I’ve been delivering diversity training now for over 10 years and it seems that the vast majority of people who attend, regardless of the organisation the training is for, sit at the beginning of the day waiting to be given information about lots of people who are like them and those who aren’t like them.
They expect to be told things like how to ensure there is access for people with disabilities, how to create inclusive imagery and resources, how to improve monitoring around diversity in services and in the workplace, inclusive recruitment etc. All this is important but instead of these being seen as processes to ‘get right’ they should be seen as quality outcomes. By this I mean that if everyone’s behaviours supported inclusive environments then the issues raised above would happen as a matter of course to a high standard. I don’t think that a focus in diversity training being on talking about the Equality Act ‘protected characteristics’ and organisational compliance is helpful.
As trainers we cannot be the ‘thought police’ but we can facilitate people to think about how they may think differently to achieve different and better outcomes. We can create challenging conversations around the impact of unconscious bias, cultural competence in services, reflecting organisational values and working toward creating the organisational ‘community of purpose’ where all stakeholders are working together towards shared goals.
If then we have conversations about the ‘protected characteristics’ they become meaningful in terms of how we might think differently about, and address inclusion issues for minorities within diverse groups, e.g. trans people who don’t transition, gay Moslems, asylum seekers who also have a disability, migrant workers with sensory impairments etc.
We stop thinking about minority communities being called or viewed as ‘hard to reach’ and organisations become full of inclusive intentions and understand how to engage and involve all stakeholders. They take positive risks, make mistakes and occasionally say the ‘wrong thing’ but they learn, remember and move on to a better place.
We then end up with full access for people with disabilities at all times beyond toilets, parking places, ramps and electronic doors. We constantly create inclusive imagery and resources in partnership with those who will be using the resources. Diversity monitoring in services and in the workplace feeds action planning for the future and doesn’t just sit there in a spreadsheet or a graph, and service users, customers and the workforce represent the local community because people from diverse backgrounds really want to be there, in that space. Oh and last but not least, all equality impact assessments carried out actually make a difference and are not done as a paper exercise to appease management.
Organisations that address diversity and inclusion well don’t just ‘sheep dip’ their staff and managers in mandatory training to tick a box. They connect the training to an organisational outcome focus. All managers and staff take responsibility to address diversity and inclusion linked to professional development and measurable changes and improvements. A little difficult at times because of day to day pressures but what a return on investment the organisation achieves!