Human Resources Role in Diversity Training


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HR & Diversity Training

Regulations and laws aside (it depends on the employer on which legislations apply), fostering a diverse work environment is extremely beneficial. A Forbes research report entitled “Global Inclusion – Fostering Innovation Through a Divorce Workforce” describes several key findings of why a diverse workplace is positive from a business or success vantage point, including it allows for more creative ideas and innovation, propels a company or organization to be more successful on an international scale and boosts a company or organization’s attractiveness to “top talent”.

That being said a workplace that is truly diverse makes for a more intriguing, enlightening setting as well. There is nothing more fascinating than learning about a lifestyle or culture different from one’s own – it just requires openness.

Human Resources professionals are often those that promote this openness and appreciation for diversity in a work environment. In the Forbes aforementioned research report, results showed that more often than not, HR managed diversity programs in the workplace. “In fact, when it comes to implementing policies and programs, the responsibility shifts to HR or other senior level executives,” the report reads. “When asked about who is responsible for implementing policies and programs, 65% said it fell to HR…” Ideally, it should be a team effort between a company’s human resources department, management and senior level executives.

What Does Diversity Look Like?

Gender and race are a very important component of workplace diversity, but they are not the only areas of multifariousness. “Corporate diversity programs now embrace a wide spectrum of diverse groups, including lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender employees — known collectively as L.G.B.T. — as well as those organized by country of origin or comprised of the physically challenged, new hires, employees over 40, military veterans, religious minorities and a host of other grassroots minorities,” states Jordan Forsythe (“Leading with Diversity”, The New York Times). HR Professionals, the executive, management and all levels of the workforce should consider and respect all these facets of diversity.

Diversity Plans

In many instances, Human Resources professionals work with executives and other senior staff to develop a plan of strategies and/or policies that describe diversity and inclusion. Of the companies that Forbes surveyed in the aforementioned report, most had such plans put in place but they were not all alike. A strategy may include forming a diversity council or even hiring a director of diversity who works closely with HR and other management. It could include a diverse recruiting strategy, a mentoring program for a member of a “minority group” as he or she works towards promotion, avenues to accommodate for barriers in the workplace and more. It is also crucial that metrics are developed to see if the plan’s strategies are working.

Recruiting a Diverse Workforce

Human Resources can assist supervisors of each department recruit from a diverse workforce. This can come in many forms such as organizing internship programs, job fairs, posting job ads on a variety job boards, community events and more. HR and management can continuously assess their recruiting measures to gauge whether they are reaching a diverse audience of prospective applicants.

Diversity Training

HR professionals may opt to lead diversity training to all staff (particularly if they have received training to do so) or hire an outside company or instructor. Katharine Etsy, an HR Expert with Northeast Human Resources Association (published online at boston.com), who has been a diversity consultant for over two decades, says the purpose of diversity training is “to increase awareness and develop new skills.” In her training programs, Etsy focuses on subjects such as having individuals consciously come to terms with their own “cultural lens”, to learn how to be more inclusive, work well in diverse teams and how to promote diversity in their workplace.

Diversity training can be costly. (If an HR representative led the training after gaining the proper tools and skills, it would be more cost-effective). There are also arguments on either side of the spectrum of whether such training actually improves awareness and acceptance.

Workplace Culture

HR Pro Kris Dunn wrote an interesting blog for hrcapitalist.com called “The World Cup: Now Blowing Traditional Diversity Training Away at a Company Near You…” He described how a conversation about the World Cup led him to learn more about some of his co-workers with South Korean, British, Serbian and South Africa backgrounds. He said that a casual conversation turned into asking more questions to further understanding and form deeper bonds. “Diversity training is too often based around caution – that’s just the way it works, or at least how it impacts people who go through a standard diversity class,” Dunn wrote. “The World Cup is more about conversations”.

Dunn adds that a World Cup Office pool could just be one of many activities to promote diversity in the workplace. Perhaps you could organize a social event where an employee from a different cultural background does a cooking demonstration or have someone who identifies with the LGBT community direct an “It Gets Better” video and include as many of the staff that are interested. What ideas can you think of?

In short HR professionals are instrumental in fostering a diverse workforce and workplace, but it should not only fall on their shoulders. “Significantly, the HR practitioner cannot be the sole practitioner when it comes to managing diversity,” says another HR expert with Northeast Human Resources Association, Deloris Tuggle. “Diversity has to be woven, intertwined, and integrated into the very core of your business in order to be successfully managed. In summary, can the HR practitioner manage diversity in the workplace? Absolutely! But you can’t do it alone.”

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