A. THE ISSUE: CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS
During the last several decades, the demographics of the American population and workforce have substantially evolved. The significant influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants, coupled with the increase of older workers and women in the workforce, has resulted in drastic changes in the look, sound and feel of American workers. The trend away from white American- born males has led to an increase in tension, prejudice and even violence in many work places.
B. THE SOLUTION: TRAINING
Diversity training is not about lecturing employees about political correctness, being judgmental or attempting to change the way your employees think. It is about first helping employees to recognize, and admit to themselves (if not to the group) that they have biases of all sorts, whether they be biases toward legally protected categories of people based on race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, or those less recognized biases based on unprotected characteristics like height, weight, hair color, state or city of origin or favorite sports team.
C. OUR PROGRAM
We conduct our diversity training for just supervisors or both supervisors and non-supervisors but in separate sessions. We use several teaching techniques. We start out with some provocative and challenging discussion to introduce the topic – peak the participants’ interest and diffuse the defensive instincts that naturally arise with the topic. We then introduce a quiz that tests the participants’ knowledge about the demographics of the United States and identify many misconceptions that often surprise the group.
The final step is a series of questions and scenarios that help the participants understand more of their own inherent biases. Although not everyone participates in sharing what they learn about themselves by responding to the questions openly, more often than not, even the most hard-nosed and defensive participants reveal some insight into their judgmental behavior,
Over the years, participants have provided positive feedback about the course and have even expressed gratitude for offering them the opportunity to better understand the tensions that exist in themselves and in their workplaces.