How to Implement Diversity Training That Actually Works

July 31, 2017

1:30 pm

Inclusion is integral to the success of a startup. A diverse team is not only an incredibly valuable asset, but also establishes a company culture consistent with changing trends in the business world. And with a solid team and a progressive culture, a startup can do pretty much anything. However, with more and more founders learning about the success cultivated by promoting diversity, one question has become the bane of the process: how?!

The desire to promote diversity and the ability to actually promote diversity are two entirely different things. As Leslie Miley pointed out in his speech at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, tech giants like Google and Facebook are spending upwards of $750 million annually on trying to make their companies more inclusive. However, they’re far from succeeding, as the gender gap and minority employee counts are still notably unimpressive.

So how can you start implementing this kind of training in a way that will actually begat meaningful change? There have been hundreds of iterations, thousands of studies, and millions of people that have gone through some form of inclusivity education. But with mixed results across the board, it can be hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Here are two methods that show some serious promise, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review.

A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

A little bit of empathy can go a long way, particularly when it comes to instilling inclusive values in your employees. Dubbed perspective-taking in the training context, the study showed that by simply writing down “a few sentences imagining the distinct challenges a marginalized minority might face,” the 118 undergraduate students surveyed were decidedly more pro-diversity than they were prior to the survey.

“This study indicates that taking the perspective of others may have a lasting positive effect on diversity-related outcomes by increasing individuals’ internal motivation to respond without prejudice,” wrote the authors of the study. “These effects may be particularly powerful for training participants who are low in dispositional empathy.”

When they say lasting, they weren’t messing around. The study showed that participants were still engaging in diversity best practices eight months after the training exercise. This simple process could truly make diversity a priority at your company, particularly if you do it more than once every eight months.

As Good as Goals

If you’ve ever enjoyed a modicum of success in the business world, you know that setting challenging yet attainable goals is the key to achieving your dreams. As the researched showed, this practice can be transferred into diversity training. By asking participants to set goals when it comes to diversity, like chastising coworkers that are being culturally insensitive, they exhibited pro-diversity behaviors and attitudes for meaningful amounts of time (3 months and 8 months, respectively).

“The pattern of results suggests that time was the key for participants to meet the goals that were set during the diversity training,” wrote the authors of the study. “Both behaviors and attitudes were influenced by the goal setting at 8 months, but not after 3 months. This study demonstrates the importance of measuring both behaviors and attitudes in assessing diversity training.”

Education is always helpful. However, diversity training is not an eighth grade math class. You aren’t teaching employees about equations to memorize or the importance of showing their work. Effective diversity training does more than throw facts and figures out in hopes of changing someone’s mind; it purposefully elicits empathy, support, and respect for marginalized minorities. If you really care about making diversity a priority at your company, you know what to do now. So get on it!

Read more about diversity on TechCo

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at conor@tech.co.

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