Diversity and Inclusion - Dr. Kristal Walker, CPTM

Published in Spring 2023

Diversity training has been around for decades, but recent events have sparked conversations around its efficacy. The recent tragic death of Tyre Nichols reminds us that we still have a great deal of work to do in balancing the scale of justice. Could it be that diversity training is falling short of its intended impact because the term “diversity” itself has been overwhelmingly associated with minority groups rather than an umbrella term to truly describe our differences?

Could it be that non-diverse groups are experiencing diversity training fatigue and need something more relatable to their personal experiences to fully buy in? Could the lack of sustainable results be attributed to something as simple as how we name our training?

The answers to these questions might spark an opportunity for learning leaders to modify our approach to training design, including the naming conventions we use to draw in our training audiences. Let’s dive into the shift from “diversity” to “cultural” training and how this change could have a dramatic impact on training results.

Traditional diversity training is often treated as a “one-size-fits-all” solution, with no personalized or tailored content to address specific groups. This lack of customization has led to many participants feeling like their individual struggles are ignored. This is true for both minority and majority groups.

For minority groups, diversity training often seems to be more focused on reinforcing the need for change, rather than creating a safe space to cultivate great discussion and learning from each other. Majority groups, on the other hand, often report feeling attacked. As such, diversity training can cause people to become either defensive or resistant, both major obstacles to meaningful conversation.

Cultural training, on the other hand, can be tailored to a specific organization’s needs, such as talking about the company’s culture and how different employees work together. Cultural training seeks to go deeper than just the surface level of diversity. It focuses on creating an understanding of how different cultures impact our workplace and lives. This approach allows for a more holistic view of differences. It encourages active participation from all participants, regardless of background.

Furthermore, this approach avoids placing blame on any one group but instead looks at the challenges from a collective perspective. It also offers an opportunity to discuss the importance of understanding and respecting different cultures to have a better work environment for all.

Refining training to focus more on cultural competence rather than diversity might help learning leaders deliver five unique benefits for training constituents:

    1. Encouraging open communication and an exchange of ideas between all participants, while respecting each other’s uniqueness.
    2. Going beyond physical or skin color differences and focusing on values, beliefs and customs that make us unique individuals.
    3. Creating a safe environment for participants to discuss their unique experiences.
    4. Encouraging and celebrating diversity within an organization, rather than just tolerating it.
    5. Helping employees recognize potential biases and enabling them to take proactive steps to ensure that everyone is heard and respected.

While the benefits might seem plentiful, making the shift might require additional work. For example, learning leaders may need to redesign their training programs to include more interactive activities that promote cultural intelligence. Additionally, they may need to develop new resources, such as videos and case studies, that depict a variety of cultural perspectives. In the end, shifting from diversity to cultural training might help learning leaders create more comprehensive programs that can lead to better results in the workplace.