This report presents the results of a comprehensive review of the positive impacts that diversity training can have on an organization as a whole as well as the individual employee. As the United States minority populations percentages increase the number of ethnic minorities will mirror the increase in minorities in the workforce. Due to this ethic shift in the US population, diversity training will remain as a pressing topic. Senior level executives must embrace this change and continue to create a positive environment that is conducive to all employees regardless of their fundamental cultural differences.
Moreover, businesses must learn to embrace and manage diversity if they want to continue to be successful. More often now in today’s ever-growing corporations then in the past, employees from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds are forced to work together to achieve their company’s goals. When diversity training is masterfully executed, it will help to create a positive diverse workforce that can open up opportunities for growth in a business and create a more constructive environment.
If diversity training is successfully executed it has the potential to enhance employees’ fundamental understanding of cultural sensitivity and other pertinent differences. Diversity training and building relationships are key elements to advancing organization. Managing employees from diverse backgrounds can create a unique challenge if employees lack mutual respect based solely on unfounded generalizations of gender, religion, disabilities and ethnic background. The success or failure of a corporation can rely heavily on the ability to successful blend a diverse organization.
Diversity programs address the need for organizations to be more vigilant of their employees needs; however, with change comes resistance. Some employees may feel excluded when the new change takes effect or misunderstand the purpose of the program. Diversity training can reduce legal issues and cost associated with them. In short, each corporation’s diversity program must be implemented and its fundamental goals must be clearly defined and embraced starting at the chief executive level. Its importance must be emphasized down through mid-management levels until the lowest subordinate in the corporation receives the training.
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Introduction In March 2010, Wal-Mart was ordered to pay $11. 7 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit. From January 1, 1998, through February 15, 2005, Wal-Mart consistently refused to hire women in entry-level warehouse positions. The investigation findings report, that less qualified 18 to 25-year old males were hired to fill these positions. In addition, Wal-Mart made news headlines for racially insensitive remarks made over an intercom in a store located in a predominately African American metropolis.
In December 2010, United Airlines was ordered to pay $600,000 for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by prohibiting reservation agents with disabilities from working shorter schedules. Retail store, Big Lots was ordered to pay $400,000 to five African-Americans, for failure to correct a hostile working environment. UPS Freight was ordered to pay over $46,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit. These are just a few examples of the many lawsuits that were filed in 2010 against major, well established corporations.
Each one of these cases potentially could have been prevented if each corporation instilled a viable diversity training program. What is diversity training and why is it important? Diversity training provides the understanding, skills, and tools to assist corporations with preventing deep-rooted faulty generalizations against certain ethnic, gender, and disabilities groups within a corporation. Diversity training is important because it is designed to enable corporations to better prepare its employees with the fundamental benefits of a diverse work environment.
In this research paper, I will discuss how Diversity training can change the effectiveness and success of a corporation. Understanding the Problem In 2009, I was hired to work for The Corp of Engineers. During my first week, I was required to complete both diversity and sensitivity training sessions. The training was scheduled for a four-hour time slot in which classes on awareness, understanding, and the importance and benefits of having a diverse workforce. The classes turned out to be a two-hour power point presentation given by an unqualified senior Human Resources Representative.
There were no team-building exercises, dialogues, discussion sessions, handouts or job aids. Nevertheless, I thought the diversity training was a waste of time and very ineffective. Similar to most corporations, the Corps of Engineers has a policy that requires all employees to receive this training within the first 30 days of employment. The training was merely a way to check-the-block. Diversity training should not be created for the sole purpose of legal requirements.
All corporations are governed by Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action Regulations that were created and implemented during the Reagan Administration to simply “even the playing field”. EEO training, like all corporate required training, should focus fundamentally as a building block for success, rather than a check-the-block type of training. A comprehensive review was conducted using 830 mid-size corporations that found that most diversity training was inadequate and counter-productive. The review found that after the training was conducted, there was a 7. percent decrease in the number of women in management positions. The number of high level positions held by African American female mangers, African American males, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans also dramatically declined. Diversity issues are consistently becoming a larger forefront of corporations and will remain a key topic as the projected ethic dichotomy evolves. The U. S. Census Bureau projects that African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Native American/American Indian, and Latino/Hispanic populations will increase through 2030, while Caucasian Americans growth rate will decline.
Said another way, currently, the Caucasian American population is over 50 percent of the total United States population; however, the U. S Census Bureau reports that Caucasian Americans will become a “majority-minority” sometime within the next 20 years. This means that African Americans, Asian American, Latinos Americans, and Native Americans will collectively have a population total greater than 50 percent. During the U. S. Census Bureau report released in 2010, minority populations have increased immensely from pervious U. S. Census Bureau reports. Due to he transforming diverse society, many jobs require people from different cultural backgrounds to interact. Corporations have to become aware of the myths and faulty generalizations that are associated with a certain group of people and build understanding of their responsibility in helping create a culturally diverse environment.
Launt (1994) believes without diversity training, “oblivious misunderstanding and unintentional slights are almost unavoidable when people of different races work together, when young people supervise older people and vice-versa, or when disabled person works in a department of nondisabled people. Communication is the main challenge in workplace diversity. Launt goes on to describe a corporation that ignorantly severed collard greens and watermelon to African-American employees during Black History Month. The corporation believed the racial stereotype that all African-Americans ate those items. This is a perfect example of a corporation that was misinformed and lacked key cultural awareness. Diversity training programs should be tailored to each corporations needs.
Kay (1996) explained that when establishing a training plan, demographics of your corporation play a vital role. Corporations need to determine if a training program should be proactive and if their workforce is ready for a program. Diversity training takes many different forms, the most common types are: awareness raising, skill building, and knowledge based. Kay (1996) future explains, “most corporations are interested in awareness training”. This approach teaches others to understand how the culture of their corporation impacts those whose culture is different.
As author Lockwood (2005) explains, “awareness training raises understanding of diversity concerns by uncovering hidden assumptions and biases, heightening sensitivity to diversity in the workplace and fostering individual and group sharing”. Diversity training should be executive leader driven and training should flow down to the lowest subordinate employees with a focus on United States EEO requirements, affirmative action, sexual harassment and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Who Gets Trained Diversity training should be initiated by senior leadership.
A study conducted showed that most top executives did not invest anytime in the training. Diversity training has to come from the top and trickle down. Top management support is crucial for a successful program. Leadership in a corporation must emphasize their intent to improve their corporation and show that they have a genuine concern for their employees. Supervisors should learn all policies that govern discrimination, sexual harassment, and affirmative action, as well as methods to identify and prevent them. By participating in diversity training, leaders can better appreciate the individuality of all employees.
A well developed diversity training program should be incorporated into all new employee training classes, at the beginning of the fiscal year, and a follow-up, more complex training annually. Diversity training should be mandatory and committed to by all leaders in a corporation. Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace Diversity is beneficial to both corporations and its employees. Creating a diverse workforce opens up opportunities for growth in a business. Educating employees on how to work in a diverse environment helps to prevent discrimination and promote teamwork.
Having more diversity in a workforce will help workers understand and be able to learn how to manage diversity. In 1996, approximately a third of Fortune 500 corporations had a diversity training program in place and another third had plans to incorporate one with the next five years. (Management Review, 1994) Having blended cultures, ethnicities, and ages in the workplace can bring a variety of points of views and, more importantly, give a corporation a fresh insight. The benefits of working with other cultures can prevent narrow mindedness and groupthink.
Cultural diversity in the workplace forces employees to learn experiences from each other. Employees that feel valued within an organization are motivated to perform better. Having a high morale builds cohesion among employees. With a diverse workforce, employees feel comfortable communicating ideas and experiences. Organizations that establish diversity training create a workplace where employees feel they have a say and can be heard. When an employee comes from a diverse background, they bring individual talents, viewpoints, and skill sets.
Diversity in the workplace can equate to multiple solutions to a problem. The risk of lawsuits due to discrimination or sexual harassment can be reduced with a well-built diversity plan. When employees understand each other there is an improved communication between employees and working units. Several studies have concluded that diversity programs can lower absenteeism rates and employee turnover rates. Employees tend show loyalty to a corporation and stay with a job when they feel valued. Together employees and managers can brainstorm on ideas to make their workplace more effective.
Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace Although there are many advantages in implementing diversity in the workplace it is not without challenges. Employees can get “set in their ways” and become resistant to change. They will likely use terms like, “this is the way we use to do it” and “if it is not broke then don’t fix it”. Karp (2000) explains “people will resist what other’s want them to think or feel for one of two basic reasons; either the demand is not in their best self-interest, or demand is experienced as an attack on their self -image”.
Karp believes that resistance is inevitable and needs to be recognized and worked through. Some employees may feel excluded or left out when the new change takes effect. They may think the change is only focused on a certain group of people. Another reason for resistance is that past diversity efforts were not successful. Employees may think that this program will fail. Without clear communication, employees own perceptions can become their reality of the situation. Diversity is a sensitive subject in the workplace and many mangers shy away from the topic.
Proper communication throughout the process can help to alleviate opposition, misunderstandings, and stop rumors before they spread. Diversity programs can be long-term and become a costly process. Leaders have to be engaged and determined to instill a change. If corporations factor in costly litigations and lawsuits they would see investing into a diversity program is more cost effective. The actually implementation of a diversity policies can be a challenge for leadership and there must be a measurable way to determine if the program is a success or failure. Conclusion
Research has proven that corporations that place an emphasis on diversity experience growth, increased innovation, and higher quality problem solving. Diversity training creates stronger corporations and more enjoyable place to work. It is easy to begin a diversity training program but takes commitment and hard work to maintain a viable program. Leaders have to hold their employees accountable for their actions and reward them for their diversity-related efforts and achievements. The main goal of diversity training is to build and strengthen relationships and partnerships between employees.
Corporations must educate and train employees to be aware of their cultural biases and assumptions that hinder working with others. At the end of the training, employees and management should understand the obstacles and opportunities of workplace diversity. Although, workplace diversity can create challenges and conflicts it can also result in improve morale and increase innovation. Once you have the diversity program in place it must continuously be evaluated by leaders and employees. Corporations are only as strong as their weakest link.