Diversity training can be a drag when everyone gets the same boring talk. Diversity in a workplace however is vital for a comfortable and efficient work environment. A recent article in the HBR considered what makes diversity trainings effective. (“Two Types of Diversity Training That Really Work”). Because people are so different, the authors came to the conclusion that trainings can work when they target awareness and skill development and when they consider the different characteristics of the people they are training.
After evaluating all the approaches offered in diversity trainings, two strategies stood out as the most effective: Perspective taking and goal setting. Perspective taking, or the method of “walking in someone else’s shoes” works because it is capable of having crossover effects, as stated by the authors. For example, “In our experiment, taking the perspective of LGBT individuals was shown to be associated with more positive attitudes and behaviors toward racial minorities and vice versa.” This activity is more effective with people who are less empathetic, because it helps them develop the skill of putting themselves in a situation outside of their comfort zone to get a feel for what it’s like for someone else.
Challenging and attainable goal setting also produces effects on behavioral outcomes; it results in more support and less mistreatment that lasts a long period of time. An example would be a participant setting a goal for themselves to have lunch or a conversation with someone they wouldn’t usually have it with. Setting this goal, though simple, would produce a long term effect because they would feel more comfortable doing the activity with more people and eventually it would be a more natural behavior.
Fogbreak is currently working with the City of Elk Grove to help the City create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. We use perspective shifting and goal settings in all of our trainings, and like the article concludes, we find them to be useful techniques. Broad trainings can be a waste of time it is necessary to accommodate exercises and activities to best fit the target audience.