As businesses face an increasing amount of pressure to create diverse working environments, inclusion workshops are now on the rise.
Used as a way to educate staff about a broad range of backgrounds, inclusion workshops serve as a means to go beyond basic compliance and create meaningful change. While some may dismiss these programmes as overly-PC, they actually have the potential to enhance workplace culture and make your organisation more effective when approached correctly.
So what obstacles need to be overcome to ensure success?

The premise

The aim of an inclusion workshop is simple- to root out unconscious bias and stigmas in a workplace by encouraging participants to analyse their beliefs and behaviours. This in effect is supposed to make employees more mindful and sensitive to other people’s perspectives. There are two general types of training; awareness training and skills training. Awareness training is fairly self-explanatory, as it focuses upon employees learning to view the world through the eyes of someone who is a different race, gender etc. The latter involves specific exercises to help people build skills, such as communication.
Training will typically run in sessions by an independent facilitator. While there are various online resources and materials for you to run your own sessions in-house, it can be far more effective to seek a professional diversity and inclusion trainer to bring your team up to speed.

Things to bear in mind

Inclusion workshops have obvious benefits, but it’s important to remember that they don’t serve as a means to solve all workplace problems. It takes time to change attitudes, and evolve business culture into a more open and harmonious environment.
There needs to be a fundamental understanding of specific concepts when it comes to inclusion; identity, privilege and stereotypes to name a few. However, compulsory workshops can sometimes result in participants resisting the premise of the training.
In a Harvard Review Study, academics Alexandra Kalev and Frank Dobbin analysed over three decade’s worth of data from over 800 firms, as well as interviewing hundreds of managers and executives.
Results found that mandatory training actually led to fewer women and minorities in managerial positions. Kalev and Dobbin claim that the problem is in how the training is run and the messages that are conveyed.
‘Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance—and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterwards’.
It may therefore be a better idea to try and introduce inclusion workshops upon a voluntary basis. Those who wish to participate in inclusion will then already be willing to learn, open to understanding fresh perspectives, and less resistant to change.
The Harvard Review decided to delve further into its analysis, and found that there was a 9-13% increase in black men, Hispanic men, and Asian-American men and women in management positions five years into the program (with no decline in white or black women). It’s therefore clear that inclusion workshops can serve as a viable means of creating a more diverse working environment, but there are certain factors to be considered if you’re really looking to make a definitive impact.
If schemes are thoughtfully implemented, inclusion workshops can serve as an effective procedure to break down stigmas in the workplace. There’s no one-size-fits-all-approach, especially when each workplace has its own individual barriers to overcome, but if inclusion workshops are executed upon a voluntary basis, they have the potential to change business for the better.