Anyone who has worked in HR for a number of years will have had many discussions about the value of Diversity training, fending off comments like “we don’t need that, we’re fine here” or “it’s Political Correctness gone mad” (a phrase I have grown to loath over the years). A couple of situations that spring to mind are: I have had a board member and shareholder of the business, sending round openly racist jokes by text message to a number of people in and outside the organisation and couldn’t see what the problem was, so I had to explain, in detail! Also, at a different company, two senior managers were openly and provocatively talking about the KKK and BNP in front of a black employee who politely asked them to stop and they didn’t. The issue came to light when they wanted to dismiss her and as she was on a temporary contract and had less than two years service, they thought they could dismiss without any comeback. They were wrong of course, she complained, put in a grievance and that’s when HR got involved which was too late and meant a lot of time dealing with the ex-employee and then dealing with managers concerned and the organisation as whole.
So getting back to the title, is it just box ticking or does it add value?
- Legal Compliance
I hear you saying that legal compliance is all about box ticking isn’t it? Shall we have a look then:
One defence against any claims under the Equality Act 2010 is that the organisation has taken all reasonable steps to avoid the alleged discrimination. This is an extremely high hurdle as the organisation would have to demonstrate that it has properly trained all staff and is constantly and consistently doing so. In other words, any training is on-going and refreshed and this is reflected in the culture and practices of the organisation. Diversity training here is not just a tick box exercise but can pro-actively prevent claims coming forward but if they do, the organisation can put forward a credible defence that could save it £’s. Remember, there is no cap on compensation for discrimination claims.
Diversity literally means difference. When it is used as a contrast or addition to equality, it is about recognising individual as well as group differences, treating people as individuals, and placing a positive value on diversity in the workplace. Diversity training can reinforce these values and embed them into the culture of the organisation and in doing so reflect in the way people are treated within the workplace and the HR policies that underpin these values. Research has shown that those companies that have diversity as one of their core values tend to perform better, have better motivated staff, attract and retain key staff and basically be a great place to work. All key contributors to the bottom line.
- Reflects Society at Large
We live in an increasingly diverse society whether we like it or not, it is a fact of life. Any organisation, big or small needs to respond appropriately and sensitively to this diversity. We need to be aware of our own prejudices as well as those of others and be able to adapt accordingly. This isn’t “political correctness gone mad” but the proper response in a polite and respectful society. As my mum would say “it’s just good manners” and there is a simple truth in that. If Diversity training can deliver that or even something approaching it, what a nicer, more productive place to work eh?
- It Just Makes Business Sense
Any organisation wants to recruit and retain the best employees, any organisation wants have motivated and engaged staff, any organisation wants staff to be as productive as possible. Why would any organisation not realise these aims because they don’t have Diversity as a key part of their business strategy. Many do, probably without knowing it or despite having the best intentions, because they don’t take Diversity seriously they miss out on that key employee because their HR policies cannot accommodate more flexible working, or an employee leaves because of barriers put up because of their sexuality. They may not make a claim, but the business loses out because it tolerated homophobic comments, staff are demotivated because their religious views are not respected. These issues happen every day and contribute to lower productivity and poorer performance. They can be addressed by Diversity training, provided it is part of the overall business strategy.
We have seen that Diversity Training is far from being a tick box exercise to keep the PC people in HR happy. It is and should be one of the key drivers to improve individual and business performance and add value to the whole organisation both in terms of being a great place to work but the knock on from that is a better, more profitable business. So what’s stopping you?