March 11, 2008

How Effective Is Diversity Training?

author_cn By C.N. Le

The conventional thinking among sociologists and, I would guess, many corporations is that diversity training is ultimately beneficial for their company or organization -- that it results in greater workplace harmony, more opportunities for advancement for women and racial/ethnic minorities, and more productivity for all their workers.

However, as the Washington Post reports, a new study by Alexandra Kalev, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, shows that when attendance at diversity training is mandatory, rather than voluntary, it is likely to lead to counterproductive results:

A comprehensive review of 31 years of data from 830 mid-size to large U.S. workplaces found that the kind of diversity training exercises offered at most firms were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management. 

The number of black, female managers fell by 10 percent, and the number of black men in top positions fell by 12 percent. Similar effects were seen for Latinos and Asians.

The analysis did not find that all diversity training is useless. Rather, it showed that mandatory programs -- often undertaken mainly with an eye to avoiding liability in discrimination lawsuits -- were the problem. When diversity training is voluntary and undertaken to advance a company's business goals, it was associated with increased diversity in management.

Several experts offered two reasons for this: The first is that businesses are responding rationally to the legal environment, since several Supreme Court rulings have held that companies with mandatory diversity training are in a stronger position if they face a discrimination lawsuit. 

Second, many companies -- with the implicit cooperation of diversity trainers -- find it easier to offer exercises that serve public relations goals, diversity2a rather than to embrace real change.

I am disappointed but not completely surprised to hear that most diversity training programs are actually counterproductive. In fact, one might be tempted to say that this finding reinforces the argument that greater diversity actually leads to less trust and civic cooperation among Americans, which I blogged about earlier.

Nonetheless, it's important to understand that the main reason diversity training doesn't seem to produce many benefits in corporations is not because of the increase of diversity itself, but because the underlying motivation and support for increased diversity in the workplace is fundamentally superficial and weak to begin with.

In other words, when diversity training in corporations fails, it is almost always because the company in question is motivated by fear of lawsuits rather than by a genuine desire for greater diversity. They are often just going through the motions and putting on a public relations show that has very little true commitment to the underlying principles involved in diversity training.

In contrast, other scholars’ research reinforces the notion that greater diversity can and often does lead to benefits for an organization or society in general. For example, I have blogged about how a mediating institution such as religion can be used as the "social glue" to bring diverse groups of people together.

diversity3aIn fact, Prof. Kalev's research on corporate diversity training compliments the work of Scott E. Page, a professor of complex systems, political science, and economics at the University of Michigan, who wrote The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies. In this book he argues that programs which increase diversity in any organizational setting are ultimately beneficial for society: 

Diverse groups of people bring to organizations more and different ways of seeing a problem and, thus, faster/better ways of solving it.

People from different backgrounds have varying ways of looking at problems, what I call “tools.” The sum of these tools is far more powerful in organizations with diversity than in ones where everyone has gone to the same schools, been trained in the same mold and thinks in almost identical ways.

The problems we face in the world are very complicated. Any one of us can get stuck. If we're in an organization where everyone thinks in the same way, everyone will get stuck in the same place. . . . [Affirmative action is] a flat-out good because, as I said earlier, it makes everything we  do more powerful.

Prof. Page's argument is that diversity and heterogeneity in any organization, facilitated through programs such as affirmative action, leads to innovation and ultimately benefits the entire organization. He also argues that diversity can come in many different forms, not just simple racial/ethnic identity.

Prof. Page's arguments for diversity through programs such as affirmative action support the ideas expressed in Prof. Kalev's research. In order for diversity training programs to be successful in corporations, there needs to be a fundamental commitment to and embrace of its core principles.

The take home message here is that the goal of diversity (and therefore diversity training) is fundamentally sound. It's just that in order for such goals to be realized, organizations need to accept and internalize them as part of their mission rather than just use the training to satisfy legal requirements.


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In a conflict theory point of veiw it would say that diveristy brings on hostility when there is comptetition present. So in many cases it is believed that when competing for a position, a raise, or promotions, the company will lean more toward their own group and devalue those of the other group. In this case this would advance the in-groups solidarity, and decrase the out-groups solidarity which could lead to communication problems which in some sense would explain why interraicial tensions surface. I think structural functionalism would see a need for change in the workplace, and would promote diversity int he workplace. Diversity int he workplace brings on new ideas, and is not just from people who may have went to the same school, or even have the same state of mind. So in this case it would be helpful when problems occur, because you have diffrent people with diffrent ways of thinking. In a symbolic interactionism point of veiw they probably would see diveristy as a good idea. In most cases thier concept is how individuals react and function in their own enviroment. So therfore inclusions and exclusions are based on personal evaluation. So this process maybe omportant to people with handicaps, minorities, and people who have been excluded from mainstream networks.
Most of the time diversity training is not sucessful, because workers or companies are not serious about it. They are doing it to avoid lawsuits or just to show that they made the attempt, but with no intentions of changnf anything or implementing any diversity int he workplace. I think the key factor for diversity in the workplace is when cooperations have an open mind and commitment to the priciples and core of diveristy.

I feel as though the diversity training is not in place to help accomodate any group or to assist in providing jobs for people who are just as worthy but were previously excluded, but rather to save the behinds of the corporations engaging in this program. I think it's simply a matter of "we did this and that's all we can do" to prevent law suits and if they were truly dedicated to it, I feel it may actually have more of a positive impact.

I feel that other forms of discrimination should be addressed in diversity training, and like the author of this blog and the two people that commented on it, that diversity training should focus on increasing diversity and not as a legal, 'look, I covered my butt' measure.

Perhaps, one form of discrimination that should be addressed is the kind exhibited against juvenile ex-convicts. These people made a mistake at a young and impressionable age and are forced by society, upon exiting their facility, to adapt and make new lives for themselves. Making a new life means going to school, getting a job, finding a place to live, sometimes getting loans. Unfortunately, three of the four aforementioned aspects are immensely difficult for juvenile offenders to obtain once they have grown up in prison and been released.

Legally, records can be expunged once a certain amount of time has elapsed, however, juvenile ex-cons can still be discriminated against institutionally and individually.

Discrimination against former convicts is simply under the radar of most in today's society. And as a result of this form of discrimination not being in the public eye/mind, it is accepted (sometimes passively or aggressively).

Also, many companies do not even hire ex-cons. To many employers, it does not matter the offense or the time in one's life when one was convicted. Therefore, this form of discrimination would need to be addressed in a major social reform, rather than in some dumb 'diversity training' in which people are forced to act like they are accepting of people who exhibit differences, whether great or small, actual or socially-constructed.

diversity training is put in place so that corporations can say they did all that they could

I think it is important to understand how different groups of people are. I am not sure that diversity training can be totally effective when some people are not willing to accept the ideas of other cultures. I do believe that if people can accomodate diverse people that the meshing of their ideas can be a positive thing. Communication is probably the greatest barrier to this.

No one person understand the same way. No one person learns the same what It is very important that we respect each others background and where we come from. Work training is a great idea it world bring more people together help clearfly miss understandings.It may require more time in effort, yet the benefit will be Phenomenal.

Diversity training is a great way for corporations to hire more diversities and discover more ideas if the company might have a problem in the future. They can find news ways to the solution.

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”
Maya Angelou quotes (American Poet, b.1928)

True I see the point of both and I will have to say that diversity sets a standard. The training may just open the eyes and not the heart, but at less then the company has made a attemp with diveristy in it's make up. true test of diversity is when you dont have a need to ask the persons are, sex or race their quality qualifies them.

I myself like diversity traaining because it give everyone and equal chance in the work field. It also helps everyone interact with other that are not like them and learn to accept them. I also think that diversity training will be more effective if the business going in this is open minded about it and is doing to see the good that it will really bring to the table. Not just because there was a lawsuite or anything like that because than you would treat others without respect and in return you may not get the job done. If the business does this for the right reason not only will the gain a lot of respect but the outcome can be better

Diversity training is good because it gives people equal oppurtunities in the work force.It also helps people interact with other people who are different from others.Last but not least if business would do this for the right reason the outcome would be great.

Diversity hasnt been succesful because its often mandatory instead of voluntary and also because support and motivation for diversity training is weak in the workplace. in order for it to be successful, there has to be a commitment. Interaction is important between cultures and necessary to bring us together as one.

I see it this way what's the use of diversity training when they seldon hire anybody outside one particular group and that's the white male. This is exspecially true in the corporate world. So diversity training is totally superficial and clouds the real issue. Which is what diversity?

I feel as if diversity training is the best, I have worked in a monority workplace in now I work in a very diverse place it is very helpful to know that everyone is not on the same page and that people come from different backrounds.

I think that diversity training is a good thing because everyone has an equal opportunity and everyone can interact with each other and share theirs ideas. It will hopefully it will get everyone on the same page at work.

Diversity training is unsuccesful because often its mandatory. I think it is a good thing though to have the training but not make it mandatory. I worked in a minority place that was mostly all men. I find the training helpfully.

I think that a lot of diversiity trainings are not successful because of the majority workers. I say that because there is a majority of workers so the corporation has to bring in a minority and the others may not interact so well with the minority because of their own hang-ups about other cultures/races. Also, the bosses may not give the minority the best work they can do, just out of only hiring them for lawsuit avoidance. I think that some are more successful because they actually embrace the minorities and give them the jobs that they know they can do and are qualified for. Also, they do not judge the person by their skin nor their religion, but by the work they do.

In structural functionalism, society is studied as a whole. In order to function, the unified whole would need contributions from all seperate parts. In this case, diversity training might could work with proper and genuine contributions. In conflict theory, power struggles and the processes of dominance and competition are inevitable. Conflict and tension are said to be basic facts of social life. Even with diversity training, competition and the fight to the top would still exist, no matter the gender or race. Symbolic interactionism sees face-to-face interaction as the building block of everything else. We would have to accept the diverse atmosphere and interact with each other as though we accepted it. Forcing people to go through the training may make it seem less significant. People are already set in their views anyways on race and other cultures which could also cause the training to be unsuccessful. The artical states that the main reason this training doesn't work is because of the superficial underlying motivation, and I agree. Companies have or require this training, most of the time, only to avoid a lawsuit. If they were more genuine about having a diverse workplace, and they showed it, the training may be more affective.

I have done several diversity training programs, and in my experience if someone has their mind set on the way they see a specific race/gender/ethnic group, then the training isn't gonna help change their minds. It just covers cooperations behinds in legal issues.

I agree with the statement that diversity training would be more successful if the corporations truly cared about diversity. Instead they just put on a public front. Untill we as americans get to the underlined problem which is racism.We will never grow to any form of understanding or true equality in the work place untill this issue is resolved. We have to open a serious dialog about this issue or we will continue to go in circles.

Diversity training is no more than a cheap way to avoid a lawsuit. It is rarely even voluntary. Look, if diversity training even wants a chance at working, then your going to have to get people to stop beleiving in de facto segragation and de jure segregation and start making people see other people from the inside out. And by stoping people from seeing others from the outside in, it might have a chance. Thats the only way that it could work.

Diversity training is not done because a company wants to take part in it, it is done because it has to be done. The corporation says it has to be fair in hiring so they promote their diversity training. Its more of something that has to be done. I guess companies see it as a burden today. It should be at the top of a companies agenda. They should want to be a diverse company,and they should not be forced to do so. Diversity training is a joke, and it needs to be taken more seriously in today's society.

I myself also like diversity traaining because it give everyone and equal chance in the work field, and it does help people interact with each other.

i think diversity training is mostly a safety measure to keep corporations from getting in trouble.

Diversity Training should not be created for the sole purpose of legal requirements.I think it is a good idea to have Diversity Training, if it is done correctly and with an open mind. There is alot we can learn from other cultures if we just educated ourselves and were open to it. It would benefit our businesses.

I like the idea of diversity training everybody has an equal opportunity in the work field some people would not hire an ex-con at all and they could be a changed person. This Diversity Training would help a lot of people

It's simple. Diversity training lives or dies on what the people in the higher positions of the coorperation truly want. If they don't want to have a lawsuit and do the training for that reason, it will most likely fail and have the opposite result the training is meant for. If they truly want to do some good for the company and make it voluntary to help people move in a forward direction with their careers, its more likely to succeed.

Diversity training might work if effort was put in on both parts company and employee. If no effort is put in then of course it will not succeed.

I agree with the statement that diversity training should not be forced on the workplace. It only breeds more resentment, and hatred, not the kind of thing you want in a workplace. It is not only in corporations that diversity training is forced, it is also in several other types of jobs as well.

In my opionion diversity training is something that all companys should have even if it just to avoid lawsuits.Diversity training is needed because in today society many communities are not as diverse as they should be giving the majority a feeling of power when a minority appears in their area at work or home. Diversity training can open people eyes who thought they were not prejudice but by their action they were. So diversity training is only as good when the people are sincere about making a change.

Society is studied as a whole in structural functionalism. In order for the society to function properly the society would need its contributions from all parts. Diversity training could work here if proper contributions were made. In conflict theory power struggles and competition are certain to occur. Even with diversity traning the need people feel to compete and achieve greater power for themselves would still exist. Symbolic interactionism is peer to peer interaction being the source of all other things. Forcing people to undergo this type of training would make things learned in symbolic interactionism seem less significant. In the article it says that the main reason for the failure of this training is because of superficial underlying motivation. If corporations actually wanted to make this work then they could be more genuine in their motives. Some businesses are just looking to not step on anyone's toes.

Society is studied as a whole in structural funtionalism. I think that in all diverse affect brings contributions to the table. Without these contributions, the system is not unified and does not function properly. If diversity training were geniune, then maybe they would all be allowed to work together properly. In the conflict theory, tension and conflict are seem to be the basic funcions of social life. In this theory, power srtuggles and the process of dominance and competetion are going to happen regardless of the precautions are taken before hand. No matter the race or gender this will still occur due to this theory. Symbolic interactionism is more of a face to face thoery. Forcing people to go through classes when they are already set in their way does nothing. If the classes were more true and not just about keeping a law suit from happening, maybe it would be more affective.

How can you teach diversity. I mean according to who is it the right way? We all come from different back grounds and see things through our own prospective.

Diversity training is good for people looking for work. And it also help to see what kind of work you want to do. You can also learn about different things.

Diversity training that is mandatory and only instituted to cover legal requirements will always fail. If you force people to do something then they will not enjoy or adear to it. In order for the diversity training to be successful the company should adopt it into their everyday activites and practices.The articles makes a valid point that if there was not divesity there would essentially be no progress. If everyone thought the same and had the same training, then they would all be stuck on the same problems with no solution.Diversity will make a company thrive but only if it belives in the everyday practicality of diversity. A one time seminaer or training session will not produce diversity or the respect of diversity.

Personally i feel like diversity training is an okay idea only because it gives others an equal opportunity and gives them a chance to be active with others jut like them. i don't feel like it should be mandatory but who am i to say so.

As it said in the article diversity training is weak.
any of the businesses that are practicing diversity training have the wrong idea in mind. Its not to prevent any lawsuits or cut the tension. Its about the true matter of the fact. Its whats right. The motives behind these businesses should realize that when your not being true and honest then it shows right through you. Therefore these people know this is just a "stunt" to act like ehere doing something to help us and to help others.

I think that diversity training should not be based on ethnicticity or gender but on the type of person. If diversity training was effective then so would sterotyping of ethnics. Just because one caucasin person learns better than one of a different race doesnt mean that all caucasin people learn better than all people of that particular race. Same with the work ethic and job performance in the work place.

In conflict theory, the more competition presented among different races can lead to hostility to be the best. Of course many companies would prefer to promote or give raises etc to their own just because. In a symbolic interactionism point of view, diversity may be seen as a good idea. This gives the hirer a chance to see how different races/cultures act when they are put in a given situation. Structural functionalism will see a need in the workplace for change and do it.

Diversity training provides a chance for the employees to get to know each other more, and is beneficial to the corporations that partake in it. It shouldnt be forced though, people should be able to make that decision on whether or not they want to take part in it, and then we would really see how effective it is.

I think that is very important that companies have diversity in the workplace because a lot of good can come out of it. But there again diversity training should not be done in the company because they feel they have to have it to protect the company from lawsuits. Diversity in a workplace can be very great because we have different ideas from different backgrounds that can help us do our job better or even bring new ideas to the table.

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