Awareness Training Produces Little Result

Awareness Training Produces Little Result

To kick off a newly-announced commitment to diversity management, XYZ Company mandated that everyone — from senior managers to mail room clerks — attend a half-day diversity awareness course. Diversity specialists “Helen” worked with the corporate T&D department to design a workshop that promoted an awareness of diversity as an inclusive process.

Content probed both the emotional and the rational content of human interaction to discover the roots both of how people feel and how they act.

Evaluation sheets — collected as trainees left their sessions — were extremely positive. Participants reported that both the content and the trainer were excellent, and many described the course as a powerful learning experience. Many commented that the training helped participants see how corporate policy and practice can impact people in different ways. Satisfied that the training was successful, Helen sat back and waited for positive reports of an improved workplace.

She was shocked when a survey follow-up a year later revealed that, while workers and managers alike reported that their personal outlook had changed as a result of the course, few saw significant change in the work environment.

What Happened

After studying the survey results, Helen realized that while managers understood the need to value diversity, they did not understand how to adapt their behaviour. Heightened awareness had created the internal motivation required for change, but managers still needed tools to carry it out.

Helen met with senior training managers to discuss how to integrate diversity training with regular management development. They agreed that everyday management skills such as communication, coaching and mentoring, conflict resolution, facilitation, and balancing work and family demands all contain elements that can boost the organization’s management of its diversity.

In addition, they decided that managers need resources to help them find solutions to difficult diversity-related issues such as accommodation and creating flexible work schedules. Helen then approached her CEO with suggestions with new tools and development aids that included: * Cross-cultural communications videos and training; * Harassment training that imparts strategies to deal with harassment and its aftermath, as well as tips on how to maintain a harassment-free environment; * Training in negotiating work schedules to accommodate family and other outside commitments. Managers needed information sheets listing available day care and guidelines regarding time off, various types of leave, sick time and the like. * Physical barrier removal guidelines, with examples of common problems and solutions. * Written guidelines for managers to provide orientation for new employees. To avoid confusion, these should contain examples from employees from other cultures who may not be aware of typical Canadian workplace behaviour and expectations.

But Helen also made it clear that competent diversity management starts with recruitment. Interviews must be restructured to ensure candidates have the competencies required to manage a diverse workforce, information sheets should be written detailing how to gain access to foreign credential assessment services, she explained. A policy review was also needed to check is reward and recognition systems reinforced the organization’s stated commitment to diversity.

Other tips

When providing management aids, such as physical and work / life accommodation guidelines consultant Maureen Geddes (1-519-354-4260) suggests that examples of possible solutions should always be provided to illustrate realistic application of the guidelines, because they may otherwise be too abstract for busy managers.

“Ethno-cultural customer focus groups can help determine if the specific needs of key clients and potential clients are being met,” Geddes says, “and whether the company needs to do more outreach recruitment. After focus groups are completed, management competencies should be revisited and tailored to ensure diverse customer needs are met.”

Credit: Reproduced with permission by
Workplace Diversity Update, April, 1997 pg.5.

Originally Published: April 1997