Diversity Training in the Workplace: What It Is and Why It's Important

April 27, 2022

In the past few years, most organizations have begun to understand that diversity and inclusion is an essential consideration for creating a positive workplace culture.  At the same time, many of those organizations don’t fully understand what it takes to create a diverse and inclusive culture at their workplace.  Diversity shouldn’t just be a buzzword that’s brought up in meetings and hiring. Instead, it needs to be something that all organizations actively work to promote and improve upon in the workplace.  Once an organization decides to make diversity and inclusion a priority, their first step should be diversity and inclusion training.

Diversity training is the most fundamental part of an organization’s approach to diversity and inclusion, so it’s essential that organizations consider  what that training should include and focus on.  The best diversity training programs aren’t approached as a “check-the-box” initiative, instead they’re designed with practical and actionable feedback that will change employee behavior and create a more inclusive environment.  While there are many training programs available for employers, not all courses are created equal.  Below, we’ll discuss what diversity training is, why it’s essential, and what makes a training successful.

What is Diversity Training?

At its most basic, diversity training is designed to teach employees what diversity and inclusion means and how it can impact an organization.  While all employees have heard about diversity and inclusion, they don’t always understand it.  It’s a more complex subject than most of us think, and training helps employees understand this essential topic.  Diversity training covers topics such as types of bias, why that bias occurs, how that bias impacts the workplace, recruiting and hiring, manager responsibilities, and the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Training is an important part of a comprehensive diversity program to help promote diversity and inclusion to employees, but also teach them how diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias impacts their day-to-day interactions with co-workers, clients, customers, partners, and vendors.  Diversity training should go beyond basic and obvious situations of bias in the workplace, and  instead provide an effective inclusion training course that teaches employees that everyone can be both a victim and a perpetrator of bias.  Regardless of an employees’ protected characteristics such as race, gender, disability, or age, they may also be the victim of bias based on other characteristics, such as sexual orientation, height, weight or appearance.  An effective inclusion training, teaches employees the variety of different biases they could hold and how to combat them.

Rather than focus on the basics, an effective diversity training program raises employee awareness about the value of collaborating with people of diverse backgrounds.  In addition, inclusion training should challenge employees to explore the nuances of unconscious biases, and how these biases can impact our judgements and decisions at work.  Diversity training shouldn’t be designed to preach to employees, but should instead teach them how unconscious bias can lead them to make decisions that are implicitly based upon characteristics of another without even realizing or intending to do so.  

Why Diversity Training is Important

Cultivating a diverse workplace is  important for all organizations and their employees as it can increase employee engagement and retention.  In addition, it can increase productivity and foster new ideas and innovation.  It’s easy to see why workplace diversity is valuable, and while many organizations talk about creating diversity, they don’t prioritize training.  Diversity training is important because it is a necessary part of getting your employees to embrace diversity and inclusion, and to understand their own racial biases as well as other biases they may have.  Unconscious bias is called “unconscious” for a reason.  Since it’s not a conscious consideration for many employees, they don’t realize how they are actually working against workplace diversity.  Effective employee training helps employees to understand different types of bias, and it provides practical and actionable steps for counteracting those biases.  Raising awareness is critical in combating the influence of bias.  When people understand their own biases, they are more likely to work on slowing down their decision-making process.  By slowing down that process, they are able to use more logic and less gut instinct when making decisions.  

Essential Elements to Successful Diversity Training

Not all diversity and inclusion training programs are created equal.  Often training is too focused on the “what” of diversity and inclusion, rather than the “why” and “how”.  By teaching employees why bias exists and how they can actionably combat it, real change can be achieved.  It’s also easy for employees to feel talked down to by a training that doesn’t explore nuances and gray areas.  Most people feel that they understand that diversity is important in the workplace, so it’s important that training go beyond just telling the learner that diversity is important and actually focus on what can be done to improve it. The training course should challenge learners to explore the nuances of implicit biases and how those biases can impact decisions about others at work.  Once they understand how bias can impact decisions, training should teach employees how to counteract bias and to make more logic based decisions.  An effective diversity training program should leave the learner thinking more about inclusion in the workplace and what they can do to make their workplace a more inclusive environment for all employees. 

Another important aspect of successful training is that it doesn’t “preach” to employees.  The goal of diversity training is to foster conversations and allow employees to confront their own biases, rather than blaming and shaming employees. On that note, the training shouldn’t imply that people are intentionally racist, sexist, or hold other biases.  These biases, by their very nature, are unconscious and unintentional.

Benefits of Diversity Training Within Your Organization

Reason #1: Protecting Your Organization.  Reducing the risk of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment claims should be at the top of the priority list for human resource management at any organization.  When discrimination cases are settled, the EEOC often requires that the organization provide their employees with some form of diversity and inclusion training.  By providing diversity training, you can help lessen the risk of future lawsuits, and provide your organization with a defense for any cases that may arise.

Reason #2: Avoid High Employee Turnover.  A poor workplace culture that doesn’t support diverse groups of employees leads to low employee morale, lower productivity, and most importantly, employee turnover.  An organization that provides diversity training can create a more positive workplace and cut down on hiring and training costs at the same time.

Reason #3: Increase Your Bottom Line.  Many organizations don’t realize that organizational diversity can increase value for their business.  A more diverse workforce that is collaborative and open creates more innovation and new ideas.  Workplace diversity training can help foster that sense of collaboration.  Reports have shown that companies with higher levels of diversity in leadership teams had greater earnings than their competitors.  

Implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training in Your Organization with Clear Law Institute

Diversity training must be part of an overall strategy for diversity and inclusion. Training helps employees recognize that biases exist and help them take steps to reduce the impact of those biases on workplace interactions and decisions.  Also, training teaches employees what diversity and inclusion is and how they can make their workplace more diverse and inclusive.

Clear Law Institute’s online training, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, provides employees practical guidance and helps foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. This is a great addition to Clear Law Institute’s online Sexual Harassment training.

Clear Law Institute also offers live, instructor-led training on unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion, as an alternative or supplement to the online course.

Learn more about Clear Law Institute’s online training, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace.

Additional Related Resources

Unconscious Bias, Diversity & Inclusion Training

Clear Law’s interactive training focuses on practical steps that employees can take to address unconscious bias.

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Unconscious Bias, Diversity & Inclusion Training

Clear Law’s interactive training focuses on practical steps that employees can take to address unconscious bias.

Learn More
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