Thursday, 18 August 2011
The Importance of Equality and Diversity Training
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) training is an important commodity of the business world. No matter what kind of business you are in, this is an agenda for change and improvement. Businesses need to see the agenda as an improvement agenda as opposed to Political Correctness gone mad. Businesses should be running with the idea of PC – but when we say PC, we mean Professional Competence and confidence and practicing commonsense.
Too often, managers and staff avoid exploring this agenda and when there is an issue of inequality or discrimination they shy away from it by being reactive and looking all the time for quick fixes. We all know that quick fixes and knee jerk reactions rarely work on complex equality and diversity problems.
There is a need for organisations to review their structures, policies and procedure to ensure that they impact on all areas of the business and that staff have not only awareness, but an understanding about equality, diversity and inclusion.
If we are going to change the culture of an organisation, it is crucial that every effort is made to raise staff awareness, knowledge and understanding about what an equality organisation looks like and how staff are expected to behave in terms of professionalism. The agenda is not about being politically correct, but about demonstrating professional competence, confidence and common sense - PC with a difference.
Cultural change involves a sustained effort and a prolonged commitment by all concerned. While delivering EDI training to organisations, I have often heard from a minority of staff vitriolic comments, offensive language and some totally inappropriate views where staff don’t see the issues from other people’s point of view.
What is revealing about this is that most of the time staff précis their comments with, “ I am not racist, homophobic, sexist, but....”. Comments are often harsh and shocking and I believe revealing about issues the organsiations are not addressing.
This tells me that in some organisations, when it comes to issues of race or any of the protected characteristics, the first time there is an open debate about equality and diversity is in the training session. It is sad that staff feel unable to explore issues of EDI as part of their day to day practice. This is surely an agenda for staff meetings and team discussions. If EDI is not on the agenda, how do we progress the issues? If staff feel unable to discuss issues of race, sexuality, age etc., the issues are driven underground and you will find staff attending training rolling their eyes, tutting and firmly folding their arms when these issues are raised rather than openly discussing and exploring the issues from different viewpoints.
How can the culture of an organisation be changed if there is not the opportunity for people to share their experiences of inequality, or if the organisation fails to offer real and worthwhile opportunities to challenge myths, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination and misconceptions?
Training should provide opportunities for staff and senior managers to debate issues and policies/procedures; these polices together offering opportunities for solutions as well as identifying problems
Businesses need to explore with staff their views, needs and issues. They need to consider the future, what will the work force look like in five years time, who will our customers be, etc.
This is an important question because in 2010, only 20 per cent of the UK's full-time workforce comprised white, non-disabled men under 45. Over the coming years, the workforce is set to become even more diverse, reflecting trends towards an ageing population, greater ethnic diversity and more women taking up positions in paid work.
How will you manage?