Diversity and cultural sensitivity training became popular when several high profile companies paid out hefty fines due to discrimination lawsuits in the late 1990s and 2000s. Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch paid out $100 million each to settle sex discrimination. And Morgan Stanley paid out $54 million and in 2007 Morgan was once again hit with a similar lawsuit. And many other large organizations such as Wal-Mart, Denny’s restaurant and others shelled out millions of dollars due to discrimination cases.
Despite the hefty fines, then why diversity training is not taken more seriously?
Let’s first look at what diversity training is supposed to accomplish in the workplace.
Here are just some of the objectives of diversity training:
- To have a greater understanding of different cultures and appreciate the differences and similarities.
- To achieve an understanding of the many benefits of a diverse workforce.
- To learn how diversity issues impact us in our daily interaction and in the workplace.
- To become familiar with workplace diversity, as well as to have greater knowledge of the needs and wants of a multicultural staff.
- Allow people to have an honest and open dialogue through sharing information
- Avoid conflicts and litigation
- Strengthen communication skills
- Enhance cultural harmony
- Attain greater productivity and profits
The main reason diversity training is not taken seriously is because it is not given a top priority by the decision makers in the boardroom. Diversity training must be viewed as a business component.
Also decision makers may not feel that it is a good return on their investment. Diversity training needs to be delivered on a regular basis to have any type of significant impact, otherwise it is like going to a gym once in a while.
Furthermore, the people who are asked to attend diversity training needs to be informed of the many benefits. Then they also become champions instead just simply forcing them to attend.
The diversity training session has to be custom designed to meet the specific needs of an organization instead just a general seminar or workshop. Every organization is different and unique.
Diversity and cultural sensitivity training are needed now more than ever before, especially what is happening on the world stage in politics. When top leaders can say whatever they want without filtering their language, then it simply gives permission to the average person to also be insensitive toward others.