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Strategies for Effective Inclusion and Diversity Training

Inclusion and diversity goals don't just achieve themselves. Success is more than putting policies in place around diverse hiring. That’s just the starting point. Companies must focus on inclusion to achieve real results. And yet, while many organizations invest a lot of time and money in training staff on I&D principles, they often see mixed results.

In an article for Harvard Business Review by Alex Lindsey, Eden King, Ashley Membere and Ho Kwan Cheung, the authors discuss two specific I&D training efforts and the personality traits that may make trainees more receptive to diversity training.


"One training exercise that we analyzed, and that shows promise, is perspective-taking, which is essentially the process of mentally walking in someone else’s shoes," they write. They relate an experiment conducted with 118 undergraduate students in which the participants were asked to write a few sentences imagining the challenges a marginalized minority might face. The experiment showed that this process can improve pro-diversity attitudes and behavioral intentions toward diverse groups.

Goal Setting

The second strategy the authors discuss is goal setting. "Recent evidence shows that this strategy—more broadly used to motivate improved aspects of someone’s job performance—can be successfully adapted by asking diversity training participants to set specific, measurable, and challenging (yet attainable) goals related to diversity in the workplace," they write. They offer an example of trainees being given goals to challenge inappropriate comments they might hear from their colleagues that are targeted toward marginalized groups.

Personality Characteristics That Influence Effectiveness

The authors go on to discuss the personality characteristics that might influence the effectiveness of these two training strategies. "For example," they write, "perspective-taking may be more effective for individuals who lack empathy than for those who are highly empathetic." They believe empathetic individuals might be more likely to engage in spontaneous perspective taking on their own. Another trait that impacts the effectiveness of diversity training in general is the level of an individual's social dominance orientation, which is the degree to which they prefer majority groups dominating minorities within a social hierarchy. Unsurprisingly those with high social dominance orientation tend to be more resistant to I&D training, although this does not mean it is impossible to train them.

While there are often mixed results when it comes to the effectiveness of inclusion and diversity training, it's important to keep in mind the wide variety of potential training methods. Knowing the right strategy for your organization and the individuals within it can greatly improve the effectiveness of your efforts.

Training Done Right

Just any kind of training is not enough to generate results though. The “dip and done” strategy does not work. You cannot have people sit in an 8-hour training session once every 5 years and expect behavioral and cultural change to occur, and persist.

We approach training with our Learning Over Time® strategy; moving training beyond a one-time event to create learning that is reinforced by repeated exposure over time. Through our multiple methodology approach we are able to reach all levels of the organization with learning that is consistent and sustainable. Contact us to learn more.


In Inclusion: STILL the Competitive Business Advantage, we continue our contributions to thought leadership on the importance of inclusion in an environment that has been roiled with new discussion—and new dissent—amid rapidly changing demographics, continually emerging technology and a global economy that is continually shifting to favor newly emerging market powerhouses. We're very gratified by the positive reviews already pouring in.

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