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Successful vs. Failed Diversity Programs

Mauricio Velasquez
President, The Diversity Training Group

Top 10 Reasons Diversity Training Fails

• Diversity training is coming out of the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Office. This is the kiss of death. I don't work with these organizations. Diversity training must come from the whole organization through a diversity steering committee made up of employees from a representative cross-section of the organization. Don't give the EEO/AA backlash camp ammunition for their resistance.

• Diversity training is being done because it is the "right" thing or "moral" thing to do. The organization does not understand the connection between diversity and the bottom line. I want to emphasize that these are good and valid reasons but in corporate America, make the business case for diversity training first. (This welfare approach to diversity training plays into the hands of those arguing the EEO/AA argument - backlash).

• Training is all the organization is doing. The organization is not reviewing or scrutinizing their hiring, promotion, leadership development, and business practices. Do you have a formal, inclusive mentoring program in place? Are you a homogenous company (senior and upper management) marketing and selling to a heterogeneous or diverse marketplace? Or, will a heterogeneous company (your competitor) understand and anticipate the needs of your heterogeneous or diverse marketplace more effectively than you and your homogeneous company?

• The diversity training has management's support (they will provide the resources) but not their commitment (management or senior management in particular, does not attend training, does not "walk the talk", i.e. Texaco). Management's lack of participation is all the evidence the rest of the organization needs to resist the training and consider it the next fad - They will wait and it will pass.

• The training being conducted is "off-the-shelf" and not custom designed to meet the unique needs of the particular organization. Participants in the generic workshop are overheard asking themselves, "What does this have to do with me?" The training fails because participants were not engaged, not interested, and did not find the training practical, pertinent and compelling.

• Training is being developed and lead solely by external diversity consultants and trainers. The training is thus the consultant's program and not a program developed by the employees of the organization, for the organization. No ownership or buy-in is solicited and thus none is secured and the program eventually perishes and the external diversity trainer is the "fall guy."

• Diversity training was designed and developed without a formal needs analysis or diagnosis of the organization. Who in the ivory tower developed this program? Your program was probably developed by someone who doesn't even work at your company. What did they know?

• Your diversity training program is awareness-based but provides no skills, no practical, "hands-on", everyday tools (what I call a diversity "skill/tool kit" has not been developed). People are heard saying, "This was great but now what? What am I supposed to do now? I go back to my workplace tomorrow."

• Internal resources are not formed, developed, and encouraged, i.e., internal diversity change agents, facilitators, and an internal resource center and/or office. You haven't formed an internal diversity steering committee and haven't trained and developed internal change agents to "keep the fires burning." You have not continued the work once the external diversity trainer has moved on.

• Your diversity training had no formal follow-up. Many of the action items had no owners and no one revisited the training. Training alone is not the cure-all panacea. You need to have internally driven initiatives supported by senior management commitment as well as ongoing attention and training from internal as well as external subject matter experts.

Top 10 Reasons Diversity Training Programs Succeed

Successful diversity training....

• ... is developed through a partnership of internal employees (diversity steering committee) and an external subject matter expert (diversity consultant and trainer).

• ... has a senior-level advocate or champion. The champion of the internal diversity steering committee is the President and/or CEO of your organization. He/she participated in workshops where all of the diversity training consultant candidates considered were asked to present and train. You test drove all of the diversity training contractors and picked the best trainer - not the one that looked best on paper.

• ... is supported by sound research. Your organizations is presenting the business rationale, the bottom-line results of doing this work. Also presented are the costs of not doing this work. Your company is doing this work because their future, market share, retention of talent, and performance depend on understanding and anticipating the needs of an increasingly diverse workplace and marketplace.

• ... occurs in a supportive corporate culture, one that reflects an ongoing commitment to continuous learning. You may have a resource or learning center where books, articles, and other support and educational materials are available. Now, you can even find cd-rom training programs for individual or small group learning. Multicultural calendars are made available to everyone, possibly through your intranet.

• ... is "skill-based." All diversity training is awareness based. When you actually develop a set of skills or what I call "tools" for your diversity skill/tool kit.

• ... ensures transfer of skills from the training room to the workplace. Diversity training should educate and empower all employees with new skills and tools. DTG is the first diversity training firm in the country to develop bookmarks, mouse pads, and screen savers loaded with new diversity skills and has distributed these items to employees after training to ensure skills are available and continuously used.

• ... is not dependent on a "savior." Do not rely on one person (diversity trainer or manager of diversity) to save the organization. A steering committee representing the whole organization must uniformly champion all of the initiatives.

• ... does not occur in a vacuum and must be supported by other initiatives and activities. Training alone is not the "cure-all." A formal mentoring program that includes and encourages all employees to participate is another potential diversity initiative. Many organizations are going to structured group interviews to stop the "cloning" and homogenization of management and leadership ranks.

• ... is thoroughly planned, implemented, and measured for its impact on the organization. See my article on diversity metrics for more information.

• ... takes on a life of its own. Employees are fired up and asked to participate, to carry the torch forward. Employees are encouraged to get involved, develop and lead brown-bag discussions, mini-training, and other activities. A formal diversity learning center is established. Such a center has books, videos, audiotapes, cd-roms, and other learning materials available for all employees when they need such assistance. There is an ongoing and continuous commitment to creating and promoting a more inclusive work environment that values our differences.

Reprinted with permission. Originally published online at: