of design should also consider the makeup of the group. Depending on the attendance and content, the training program can be addressed to homogeneous or heterogeneous groups on several dimensions. Typically, "unless the training is targeted to a specific sub-group (e.g., success strategies for women), each session should contain as much participant heterogeneity as possible, especially in terms of gender, race, and culture" (p. 80). This information can also help in deciding the number of participants per session. The training program may be either highly interactive (15-35 employees); moderately interactive (35 to 50 employees); or it may be handled as a symposium (50 or more attendants). It can also be a large interactive session with multiple trainers (Simons, 1992).

In order to effectively develop or implement a diversity training program, the training strategy should be established and linked with the business and its overall diversity strategy. For example, diversity training must be linked to and support a team-based organizational structure to leverage differences to make teams, and therefore business, more productive. The overall objectives of the diversity training program should be clearly stated and articulated. Employers should not enter into diversity training without having an idea of what they want to accomplish. They need to connect the training to specific business outcome and results such as to enhance team relationships, increase productivity, cut down on turnover, decrease lawsuits, increase sales to diverse markets, and so forth. Without specified objectives, the training efforts are more likely to fail (Wheeler, 1994).

Selecting a Trainer

Selecting a trainer is a very important decision because diversity issues are emotionally volatile, sensitive, and require a person who is well-versed in both the subject matter and the techniques necessary to defuse conflict and reduce resistance (Thiederman, 1991, p. 172). The diversity consultant industry has grown extensively during the past few years. The ASTD Buyer's Guide and Consultants Directory, published by the American Society for Training and Development (1996a), provides an indication of how much the field has expanded. In 1996, the guide listed 30 consultants under the category of crosscultural, 80 under diversity training, and 28 under multicultural training. In 1990, there were just 15 consultants listed under all these categories combined. The number of letters and brochures that companies get from diversity consultants is overwhelming: "A director of diversity of a major high technology firm noted that she received approximately 20 letters and solicitations a week from consultants" (Wheeler, 1994, p. 15). The growing number of diversity trainers is evidence of supply and demand at work. More trainers are entering the diversity field because U.S. companies increasingly want to provide that kind of training. Diversity represents one of the few areas of training that is growing during this time of shrinking training budgets (Caudron, 1993).

One of the first decisions leaders of an organization must make is whether an in-house trainer or external consultant will conduct the training. Some training professionals reason that external consultants are more objective, likely to receive more respect and cooperation from employees, and have a broader perspective of what diversity is and how it is being pursued in other companies. Others believe that internal trainers are better at understanding the company's culture and its problems (Caudron, 1993; Thiederman, 1991). When external consultants are selected to provide the training, a thorough review of their credentials should be conducted. Wheeler (1994) concluded that the following characteristics represent those which experts and practitioners believe are important in a good diversity consultant:

Professional Qualifications and Characteristics

Personal and Interpersonal Skills and Attributes

Although there is not one model of what constitutes a good diversity trainer, and no perfect trainer for any organization (Baytos, 1995), there are some important skills and competencies that a good diversity trainer should possess. Wheeler (1994) noted that some of the obvious and more generic competencies are good facilitation skills, knowledge of the subject matter, and ability to engage a group. However, the types of competencies most useful in diversity training are sensitivity, knowledge of self, self-disclosure, candor, ability to respect all cultures, ability to "design on the fly," and maturity (p. 33). Further, Henderson (1994b) noted that trainers should be able to incorporate different learning styles and must understand the dynamics of small group discussion. Simons (1992) pointed out that being able to keep confidentiality is an essential part of professionalism for a diversity trainer. "Professionalism is of the utmost importance for minimizing risks to the organization and participants" (p. 92). Another characteristic that contributes to minimizing risk is the ability of carefully listening to the stakeholders.

Sometimes both external and internal trainers are used depending on the company's programs and needs. Train-the-trainer courses are used by some companies in order to develop internal diversity trainers. Also, whereas external consultants are sometimes used to help in designing diversity programs, internal consultants and employees deliver the programs (Johnson, 1995). According to Wheeler (1994), "[t]raining internal staff as trainers creates a systematic intervention. Because those trained have contact with human resources, with management and employees, they can have influence every moment of the day with their departments and the organization" (p. 33). Simons (1992) stated that, "it's preferable that the people conducting generic diversity training, whether internals or externals, are themselves diverse and that co-training in diverse pairs (e.g., White female/Latino male or Black female/Asian male) can be especially effective" (p. 80).

The decision to hire an outside consultant or in-house trainer should depend on the specific circumstances of the company. When making the decision, special consideration should be given to the size of the workforce, the complexity of the problems, the receptivity of employees, budgetary restrictions, and the availability of in-house trainers who have the qualifications and capability to conduct effective diversity training (Thiederman, 1991).

Training Methods and Techniques

There are many methods and techniques that are used by companies to deliver diversity training programs. It is important to recognize that not everyone learns at the same pace or the same way, therefore, a variety of approaches to training should be used. Wheeler (1994) documented the following eight training techniques that were effectively used by the participants in his study:

  1. Videos. Videos come in a variety of forms, cover a wide range of topics, can be affordable, and have potential for reaching a large number of people. Videos that have been identified in the literature as very effective and useful are Bridging the Talent Gap by Job Accommodation Network; Bridges: Skills for Managing a Diverse Workforce by BNA Communications Inc.; The Eye of the Storm by Jane Elliot; and A Tale of "O" by Rosabeth Moss-Kanter. The Copeland-Griggs series and the Mosaic Workplace Series tapes are also mentioned as effective training tapes (see p. 79 for a brief description of these and other videos).
  2. Participative Exercises. Participative exercises may include experiential exercises or simulations, class discussions, and role-playing. Participative activities give the trainees opportunities to interact with the facilitator and other group members.
  3. Case Studies. Case studies can be most effective when they represent specific organizational circumstances and give the participants the opportunity to analyze a situation and create solutions to real problems. Cases studies that deal with a variety of diversity issues such as gender stereotypes, work-family, discrimination, and aging can be found in many books, handbooks, manuals, and reports.
  4. Lecture. In most cases, a lecture is a talk delivered in a classroom setting. Lectures can also be delivered by videotape or by teleconference to large groups at different locations. A lecture is mostly one-way communication in which the instructor speaks and trainees listen and are passive recipients of information.
  5. Games. Games are simulations that are frequently modeled after key aspects of a work setting, in which teams compete while following preestablished rules. Diversity games can be customized and adapted to meet the organization's needs. Games can be entertaining and provide useful information: "The experience gained through the interaction of diversity board games can be as valuable as the knowledge learned" (Gunsch, 1993, p. 81).
  6. Theater. The use of theater groups in the workplace is a somewhat new concept that seems to have some possibilities for educating people about diversity. An effective theater group needs to tailor its work around the organization it is working with. This means understanding the culture and using language and issues that are specific to the organization. Occasionally, the actors participate or help facilitate the discussion that takes place after the performance. Therefore, the actors should not only understand, but also value diversity and have the ability to relate it to the company's business context.
  7. Handouts. Handouts are frequently used in training and can be a useful information resource for individuals after training. However, there is no way to guarantee that employees will read or use the handout material, since it requires independent reading and learning.
  8. Audiotapes. Audiotapes allow employees to listen at their own pace and convenience. This method may be especially useful for commuters or telecommuters. After the audiotapes have been listen to by employees, topics on the tapes can be discussed in groups. (pp. 23-27)

Other frequently used training methods include the following: panels (participants on the panels represent diverse groups who are knowledgeable about the different experiences of individuals in their groups), self-examination (participants take diversity quiz or generate a list of stereotypes and discuss images with a larger group), and personal action plans (participants develop plans to apply on the job what they learned in training) (Rossett & Bickham, 1994).

There are many other methods and techniques that are being used in diversity training. However, an important thing to remember is to utilize a variety of methods and techniques to reach as many people as possible to enhance the learning process related to diversity.

Challenges and Obstacles of Diversity Training

Diversity training presents some challenges and obstacles for companies. Tilove (1991) noted several concerns about the effectiveness of diversity training. For example, some have suggested that diversity programs are designed to intimidate white males into accepting Affirmative Action, that they constitute "brainwashing," and that they provide "meaningless window dressing" without bringing about real change. Mobley and Payne (1992) noted that handling backlash is the biggest challenge facing diversity trainers. Winterle (1992) provided evidence that backlash is a challenge to the full range of diversity activities. She found 61% of respondents feel that fear of backlash from white males is among the three most serious barriers to implementing diversity initiatives. (For more information on backlash, see page 28 of this report.)

The number one barrier to diversity training identified by Wheeler's (1994) study was time. The time element was compounded by the stresses of downsizing, workloads, and competing issues that made it difficult to keep diversity issues in the forefront. Additionally, management and employee resistance was frequently identified as a barrier. Some companies and their employees are resistant to diversity training. Resistance to diversity training usually has to do with fear of change: "Efforts to bring about attitudinal and behavior changes can and often do result in strong resistance from employees" (Henderson, 1994b, p. 26). Henderson identified the following six reasons for this resistance:

  1. Resistance to diversity initiatives can be expected if the changes are not clear to the employees.
  2. Different people will see different meanings in the proposed changes.
  3. Resistance can be expected when employees in supervisory positions are caught between strong forces pushing them to make changes and strong opposing forces pulling them to maintain the status quo.
  4. Resistance can be expected to increase to the degree that employees influenced by the changes have pressure put on them to change and it will decrease to the degree that they are actually involved in planning the diversity initiatives.
  5. Resistance can be expected if the changes are made on personal grounds rather than impersonal requirements or sanctions.
  6. Resistance can be expected if the changes ignore the organizational culture. (Henderson, 1994a, p. 139)

Any diversity training activity may provide a starting point for organizations to begin heightening awareness and sensitivity, and uncovering hidden assumptions and biases. However, diversity training is unlikely to be effective if a company approaches it as a one-time intervention (Carnevale & Stone, 1994). Like all other diversity activities, it needs to be used at appropriate intervals or on an ongoing basis as needed. No one workshop or educational experience will help organizations manage diversity (Carnevale & Stone, 1994). Successful companies view diversity training as a long-term process/strategy, not a program (Caudron, 1993).

Some senior managers hold the belief that costs associated with diversity training outweigh the benefits. Organizations often do not conduct follow-up activities to evaluate the quality of the diversity training programs (SHRM/CCH, 1993). Therefore, changes in behavior, productivity, and work quality resulting from the training cannot be monitored and accurate cost-benefit ratios cannot be determined either (Jackson & Associates, 1992).

Ineffective diversity training by unqualified trainers can cause enormous problems in the workplace. Caudron (1993) provided the following example:

[T]he manager of a small Midwestern manufacturing company hired diversity consultants to help employees uncover racial tensions in the workplace and learn to deal with them. The consultants split employees into two groups: employees who felt oppressed (minorities) and people who made employees feel oppressed (Caucasian men and women). Employees in the group that felt oppressed shared their resentment and anger toward the Caucasian employees, who listened without responding. This did not bring the groups closer together; the exercise outraged the Caucasian workers. In addition, members of the group that felt oppressed left feeling vulnerable. This drove a wedge between employees, which made working relationships at the company worse than ever. Some other more qualified diversity consultant had to step in to correct the problem. (p. 51)

Ineffective training can hamper or set back an organization's efforts to support diversity (Caudron, 1993).

Mobley and Payne (1992) noted the following mistakes that can occur during diversity training that can create barriers to effective training:

Karp and Sutton (1994) added some additional concerns and claimed that diversity programs often "miss the mark" for the following reasons:

Diversity training programs need careful planning and special attention. Keeping in mind the challenges and obstacles identified above when developing diversity training strategies should help reduce problems and increase effectiveness (Wheeler, 1994).

Characteristics of an Effective Diversity Training Program

Although diversity training is a fairly new business initiative and its impact has been difficult to measure, there is much information related to what works and what does not work regarding diversity training. Wheeler (1994) identified the following 15 recommendations for creating an effective diversity training initiative:

  1. Create a supportive infrastructure. The commitment of senior leadership, a process of ongoing accountability, and a commitment to communicating change are critical to a supportive infrastructure.
  2. Provide clear communication about training. Start with strong communication before training to articulate why diversity is an issue and why diversity training is being offered. Let employees know why they are being trained.
  3. Create "inclusive" programs by keeping definitions broad. Definitions of diversity should extend beyond race and gender and should not exclude any individual or group.
  4. Create flexibility and tailor programs to internal needs. Internal demographics, work situations, and scenarios are most useful for tailoring the program to specific audience needs.
  5. Conduct train-the trainer courses. Train-the-trainer courses can help establish change agents among various businesses, divisions, and departments.
  6. Include senior management in training and require attendance. Managers should be trained first so that they have a clear understanding of diversity and what their expectations and goals should be. Preceding diversity training with communication from management on the importance of diversity to the business is very important.
  7. Enroll all employees. It is important that everyone hears the same message and is involved in helping to move the initiative forward.
  8. Train business units together. When a business unit trains together, the members of the team return to their work with common knowledge, understanding, expectations, and a better understanding of each other.
  9. Provide trust and confidentiality. An environment of trust and confidentiality is critical and must be established upfront at all training sessions.
  10. Set clear training session ground rules. Provide a set of ground rules or allow trainees to set their own. Ground rules may include such things as being on time, respecting other people's opinions, and keeping all classroom discussion confidential.
  11. Co-facilitate sessions. Sometimes insider knowledge combined with external expertise can be very effective. A diversity of facilitators by race, gender, expertise, and experience is also recommended.
  12. Ensure diverse attendance. In addition to training work groups or teams, trainees should represent various races and genders as well as physical differences, levels within the organization, functions, and other differences.
  13. Establish action plans. Action plans help to ensure that trainees carry their learning into the workplace, applying the new principles and consequently helping to lead the organization to institutional change.
  14. Provide and ensure follow-up. Action plans need follow-up. Follow-up helps create accountability.
  15. Create accountability. The most prevalent or recommended way of creating accountability is to incorporate diversity objectives into employee and management assessments and to link those objectives with reward and recognition programs. (pp. 39-40)

Diversity education and training is most effective when it is articulated with all education and training systems within the organization and delivered to all employees including the CEO and entry-level employees. Diversity training is most effective when it is designed, developed, and revised according to specific organizational needs (Tomervik, 1995).

To make diversity training work efficiently and effectively, it must be combined with other diversity initiatives. Some organizations have attempted to connect their diversity strategies to organizational needs and business objectives. A long-term perspective and integration with other organizational efforts, such as continuous quality improvement, are needed to ensure that diversity efforts are most effective (Johnson, 1995). Carnevale and Stone (1994) recommended that diversity initiatives should not be isolated from other business practices: "Diversity initiatives work best when they are integrated into a larger system of business practices. In fact, diversity initiatives have close ties to other processes--total quality management, team building, reengineering, and employee empowerment" (p. 39). More organizations are making connections between diversity and other business approaches in order to become more competitive (Fernandez, 1993).

To have better results, diversity initiatives need to be included as part of the organizational strategic plan (Fernandez, 1993). Gardenswartz and Rowe (1993) noted that diversity training is only one part of an organization's comprehensive diversity strategy and cannot stand alone. As part of an overall process, diversity training can help move an organization forward by maximizing the potential of all employees in an increasingly diverse and global marketplace. Tomervik (1994) believed that there is no one diversity plan that is appropriate for all organizations. Strategies need to be implemented based on the unique characteristics of the organization. Organizational needs must be reassessed frequently. Diversity, by its nature, requires self-reflection--organizationally and individually (Tomervik, 1994).

Diversity training is unlikely to be effective when companies approach it as a one-time effort. Like other diversity initiatives, it needs to be provided on a continual and appropriate-times basis. Also, organizations need to evaluate the effectiveness of the diversity training programs. This means devising tools and methods to monitor changes in behaviors that result from training (Carnevale & Stone, 1995). Baytos (1995) summarized the required strategies needed to impact diversity education and training: position training as part of a total diversity strategy, start with a thorough needs analysis, measure effects, use a participative design process, incorporate quality control in selecting trainers, and incorporate quality control in planning the logistical aspects of training.

Evaluation of Diversity Training

There are many reasons to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of diversity initiatives. Two of the main reasons to evaluate a diversity training program are (1) to measure the nature and scope of return on investment to match the cost involved in the training with the related benefits, and (2) to compare the situation before and after the training, to see if the training objectives were achieved (Casse, 1981). Similarly, Pedersen (1994) stated that evaluation is valuable for the trainees in giving feedback on their accomplishments, and it is also valuable for trainers in that it demonstrates the strengths or weaknesses of the design, which can be used to make improvements.

Diversity training outcomes should be emphasized because if they are not measured, it is possible that "well-intentioned diversity efforts can cost an organization a great deal of time and money and yet not create any significant, lasting change" (Morrison, 1992, p. 230). Rynes and Rosen (1995) stated that two main reasons to evaluate diversity training are (1) cost and (2) possible neutral or negative outcomes. According to these authors, without concrete information about a program's strengths, weaknesses, and impacts, it is impossible to improve content and delivery. They also added that "lack of evaluation signals low responsiveness to attendees and low commitment to follow-up or [improvement of] program outcomes" (p. 253). Evaluation is also a way to fight against critics (Jackson & Associates, 1992), and its results may provide support for continuing with diversity programs (Lublin, 1995). The principal objective for following up diversity training is to establish accountability (Cox, 1993).

Rynes and Rosen (1995) suggested that it is very important to conduct formative evaluations. These during-training evaluations improve the training that is currently in practice. They also advocated for summative evaluations. This means that trainees should have a post-training or on-the-job evaluation to measure if the transfer has occurred. Standards of measure of productivity and profitability are sometimes used in organizations to show that diversity is good for business (Morrison, 1992, p. 235). However, it is very difficult to prove that diversity training is affecting organizations positively or negatively.

Limitations

Some companies do not measure the impact and effectiveness of diversity training because it is too problematic (Cox, 1993; Wheeler, 1994). Some of these companies do not evaluate diversity training because there are no measurements in place, there is a lack of clear objectives, it is too early in the training process, or just because the company is doing well financially and therefore there is no need for assessment. Some company managers also believe that there are too many variables affecting productivity measures to isolate a direct cause-effect relationship. Others believe that most diversity training programs are so new that it is too soon to judge how effective they are.

Organizations have many reasons for not evaluating: "Foremost is the fact that profits are influenced by so many factors that it is difficult to isolate the specific causes of profit level" (Cox, 1993, p. 240). When "evaluating individual practices, there is a risk that their true contribution will be over or under estimated because the effects of other practices and other factors that determine outcomes" (Morrison, 1992, p. 243). Moreover, diversity training results may not be identifiable as an organization outcome for many years. Another reason is that there are no well-developed measures to diversity. Suspicious negative results and slow change expectancy are reasons for not investing time and resources to monitor diversity initiatives (Jackson & Associates, 1992).

Tomervik (1995) conducted a study on workforce diversity in 26 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Minnesota. She found that corporate representatives who lead the diversity process within their organizations lack a clearly focused diversity evaluation plan that could provide valid, reliable results on current diversity efforts. Furthermore, she concluded that even corporations with leading-edge human resource policies and practices find it difficult to define and specify appropriate evaluation methods and measures.

For many corporations, Tomervik (1995) noted, the evaluation of the diversity process continues to be a difficult problem. The diversity process is constantly changing within organizations based on the interest, needs, and demands of the diverse workforce. In each corporation, the diversity goals are established and revised based on the influence of numerous organizational characteristics, including climate, culture, history, leadership, workforce demography, and financial stability. In most instances the end goal for organizations pursuing a diversity agenda is time-bound and context-bound--changing with the economic, political, and social climate of the times (p. 137).

A study on diversity training conducted by SHRM/CCH (1993) found that only 30% of its respondents who conducted diversity training go on to measure results related to work behavior and productivity. Evaluating diversity training programs is a challenging task. It appears that few organizations use tools to measure diversity performance or to link such performance with individual accountability (Carnevale & Stone, 1994).

In spite of the increase in research in this area of diversity in the workforce, not much has been done empirically or conceptually to explain the ways in which workforce diversity provides positive benefits to organizations (Washington, 1995). There have only been a few empirical evaluations of the results of diversity training. Despite the importance of evaluation, research in this area is very limited (Hanover, 1993; Rynes & Rosen, 1995; Tomervik, 1994).

Some studies have shown the effects of diversity training. For example, Dunnette and Motowidlo (1982) examined the impact of training programs designed to reduce sexist attitudes and obvious behavioral displays of these attitudes in an organization. They found that while some women may return to their work settings and be more assertive, more candid, and more supportive, the training program had little measurable impact overall on the behaviors or attitudes of men or women.

An index of perceptions about the effectiveness of diversity training programs was presented by the SHRM/CCM (1993) survey: about 3% of respondents whose companies used such programs found them to be extremely successful; almost 30% found them to be quite successful; about 50% said the programs at their companies were neutral; about 13% called them largely unsuccessful; and 5% called them extremely unsuccessful. Wheeler (1994) added, "The large 50 percent neutral response may indicate that it is too early to measure the success of training for those companies which have implemented diversity training. The number may also reflect companies not having assessed their programs or not putting specific measures in place" (p. 37).

While some companies report that diversity training has reduced attrition and increased the promotion rates of women and people of color, only a few isolated attempts have been made to empirically evaluate diversity training to date. Adler (1991) found that people who obtained a basic understanding of cultural diversity through diversity training were more likely to recognize its impact on work behavior and to identify potential advantages of diversity. Cox (1991) reported that the "Race Relations Competence Workshop" programs developed by Clay Alderfer and Robert Tucker have resulted in more positive attitudes toward African Americans and inter-race relations among participants.

Some companies have linked diversity training to increased productivity. However, there is little evidence that these statements are based on objectively measured bottom line results rather than opinions and intuitive judgments. Very little research has been conducted to date examining the factors relating diversity training to performance (Johnson, 1995; Triandis & Bhawuk, 1994).

Techniques and Procedures

In spite of the difficulties of assessing the impact of diversity training, many companies have attempted to measure the effects of diversity training on employees and organizations using such standard measures as the following:

Similarly, Tomervik (1995) found that the two diversity evaluation measures most frequently utilized by corporations with diversity efforts were data from employee surveys and traditional Affirmative Action numbers. Four other evaluation methods or measures used to monitor diversity progress within corporations were (1) focus groups, (2) turnover rates, (3) hiring numbers, and (4) listening to employees.

A study conducted by Johnson (1995) found that the performance measures organizations most often used to monitor or evaluate diversity efforts were increased diversity at all management levels, increased diversity at the middle-management level, increased diversity at the top-management level, increased employee satisfaction, increased employee knowledge of diversity, a decrease in employee turnover rate, and an increase in profit/productivity. Evaluation methods used included surveys, training evaluations, statistical analysis, measurable calendar of objectives, targeted MBOs (Management by Objectives), attendance at programs, and discussion. Of these evaluation methods, surveys and training evaluations were most used by participating organizations (p. 11).

Diversity training can be approached from different evaluation perspectives. Considering its purpose, a diversity training program should have formative and summative evaluations. Formative evaluation in this case refers to the measurement of short-term effects. This is considered essential because it can provide feedback on what needs improvement or adjustments to effectively fulfill the organization and employees' needs. Summative evaluations should also be conducted. These are long-term evaluations designed to verify whether long-term needs of the groups were met. Rynes and Rosen's (1995) study showed that more successful training programs are associated with long-term follow-up evaluations of training.

Another approach to evaluate diversity training is by objectives. This type of evaluation is designed to verify whether the objectives of the training were achieved (Casse, 1981). It is also used to see if trainees met the objectives of awareness, knowledge, or skill of the diversity programs (Pedersen, 1994).

The Kirkpatrick (1994) evaluation model of training can be used--and is advisable to use--to evaluate diversity training. It is also possible to evaluate the short- and long-term effects of diversity training, according to Keller, Young, and Riley (1996). Following the Kirkpatrick approach to training evaluation, these authors provide evaluation instruments to measure participants' reactions, learning outcomes, transfer of learning, and organizational results. However, due to its complexity, they did not discuss how to evaluate return on investment.

Some authors have made some recommendations for conducting effective diversity-training evaluations. A clearly focused evaluation plan which includes accountability and rewards for progress is a necessity. This is needed in order to create an environment where diversity can flourish (Tomervik, 1995). When evaluating diversity training, it is important to keep in mind that its success will be not only influenced by factors associated with the training itself, but also by factors associated with a supportive environment for training (Rynes & Rosen, 1995). In addition, Jackson and Associates (1992) suggest collecting relevant evaluation data and making sure that the types of evaluation data collected are consistent with the intended objectives of the diversity initiatives.


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