A Review of
Beyond Diversity Training: A Social Infusion for Cultural Inclusion
How can contemporary organizations effectively diversify? They need to start managing for diversity.
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Chavez and Weisinger introduce an alternative approach to traditional diversity programs and aim to stimulate new interventions among human resources scholars and practitioners. Their study responds to extant academic literature highlighting the shortcomings and failures of traditional diversity programs, which are widely and consistently implemented across the vast majority of large American companies. Despite the perpetual failures and recurrent frustrations espoused by diversity training programs, managers are fixated on their potential appeal, such as attracting and retaining diverse employees, increasing organizational creativity, and broadening cross-cultural social interaction. In response to this enduring dilemma, Chavez and Weisinger suggest a novel approach to corporate diversity with three objectives:
- Adopt a relational culture where people are proud of their uniqueness and also integrated into the larger group.
- Maintain an inclusive culture where employees are intrinsically motivated to learn across multiple ideological perspectives.
- Implement an organizational strategy that utilizes these multiple ideological perspectives to enhance creativity, productivity, well-being, etc.
Within this type of culture, diversity trainers are better positioned to implement mandated trainings while mitigating feelings of shame or guilt, anger, defensiveness, etc. The authors use T. Cox’s (1994) definition of diversity, “the representation, in one social system, of people with distinctly different group affiliations of cultural significance,” to ground their analysis and further define “inclusion” as the degree to which diverse individuals are enabled to participate and contribute fully. Carolyn Chavez is an assistant professor in the College of Business at New Mexico State University where she researches power and influence, management education, training, and leadership development. Judith Weisinger is an associate professor in the College of Business at New Mexico State University where she researches diversity and cross-cultural management.
Methods and Findings
The authors review two main approaches in the study: active learning and organizational learning. The active learning approach focuses on the individual learner’s capacity to apply, analyze, and synthesize knowledge via reinforcement learning. Active learning couples academic concepts with relevant experiences. This approach infuses novel values and attitudes with actions to create new associations with activities such as diversity training.
The organizational approach locates active learning opportunities within their respective organizations where management is able to strategically capitalize on a variety of experiences and perspectives a diverse workforce offers. Imperative to the organization’s success is active signaling and participation among top managers. Facilitators must also be amply prepared for unexpected, inappropriate, or unsettling disclosures linking these disclosures to key issues within the organization.
In the study, the authors turn to multiple case examples where instructors utilized the active learning and organizational approaches in a classroom setting. In the active learning example, classroom instructors invited students to use food to tell a meaningful personal story. After the instructor first disclosed their “food story,” all of the students voluntarily disclosed theirs as well following a similar model set forth by the instructor. The willingness of the instructor to disclose a personal story set a strong positive precedent for other students to openly disclose their own narratives. In the organizational example, managers implemented these “food stories” by first presenting their own story and then allowing others to choose what they would like to disclose. As each individual voluntarily told their own personal story, facilitators were able to transition into conversations more relevant to the organization with greater ease. For example, one facilitator asked how participants could apply the diverse cultural learnings from the activity to their own organization.
Utilizing the two main approaches, the authors describe multiple findings most conducive to managing for diversity. Firstly, in the diversity training evaluation phase they emphasize a particular set of attitudes that business leaders should abide by: an embedded belief in the business case for diversity, a desire to promote diversity awareness, and a willingness to shift behaviors. These attitudes should undergird the organization’s training needs, objectives, mission, and culture. Four “best-practice” training evaluation findings are identified:
- Utilize mixed methods research for cultural change: qualitative assessments like focus groups and interviews coupled with qualitative assessments like performance metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) are most effective.
- Managers should ask seven questions to assess culture and guide organizational transition: 1) Are diversity conversations healthy? 2) Is there a positive spirit around diversity? 3) Are leaders accommodating diverse perspectives? 4) Are diverse employees collaborating? 5) Are diverse colleagues working together for success? 6) Do individuals feel that each member is a contributor to the team? 7) Is there a spirit of curiosity and discovery that includes a diverse array of individuals?
- Utilize the Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI) as a diagnostic tool which measures behavioral norms (cultural “styles”) such as constructive, defensive/aggressive, and defensive/passive to determine
- Utilize the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, which helps determine priorities for change using cultural norms like mission, consistency, adaptability, and involvement.
The authors indicate that they were able to meet their objectives: to promote a relational culture where people are proud of their uniqueness and also integrated into the larger group; to maintain an inclusive culture where employees are intrinsically motivated to learn across multiple ideological perspectives; and to implement an organizational strategy that utilizes these multiple ideological perspectives to enhance creativity, productivity, well-being, etc. They remind the reader of the differences between visual and hidden identities; they also provide an additional challenge in addressing deep-seated differences between people. However, for the sake of managing diversity, the authors are fairly confident that preserving the individual’s freedom of choice in disclosing their own story enhances relational developments and maintains a spirit of trust. They encourage managers to focus their efforts on nurturing these relationships in the long term. Lastly, they suggest that “managing for diversity” can be a competitive advantage because it leverages the unique capacities of a diverse workforce.
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