Diversity training is not just about compliance

Employers are just as likely to train people in diversity issues to make it a better place to work as they are to do it because they think it will help them avoid a tribunal claim, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication Employment Review.

The survey of 73 organisations, which employ more than 450,000 people, found that of the 62 providing some form of diversity training, about one in three do it primarily to create an open culture – the same number as cite legal compliance as their main aim.

Among the other positive reasons cited, 13 were trying to counter discrimination in their organisation, while smaller numbers thought it would improve business outcomes (8) or help managers tackle discrimination (5).

The survey found that almost all those providing training cover all six legal jurisdictions: race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation and religious belief.

Other respondents had mostly not yet extended training to include the new areas of law that came into effect in 2006.

Almost all those providing training do so for all employees (56 organisations). Just two organisations restricted training to managers, and two to non-managerial staff.

Of the 11 survey participants that do not currently provide diversity training, seven said they lacked the budget or time to do so, while three said they preferred to tackle the issue in other ways. Just one said they thought training was ineffective.

…nor is it seen as a waste of time

HR practitioners believe strongly that diversity training delivers the goods, the Employment Review survey suggests.

Almost all respondents either strongly agreed (38) or agreed (28) that training helped to build a culture of respect within their organisation, with just one disagreeing. They also rejected the idea that it was a waste of time and resources – again with just a single dissident voice.

Although rather more respondents (13) felt that diversity training was rarely taken seriously by employees, most (55) felt that staff treated the issue with due gravity. And most disagreed with the idea that diversity training was more about compliance than business needs.

The survey also reveals that diversity training can take up a considerable amount of staff time: at 17 organisations, staff go though training once a year – and more often than that at a further 16. Only 12 organisations see training sessions as a one-off activity.

Training at 24 organisations lasts for half a day, but at a further 20 whole-day programmes are the norm. One respondent said their organisation ran two-day diversity training courses. Ten organisations expect employees to put one or two hours aside for training.

… but it rarely leaves the classroom setting

Most organisations use a number of different delivery mechanisms for diversity training, but workshops and classroom-style sessions and lectures are the most popular.

Although videos and DVDs are rated among the most effective methods of delivering this sort of training, they are used by fewer than half of organisations. The use of actors to dramatise scenarios is also considered highly effective, yet expensive.

The survey found that more than half those offering training use employees in some aspect of its delivery, and almost all of those provide additional training to these individuals. Some also bring in representatives from disability groups and other external organisations to participate.

Respondents were evenly divided between those that organised training themselves and those that used external providers.

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