Advancements in communications technology have led to a more intimate virtual work environment, but remote work affects different groups differently. While working from home is convenient for some, remote work does have its downsides, and many of these issues disproportionately impact already marginalized minority groups.
Whether remote or in-person, there are a number of steps that need to be taken to ensure all employees receive equal treatment and feel empowered. To do this, companies must understand the importance of cultural diversity and inclusive communication efforts.
One practical tool to adopt is the use of diversity training programs that work towards improving cultural awareness and decreasing bias. Let’s explore some ways to curate effective diversity and inclusion programming in the modern workplace.
The importance of diversity
Companies have been using diversity training programs for years as a means to avoid lawsuits and negative employee reviews. But more work needs to be done to integrate diversity and inclusion into every aspect of a company’s culture.
Diversity is seriously lacking in many industries, particularly in business, tech, and fintech. For example, studies show that only 20% of executives in the fintech industry are women. Women and racial minorities in particular face bias and barriers in industries still monopolized by white men. Changing this dynamic will require significant improvements of industry culture, which can only start at the individual company level.
Particularly in a remote environment, diversity training tools can be utilized to improve communication among team members and increase inclusivity. Employees should feel comfortable raising concerns and speaking openly about their backgrounds and experiences. This type of supportive environment helps retain top talent and lets your business thrive.
It has been recognized for some time that diversity and innovation are inextricably linked. For this reason (among others), diverse companies perform better financially across the board. Yet systemic racism – among a host of other biases – continues to plague many industries, and many companies simply use diversity messaging as a publicity stunt rather than a substantive effort.
If they want to thrive, companies can not wait any longer to foster an inclusive environment and build a business culture which encourages and affirms diversity in background and experience.
How to implement a diversity training program
Taking steps towards improving diversity and inclusion is easier said than done, so it’s important that your company’s values are aligned before starting the process. To help you get there, here are some of the most effective diversity training methods:
Reinforce an inclusive company culture
A company that does not acknowledge the need for diversity is doomed to fail in the current landscape, so it’s important that every business makes an effort to update their core values and beliefs. An inclusive company culture requires not only offering redress for conflicts in the short-term, but also addressing systematic biases and toxic behaviors over the long-term.
What does this mean for the average company? Simply recruiting token employees from different backgrounds won’t promote inclusivity from within. Companies must be willing to go the extra mile and change the discourse in the workplace so underrepresented demographics feel supported and valued.
Avoiding unconscious biases and tokenism is certainly challenging, but practises like microlearning help to promote a diverse mindset. Infographics, gamification, and other easy-to-consume content are fantastic solutions companies can use to better get their message across when they are just starting out with inclusivity training.
Use workplace encouragement
Studies show that encouraging employee participation in diversity training is much more effective than requiring it. Although potentially counter-intuitive, it’s been shown that when people feel less pressure to participate in an activity, they are more likely to engage. Voluntary participants tend to retain information better and inspire coworkers to act in a similar fashion.
And this should not be a one time thing. Instead of one workshop, it is more effective to have a series of events and mentoring opportunities to ingrain inclusivity in your business and reinforce positive behavior in the long-run. The more omnipresent inclusive values are, the more encouraged employees will be to participate.
Set team goals
Diversity issues can feel like a confusing and nebulous problem for those who do not directly experience dicrimination on a regular basis, so presenting evidence and actionable steps can be helpful to educate employees struggling with such concepts. The approach to diversity education need not be so different from your business planning basics – defining a purpose, creating actionable steps, and tracking results are all important aspects of changing company culture.
Goal setting will make a huge impact in these workplace situations and lead to active participants rather than passive ones. Asking employees what they would like to learn is an important first step for any company looking to reflect on their current company culture and create diversity programming. Employees should feel free to engage in dialogues to better understand the issues at hand.
Goal-oriented learning will look different depending on the company, but it should usually come in the form of discussion groups, role-playing, and active learning exercises. When goals are met, employers should have further training materials on hand to help participants come up with new goals for themselves and continue to grow.
Plan on-going exercises
Changing perspectives can be a long process, so diversity training should also be ongoing. It’s okay to experience setbacks as long as challenges are recognized and addressed productively.
When you do see positive change happening, it’s important to celebrate the steps you’ve taken towards diversity and inclusivity with gatherings and group discussions. Additionally, creating social opportunities through trivia nights, book clubs, or other team bonding exercises will help participants learn about each other in a friendly setting to supplement formal education programs.
Because it’s so hard to measure the success of diversity training programs, it’s important that companies create surveys, guidelines, and records so employers have feedback to share with their teams. Whether you work at a large company or are just starting your own business, it is important to measure the effectiveness of your training using qualitative measurements.
This is because unlike numerical data, qualitative measurements can be more effective when calculating the direction of workplace diversity training. Typically, measurements are taken through a series of questions a company would like to answer over the course of the program, such as:
- How has the diversity training program changed employee behavior?
- Are there more diverse groups applying for positions in our company due to our efforts?
- How would you like to see company culture evolve?
- Are there diverse groups we have not yet focused on that require more attention?
Companies should also organize follow-up surveys for employees who are going through the program or have completed it. When feedback is given, employers learn a lot about what it takes to actively change company culture towards promoting diversity.
Fostering a positive company culture is increasingly complex in a remote work environment, and companies will have to accept that adapting will take time and require continuous education and data-backed goal-setting.
Employers and employees will have to work together in order to bring diversity and inclusion concerns to the table in a constructive manner and maintain a dialogue to improve. Only continuous and targeted efforts will allow you to build teams with empowered employees and increased innovation befitting the modern work environment.