Ben Richardson of Development Academy breaks down the benefits of diversity and inclusion training. He also tackles the why and what founders, CEOs, and managers can do to address the lack of it in their business.
As anyone in business knows, training is a vital part of employee growth and improvement. However, it’s also something which is overlooked or deferred, particularly in areas which may not be deemed ‘necessary’ by senior management. Diversity and inclusion training certainly suffers from being in this category for many businesses.
Diversity and inclusion training is a term which encompasses any training related to diversity in the workplace – this could be anything from; courses that address unintentional biases, team-building exercises that focus on integrating employees from different religious backgrounds, all the way to looking at value systems in the workplace.
When we talk about ‘backgrounds’, this can mean different religions, genders or races, and can even mean people who come from a different part of the business or have an underlying/invisible disability. The purpose of diversity and inclusion training is to provide a safe and productive work environment for all, whatever their background.
The reason diversity and inclusion training is so important for businesses in the UK is that for the majority of people from minority groups, they are also a minority at work. As you would expect, the demographics of most workplaces matches that of the general population.
Obviously, this does not raise any issues on its own, and many employers are praised for recruiting equally based on their local demographics. However, even if every person within the majority group is kind, open-minded, and understanding, the differences in people’s cultures, backgrounds or physicality still make it likely that over the medium term there will be some upset or tension within a team, even if it’s only minor. Diversity and inclusion training works to minimise the likeness of these events happening before they occur. Through the proper education of staff, every member can hopefully feel safe to perform their job with a supportive and understanding peer group.
The result is a more bonded, happier team and a business with lower staff turnover. Ultimately this drives an increase in productivity, making it one of the most valuable pieces of training available to leaders.
Understanding the issues
However, as I mentioned previously, this type of training is one which is often overlooked. It simply isn’t on the radar of many leaders. If you asked 100 company founders or CEOs in the UK what areas of training they believed to be important to the success of their business, diversity and inclusion training would be top of the list for very few. This is because a large proportion of business leaders do not come from one of the varying backgrounds we’ve mentioned. So for many, the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion within their business aren’t obvious.
Leaders need to become more aware of any underlying diversity issues they may have at work so that they can rectify them pro-actively.
As a starting point, my initial advice would be to survey employees anonymously on what they think needs to be improved and if they’ve ever felt discriminated against or uncomfortable at work, so that a picture can be painted of the workplace landscape.
The first step to fixing a problem is defining it as clearly as possible. After collecting the results, you will be much clearer on the issues. Is it that you have instances of miscommunication or poor team dynamics, or do you have something more serious and systemic going on?
Even a one-hour training session can completely change an entire team’s outlook and perspective on their own behaviour, and that of their colleagues. The reason this type of training is so vital in the modern business world compared with other kinds of training is that whilst all training is indeed important, few types of training address issues that can have such serious consequences.
The core purpose of diversity and inclusion training is to eradicate all forms of discrimination. Whether this is aimed at people with invisible disabilities, people of a different race or people from varying religions – the removal of discrimination within the workplace is the key to unlocking team equilibrium and will help create a happier and more productive workforce.
Aside from this, though, diversity and inclusion training courses are also unique in that they help people to become more well-rounded individuals, both inside the workplace and out.