How to Do Diversity and Inclusion Training Right

In April, at a Sephora store in Calabasas, California, a store associate allegedly called security to make sure a customer wasn’t stealing.

That customer was African American singer-songwriter Sza, who tweeted about the incident and accused Sephora of racial profiling. Sephora representatives responded saying that they were looking into it. And then they shut down stores for bias and diversity training—although the company says the training had been planned in advance and was not related to the viral tweet.

If this series of events sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because something similar happened at Starbuckslast year when a manager called the police on two black men who were waiting without ordering. In response, Starbucks shut down for a company-wide bias training.

These responses to bias incidents may get a lot of press coverage, but there are more effective ways to go about diversity and inclusion training. These trainings should not just happen once, nor should they happen only once something goes wrong. Instead of reacting to an incident of bias or discrimination, companies should take a more preventative approach.

To keep reading, click here: How to Do Diversity and Inclusion Training Right

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7 thoughts on “How to Do Diversity and Inclusion Training Right

  1. Most diversity trainings I’ve been to are a total waste of time. “Yay – America is a melting pot! Don’t hate – appreciate! Now let’s all eat our multi-cultural pot luck lunch” Done!

    A good training will teach employees how to recognize their unconscious biases, how to avoid microaggressions, and teach concrete things you can do to ensure that all employees are included to the extent that they should be for their role. Most trainings are pure fluff and don’t move the needle on diversity and inclusion one iota.

  2. Whenever diversity training goes around, since once is never enough, it seems to lead to a big rise in sexist snark. “Oops, I said the word “woman!” We’re not allowed to say that, are we? It’s not diversity! I suppose Mary is going to report me to HR now,” followed by that look at each of the women in the room to see if the statement will get a rise out of anyone. Of course, women can’t do anything but grit their teeth and pretend to ignore it like one ignores a bully in hope he’ll get bored and quit. It’s just another everyday message of hatred. Diversity training will put the skids on actions like cornering women behind the watercooler, but it increases those demonstrations of attitude that make one worry, when a promotion or raise fails to come through or a big project goes to someone else, whether that obvious attitude did or didn’t have anything to do with it. I can’t envision how diversity training could avoid inflaming those attitudes, but I sure dread hearing that it’s coming around again.

    1. Great point. I’ve witnessed this many times and it puts women (and other men, too) in a very awkward position.

    2. Someone needs to speak up and point out that such micro aggressions are perfect examples of divisive workplace conduct that builds barriers between employees.

  3. @GreenDoor

    Yeah… I gotta be honest. I have to take a few recurring trainings every year for my job. Quite honestly, my goal is to get through those things as fast as possible, and get back to my “real” work ASAP. My goal *isn’t* to actually learn anything.

    The only trainings that I remember anything from are IT and other information security types of things.

  4. None of these training sessions achieve the “goal” of acceptance diversity. Rather what should be done is a full training of expected performance on the job in all situations, including those when an employee/customer feels “threatened”. This way there’s a plan of action to follow, even if they have to consult an employment booklet to clarify exactly what procedures to do at any given time.
    Both Sephora and Starbucks did their little gesture but all it accomplished was more people trying to create problematic situations at these retail settings like the recent hassle when 6 paid customers who happened to be cops were asked to leave because of someone in the store felt uncomfortable. That specific store got robbed later probably by that uncomfortable person and lost 6 customers who probably repeated customers. Training sessions for topics like this are quite useless.

  5. I work in an academic library, which is mostly white, the norm for the profession. There is a commitment from the library leadership to aim for a more diverse and inclusive workforce, but it’s been difficult to say the least. It’s been made more difficult by how low the pay is compared to peer institutions, and the only remedy for that is more funding for salaries at all levels from the state and campus. If that does happen, it’s likely to be several years from now if the political party that controls both houses of the state legislatures changes.

    There’s also the mindset that it’s not a good use of limited staff salary money to be spending it on diversity resident positions when some areas are chronically understaffed due to people retiring and not being replaced. With the money that we will be spending on multiple diversity resident positions this coming academic year, we could have replaced 75% of the positions that have not been filled after retirements.

    I have no problem with the idea and concept of the diversity librarian position. I do have some issues with how the program is being run. The first issue is that most of the placements are going to areas that already are well staffed, likely to give them the chance to work with potential mentors and get them used to academic workplace norms. Then based on their interests and staffing levels, assign them to an area that would seem like a good fit. All I will say if my unit ever gets a placement, the only thing that the person would learn would how to best survive in a work environment that is dysfunctional and chaotic. The second issue is that I’m not sure that the program is really helping people as it is intended. At least one of the current group probably could have gotten a permanent job straight out of grad school. A couple of the candidates that were just interviewed this summer fit the intent of the program better, but probably won’t get the offer.

    I’m involved in equity and diversity work and it’s hard, difficult work. Some people just are not interested in it, viewing it as a waste of time. It’s really obvious at trainings and seminars who is there because they want to learn and improve things, and who is there because their bosses and grandbosses are forcing them to be there. Sadly, the latter is in the majority.

    It’s also not just race – it includes gender and disability issues as well. The elephant in the room that no one wants to address because it’s too expensive is that most of our facilities are not ADA compliant, partially due to the fact that most of them are at least 50 years old. I’m not even sure someone in a wheelchair could get into any of the bathrooms in the building I work in.

    Also, it’s very difficult getting any accommodations for disability, because to quote my boss when I asked her not to be scheduled at the desk as much due to sensory issues “we don’t have the staffing levels for that”. It’s interesting that we had the staffing levels for my male coworker to get a flex schedule to be a helicopter parents, forcing me to be at the desk more than I want to be. It was also very telling that one colleague, who discriminated against a disabled student worker, had no consequences for her behavior. At the very least, she should have been written up and gotten some training for disability awareness. She’s also been the reason we’ve lost most of our minority, neurodiverse, and LGBT student workers.

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