What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion training?

Published on January 6th, 2022

Business leaders are becoming more aware of the importance of diversity for contemporary organizational management, and for many, it has become a priority issue, particularly in their search for the best talent. However, businesses have discovered that simply bringing a diverse workforce into their organization won’t be enough to reap the benefits of their unique perspectives. Companies may welcome diversity, but they must nurture inclusion. That is where Diversity and Inclusion training comes into play.

The benefits of D&I training speak to the very core of the problems that many companies face with employee engagement, satisfaction, and well-being. This new branch of training is becoming an indispensable part of diversity management by helping leaders to create inclusive, safe and productive workspaces. But why exactly do you need it?

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Why is diversity and inclusion training necessary?

The growing evidence cannot be ignored: diversity and inclusion are critical predictors of job performance and organizational commitment. While your company may pride itself in its diversity regulations and policies, without a culture of inclusion, those regulations and policies will have little impact. Not only will they fail to enforce a culture of inclusion, but might lead to more incidents of discrimination and conflict. Simply put, diversity without inclusion doesn’t work. 

With D&I training, leaders are opting for a proactive strategy to diversity management aiming to maximize their employees’ potential. They recognize that this training is a means to manage diversity better, make better use of talent and generate business ideas and solutions that effectively respond to market trends, challenges and needs. Inclusive leaders know that a diverse and inclusive employee base – rich with a variety of perspectives and approaches – is more competitive in a globalized economy. They know that in order to capitalize on these perspectives and approaches, they need to build an environment where diversity can be expressed and learned from.

The key benefits of diversity and inclusion training

1. Builds key competencies necessary to encourage an inclusive diverse work environment

Diversity and Inclusion training is a tool which can include all your employees and management in building and maintaining genuinely inclusive spaces where different cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, ages, experiences, and ideas are valued equally. Not only valued but leveraged and learned from. It enables raising awareness within the organization by equipping the learners with necessary cross-cultural competence, workplace sensitivity and knowledge of unconscious bias. 

Successfully creating inclusive work environments requires releasing unconscious bias that drives stereotypes and prejudice. It entails self-reflection and developing cross-cultural skills and cultural intelligence that enable people to communicate and work with people with different cultural backgrounds. D&I training is necessary in order for every member of your organization to be aware of the importance of diversity and to actively participate in creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

2. Increased team cohesion, productivity, creativity, and innovation

In 2016, The Great British Diversity Experiment was carried out in the UK creative and communications industries. The researchers sought to prove that diversity leads to better team solutions and experiences and to provide practical and relevant actions on how to leverage diversity in creative industries.

They recruited 140 diverse people, including participants and mentors, and divided them into 20 teams that were given a world-changing challenge by Tesco—to solve home food wastage. The teams were given a month to work on the challenge and during this time were ‘’ethnographically studied to enable an understanding of what is different, difficult and advantageous when diversity is in action’’ (Bennett, n.d.)1. Not surprisingly, the experiment confirmed that diversity encourages people to contribute more authentically and creatively and brings unique insights that lead to new, distinctive, and powerful ideas.

The leaders of the experiment, like many other researchers, were inspired by McKinsey’s ‘Why Diversity Matters’ report which showed that ‘companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 30 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians’ and ‘companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians’ (Hunt, Layton, Prince, 2015)2.

Both of these studies have made it imperative to build a culture of inclusion when it comes to managing diversity. Without D&I training there will be no increase in awareness of differences, the ability to recognize, accept and value diversity will not be developed, and therefore, members of all socio-cultural backgrounds in your company will not be able to contribute and reach their full potential.

3. Increased organizational loyalty and talent recruitment and retention

In their survey-based empirical research, Jauhari, and Singh (2013)3 wanted to prove that perceived diversity climate is positively related to employees’ organizational loyalty. And they did. Their findings show us that, with perceived organizational support, a diversity climate supports organizational loyalty. Not only that, they showed us that diverse skills, experiences, and viewpoints, if properly managed, will raise organizational performance and increase the company’s competitive advantage.

Inclusive leaders use D&I training to build the needed organizational support and a culture of inclusion in their companies. They know that people who don’t feel included in the company’s mission are less likely to stay in that company and invest in the future of the organization. Organizational loyalty entails employee retention, defending it against external threats and promoting it to outsiders. Get this right, and you boost recruitment and attract the best and most diverse talent wanting to work in a company that values ​​diversity and cares about their employee’s well-being.

4. Enhanced company image, market intelligence, and relationships with diverse clients and customers

One of the reasons why companies that truly nurture diversity and inclusion are the ones that eventually become the most successful businesses lies in their ability to reach different markets. If your top management includes people from different backgrounds, it will be better at understanding the needs of the customers and clients that come from those backgrounds. Let’s give you an example:

Avon Corporation was struggling with low profitability within Black and Hispanic markets. By using cultural diversity, they made personnel changes and gave authority over these markets to Black and Hispanic managers. As a result, these sectors became among Avon’s most productive U.S. markets. They understood that members of a certain cultural group will be much better at understanding the needs and perspectives of the customers who belong to the same group. (Cox, Blake, 1991)4

By creating inclusive space in your company for people of different cultures, genders, ages, beliefs, and experiences, you’ll not only improve your market intelligence but also build your company’s image among customers and other organizations. With D&I training you’ll be able to build teams with leaders and members that value diversity and inclusion, have strong cultural intelligence, understand unconscious bias and workplace sensitivity, and, therefore, know how to avoid offending people of diverse backgrounds. Maintaining a commitment to diversity and inclusion decreases the likelihood that your company will face legal issues over harassment or discrimination.

Managing FOR diversity

While having a diverse workforce is crucial to compete in today’s global economy, it is by creating an inclusive culture, or ‘managing for diversity’ (Chavez, Weisinger, 2008)5 that we effectively attract and retain the best talent, their retention and enjoy all the benefits from a diverse workforce. Creating an inclusive culture requires senior leadership to openly commit to supporting the diversity in their company. This would entail accepting something that Thomas and Ely (1996)6 called the ‘learning and effectiveness paradigm’. The approach goes beyond treating cultural and other differences as something to be ignored just to avoid discrimination or to access more markets, but to see them as resources from which the whole organization can benefit and learn. And incorporating Diversity and Inclusion training in your company is an essential step towards accepting this approach.

Finally, we must not forget the importance of D&I training for supporting equity and fairness within a company, and society as a whole. We agree that there are multiple components to creating a diverse, inclusive, equitable and fair environment. However, D&I training is a foundational part of creating a climate of inclusion where equity and fairness are imperative. The training itself must represent that by including all learners, their knowledge, needs, values and experiences when working on finding solutions to cross-cultural challenges. As such, D&I training at its core should be a tool for promoting and developing skills that build inclusion, equity and a sense of belonging.


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References:

1Bennett, A., n.d. Case Study: The Great British Diversity Experiment. [PDF] Sport Wales. Available at: <https://www.sport.wales/files/b5392774eee97dccc5b0082a767417a2.pdf> [Accessed 18 December 2021].

2Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S., 2015. Why Diversity Matters. [ebook] McKinsey & Company. Available at: <https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/people%20and%20organizational%20performance/our%20insights/why%20diversity%20matters/diversity%20matters.pdf> [Accessed 16 December 2021].

3Jauhari, H. and Singh, S., 2013. Perceived diversity climate and employees’ organizational loyalty. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 32(3), pp.262-276.

4Cox, T. H., Jr., and Blake, S., 1991. Managing cultural diversity: Implications for organizational competitiveness. Academy of Management Executive, 5(3), pp.45–56.

5Chavez, C. and Weisinger, J., 2008. Beyond diversity training: A social infusion for cultural inclusion. Human Resource Management, 47(2), pp.331-350.

6Thomas, D. A., and Ely, R. J., 1996. Making differences matter. Harvard Business Review, 74(5), 79–90