Equality and Diversity in the work place: We all recognise the importance, but do we really need training in Equality and Diversity?
The answer from me is yes, we do need training. The reason is that we all come from different backgrounds, have different sets of values and many of us only mix with people who are like us. The employer has a responsibility for staff and customers and therefore needs to ensure that staff have up to date training and skills. Skills are not just linked to the job in hand but include people skills, diversity management, managing own behaviour and prejudices.
In my work, I often come across people in organisations who are aware of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) but do not have an understanding or any experience. Sometime people witness inequalities but don't recognise them as such; they are unable to identify discriminatory behaviour or language that is unacceptable, sometime telling me that this is just banter – it is what is used in their circles and has been for years!
Would we expect people who join our workforce to be skilled in their area of work? If the answer is yes, then we should also expect that they have not just awareness, but an understanding of the impact of good equality practice on business. They should also be aware of the significant cost to businesses of poor equality practice. Training should not be about the “do’s” and “don’ts”; it should be about the business, moral and legal case (notice legal came last!) for promoting, fostering and advancing equality and diversity.
Demographics play a significant part in all of this. In the next 5-10 years we will see a significant shift in demographics in the UK population (we are already seeing this) where women and black and minority ethnic people will be the majority workforce. Older people will also have a stake in the workforce. Training our staff about EDI is crucial. Training them simply about legislation and laws won’t do. We need to ensure that everyone understands the business benefits, the moral responsibilities and the legal responsibilities employers hold for ensuring that staff and customers are safeguarded from discrimination based on any of the protected characteristics (as well as know their rights).
If we have to ask this question it may be that we need to personally reflect on where we stand on this issue and consider how we can embrace EDI agendas because we know it makes good business sense.