Research results show, that diversity training programs do not work.
The conclusion does not contradict thousands studies of the last decades, which proved, that training teach people only to fill self-assessment questionnaires the right ways. The number of women and minorities’ members employed actually shrink already within the next five years following the training (Dobbin and Kalev, 59). Neither hiring skills’ assessment tests can improve the situation: if not sabotaged by hiring managers, which apply the tests selectively, the test results are cherry-picked by decision makers, this only amplifying bias. Neither can performance ratings, often low-balling women and minorities, change the statistics. Since 1985 black men have barely gained ground in corporate management’, white women haven’s progressed since 2000 (ibid). The study also confirmed once again, that doing and practicing skills works much better than theoretical awareness and role-play simulations, torn out of the actual context and real time.
Changing training policies really matters: voluntary programs produce much better results. Compared to the compulsive, ordered from the top training, voluntary training is free from the resistance of angry managers, accused in discrimination, and work much better for the purpose as highly-motivating goal to make the difference.
Instead of outlawing bias by control and punishment, engaging managers doing the right things, like participating in recruitment campaigns and mentoring programs, lead to diversity-oriented hiring. Contacting the real people, speaking with the candidates work better, than strategically communicated guidelines: the human, face-to-face contact speak for the diversity the best way. Social accountability and transparency of management decisions, appealing to human ethics of equality and justice, also support any diversity task forces’ strategies the best way.
Any tool proves to be highly effective, if it is based on the same principle: ‘working toward a common goal as equals” (ibid, 58). Agile cultures and self-managed teams working as equals over the same project bring different people together.
Therefore designing a bias-free organization is quite realistic: changing the core process support the change of attitudes and behaviors, which often is the up-hill work of ‘improving people’s inclination to be inclusive [which] is incredibly hard…bias affects everyone, regardless of their awareness and good intentions’ (ibid, 64-65). The range of bias is enormous and ‘outsmarting’ them by training is hardly possible (Burell, 75); neither eliminating all situations which could allow bias is realistic. But changing the way HOW the things are DONE here can help a lot with changing people’s everyday experiences and further beliefs, values and attitudes.
What is conclusion?
First, traditional training approach in regard to culture change bring poor results.
Second, other ways of people development, like learning by doing, are highly effective compared to traditional ways.
Third is that the basic concept of inclusiveness is equality – treating each other as equals – brings us to reinventing organizations as self-managing and agile, or to flat and matrix structures.
Bohnet, I. Designing a Bias-Free Organization , an interview with Iris Bohnet, Harvard Business Review, 2016.
Burell, L. We Just Can’t Handle Diversity.Harvard Business Review, 2016.
Dobbin, F., Kalev, A. Why Diversity Programs Fail. Harvard Business Review, 2016.