Ask the White Guy: Is Diversity Training Effective? What Would Make It Effective?

Is diversity training effective? The answer isn’t a chicken-or-egg riddle.

Is Diversity Training Effective?Question:

Do you think diversity training is effective? What would make it effective?


Most of the “diversity training” I’ve seen is not very sophisticated. Some companies think “compliance” training is diversity training, but that’s incorrect. In my opinion, to build a good diversity-training program, you have to first have a plan. To have a plan you need goals. And to get goals, you need measurement to tell you where you are. Here is a quick sequence:

1. Benchmarking (find out where your company is)

2. Engagement, broken out by race, gender and age (how the people in your company feel)

3. Understanding goals (approved by the CEO)

4. Diversity plan (to take from where you are and how your people feel to where you want to go)

5. Training (to help accomplish the plan)

DiversityInc has the most sophisticated benchmarking available—we use SAS software to crunch the extensive data we’ve collected (for 13 years) in the DiversityInc Top 50 process. We also use our own engagement survey to gain more perspective on the benchmarking data; if you can benchmark and survey by division, you can get very finite in finding where your opportunities are. In the past year, we’ve helped several companies align their diversity programs with the strategic direction of the company. This has the result of pulling in top management to the cause.

One more thing: Training for top management should be considered carefully. I’ve found that a discussion of legacy is motivating for senior executives. The recent presidential election has brought understanding about the business case for diversity in a way I’ve never seen before. There seems to be far more clarity on how effectively relating to people where they are is absolutely necessary to achieve the results you want. I’ve spoken at several meetings where I’ve seen an immediate change in tempo as a result of linking the reality around demographics and diversity-plan results to their roles as senior executives—and whether or not they’re going to leave their organization better, or worse, prepared to meet the immediate future.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

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