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Garry Platt


Senior Consultant

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Diversity Training – A Complete Waste of Time?


On a recent ROI for Training event I was running in London the issue of Diversity Training raised its head and quite what it was supposed to achieve in organisations and then how could it be measured.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it’s a waste of time, money and effort:,9171,1615183,00.html

Challenging Diversity training can be problematic as you might be seen as sort of anti equalitarian, but on the other hand I don’t think we should go along with ideas that don’t work or have little to no real effect.

My question therefore is; does contra evidence exist out there to support Diversity Training and how are its impacts being measured?

21 Responses

  1. Workplaces

    Before any Government funded Apprentice is signed up to a company the company must have a H&S check and some sort of Equality and Diverstity check (although the latter is more cloak and dagger than the official H&S check)

    I absolutely think training of some kind is necessary as there are many employers who think it is still ok to have a workplace filled with "boob" pictures and think its ok for the girls to use the mens toilet etc etc…

    Training can be as simple as a 30 minute discussion over a cup of tea and I have many examples of it working and making a difference to both employer and employee…


  2. My Question

    My question still is; does contra evidence exist out there to support Diversity Training and how are its impacts being measured?

    By evidence I mean something more than anecdote, and what metrics are being used to measure success?

  3. Metrics

    Thanks Steve – That may well work for you and your organisation and prove very effective.

    For others its different and training is focussed on identified performance improvement based on gap analysis. What I am looking for are organisations that have undertaken gap analysis and what they have identified as the issues and consequentially the metrics of success. I suspect in many cases there are none.

  4. Metrics

    I’m doubtful about Diversity based on the research I have reviewed to date, but it’s not support I am looking for.

    I’m looking for evidence of impact and the metrics employed.

  5. Metrics

    Thanks for your input Steve.

    For anyone who is still reading here is my question:

    Does contra evidence exist out there to support Diversity Training and how are its impacts being measured? By evidence I mean data predicated on performance issues and outcomes.

  6. Diversity Training-ish?

    Hi Gary,

    I’m not sure if this answers your question, but it may go some way to help.

    My organisation was getting a rash of grievances raised by staff against managers saying they were being discriminated against because of their gender, race or religion.  During the investigation it came to light that this was never the case and the employee either held a grudge against the manager or just couldn’t be bothered to actually work!  As part of the initiative to combat this I rolled out diversity training of a sort.  The sessions comprised of what the grievance procedure was to be used for, clarified the investigation process and some number crunching on how diverse the workforce actually was.  It turned out we had 82 different nationalities in a 1500 workforce, and this is now up on a pinboard with all of the flags.  Don’t tell us we discriminate!

    This training was rolled out 6 weeks ago, and so far there hasn’t been one greivance raised.  We were getting one every couple of weeks. I have no doubt there will be, but currently HR are breathing a sigh of relief! 

    I know another business who did a ‘Who do you think you are’ type thing a few years ago, traced ancestors and filmed the subesquant tears.  They wound up going all over the world on the company dime!  Who signs off these things?!?


    Kind reagrds,




  7. I suppose it depends what the Diversity Training sets out to do.

    Sorry Garry this doesn’t really answer you question but…

    If you set out to training managers/staff in the letter of discrimination law and how to stay inside it then a metric to evaluate the ROI on the training may be quite straightforward.

    If however you set out:

    ~to enlighten people to the value of diversity,

    ~to open their minds to accepting different cultures or approaches and

    ~to reduce prejudice  

    then you have a much more difficult task in measuring ROI.

    On the other hand if the ROI is the ability to stand up in an Employment Tribunal or Court and mitigate your organisation’s liability by proving that you HAVE a policy, you HAVE procedures and you HAVE provided training to everyone then that is seen as an adequate metric by many….it results in the box ticking training we all know and have an opinion on.

  8. “Value” is the key word here…

    In trying to develop, understand, change, or transform organizational culture, you must understand what individuals Value. Diversity
    training is important for this reason.  We all come from different backgrounds and have had multiple experiences that require
    organizational strategies to consider ways to motivate and engage all employees for best performance results.  The frightening senerio
    consists of not having any diversity awareness or training.  If you would think about a living situation with multiple animals…dogs,
    cats, birds, etc…they tend to dwell and survive with many common purposes once they have been trained to respect differences,
    and understand wants and needs,  also if those needs are being met or not met. If you value "Top Performance", then you value
    the need to understand diversity and the need to train others on diversity.  How else can you extract the best performance out of
    employees if their needs and wants are not being addressed or satisfied ?  How can you, and anyone else in an organization address
    or seek to satisfy those needs and wants if you dont understand and train on the differences and commonalities of individuals ?
    When there was no diversity training, tragedies like slavery and the holocaust occured.  People need to understand that other people
    are different, and that there are similarities, and waht those are.

  9. Diversity training evidence


    I am a passionate advocate of diversity. But, sad to say, I have not come across any particularly convincing metric evidence of the success of diversity training on its own. Some fabulous anecdotes, yes. Clear, substantial and consistent business results, no.

    In my view the fault is often down to the lack of clarity about what success looks like in terms of what a short training programme can realistically achieve. Too often it is about satisfying a vague corporate expectation that we should do something – it is, apparently, good practice. I am more in favour of treating it like any other training need – what is the problem we are trying to solve, what is the outcome we are trying to achieve, what is the benefit we are aiming to realise? Only then can you work out an appropriate metric, measure it, and see just how successful you have been. If anyone has this evidence I too would love to find out more. In the meantime I’ll continue to support (good) diversity training as an act of faith.

    Colleagues who use the diversity excellence model – a tough metric based on the EFQM model (see – have some powerful evidence of change and the resultant benefits but this is not down to training alone (though training is a key part). The very act of measurement and the subsequent action plan helps drive change. Arguably training is the oil that lubricates change but the real engine is motivation – from within or external.

    I’m reminded of the adage:

    Q How many trainers does it take to change a light bulb?
    A Only one, but the light bulb needs to want to change?

    Best of luck on the metrics front.

    Graham O’Connell

  10. Diversity interventions that work?

    Hello Garry, I have experience of a more visible /real achievement from diversity training and whilst client confidentiality prohibits me from sharing the full details I can relay the process followed and the progress made which was measured and monitored by the organisation over three years.

    In 2004 I worked with a large soft drinks manufacturer as they introduced the concept of "diversityand inclusion" training to all of their senior managers within the European division. The focus from the outset was business improvement and managers were asked to challenge every process to ensure that they were seeking and incorporating the most diverse range of ideas and contributions possible. In the short term this meant lookng atincluding more employees in decision making and especially in areas of new product development and customer service. 

    In the longer term the managers were asked to question the diversty of their teams and to take steps through recruitment, promotions and process re-engineering to create the most diverse team that they could  looking at all variables.

    Over the three years I supported the annual management event the progress of this strategy was reported. In the absence of other significant employee strategies during this time the company identified improvements in retention, employee engagement (which this company surveyed each year), improved cycle times for new product development,  and better customer satisfaction results. Whilst the organisation did not claim that these improvements were just down to the diversity training itself all of the managers beleived that the re-focusing of processes to iclude as many employees with diverse backgrounds was a significant contributory factor.




  11. Diversity Training ROI


    Thank you for raising the issue of proven effects of D & I training and I have read with great interest the links you submitted. One particular article from Donald Clark was of interest as we are about to test market a Sc-fi themed online "serious game" or immersive learning simulation looking to address exactly this issue.

    Donald says "

    Diversity training needs to be more diverse
    A more serious issue was why such training takes this form. We were talked at (hopeless for the deaf) and inappropriate for learners with learning difficulties, as it went at the pace of the trainer’s delivery, not the learner. We were bombarded with 100 pages of text – inappropriate for learners with dyslexia and literacy problems. The forms were all on CD-ROM. Why not on the intranet where they should be? E-learning with its flexibility around pace, media, screen readers, text magnification etc is the obvious answer. It’s the training that needs to be more diverse.

    So our product, called Makrini, has been developed at significant cost to address diversity fatigue and to truly immerse the learner to challenge stereotyping, provoke self refection and stimulate discussion etc. We are looking for any UK organisations interested in exploring this innovative approach if any readers of this article are interested in being early adopters/piloters?


  12. Evidence not anecdote

    Hi Garry.

    Like others, I cannot answer your question in the affirmative; I write simply to applaud your question and encourage you to stick with it.

    I have not come across (‘though I can’t claim to have searched exhaustively) any persuasive evidence of measurable improvement reasonably attributable to diversity, inclusion & equality training. As you have speculated, this might be because so much of it is provided without any clarity as to desired outcomes.

    And, yes, I frequently deliver such training. Yes, we have a some vague aspirations about staff being more tolerant and respectful, and whittling away at structural, procedural and behavioural barriers (to services, to ideas, to contributions, co-operation and collaboration). And, yes, we hope to nibble away at ingrained ‘anti-equalitarian’ attitudes. I’ll continue to do this, as an act of faith. But, the truth is, satisfying regulators and inspectorates is a large part of why we provide such training.

    There’s lots of sincere advocates of such training and anecdotes of ‘success’ and I wouldn’t dream of dismissing them all. However, I could offer several anecdotes about diversity training having ill effect, e.g., irritating and patronising staff, and potentially igniting or rekindling grievance. I suspect other trainers could do likewise.

    One contributor suggests looking to the EHRC for positive evidence. The EHRC is a vital body doing frequently very worthwhile, laudable work. However, in something akin to the academic rigour of ‘peer review’, I do not think we could regard it as impartial.

    I’ll follow this thread with interest.



  13. Makrini


    "Makrini™ is an online training simulation that assigns the Learner to a position on a commercial space station where they must learn and apply diversity and inclusion skills to interact productively with intergalactic associates, and to attain better business results than competitors. At the end of the simulation, the Learner returns to Earth for a debriefing to aid the application of their learning to their current workplace."

    Objectives of the Makrini immersive simulation include

    • Increase personal diversity awareness and inclusive behaviors.
    • Increase understanding of the business impact of diversity
    • Recognize one’s own perceptions and biases that may limit inclusive behaviors
    • Develop the knowledge and skills to build solid business relationships across dimensions of diversity.

    But there is a video that demonstrates this better than I can ever hope to This is our content partner from the US. If you wish to discuss further or would like a trial please let me know.



  14. Diversity Training

    -Yes is the short answer. The longer answer from our lead trainer who is a UK anorak in this field(his phrase not mine0 is that it it not so much metrics you need as a joined up approach. Diversity Training should scrapped in its own right annd firmly reclassified as diversity awareness, equality laws and cultural issues training. This means you then plug into the 4 tangible drivers of:-

    The Law – vicarious liability and the burden of proof in showing how the organisation itself is changing.The old days of ticking the right box and having a pink and fluffy policy on e/d that is not actually implemented are going.Equality experts believe that many of the victories which people have secured over the last 40 years have been empty and hollow, You get the compo,the apology but nothing changes in the organisation.The new Equality Act and the burden of proof criteria linked to new tribunal powers gives you firm cruiteria – and judges too – for testing what you actually do with the policy etc etc


    The Economic arguments – recruitment and retentioin of customers/staff linked to monitoring data and the new public procurement clauses in the Equality Act

    The Demographics – the UK demographic timembomb but also your local social atlas and travel to work area etc.What is the match between this data and the people you employ AND want to employ,the people you serve AND want to serve

    The Commnication issues – you get all the processes right but if you communicate acrioss the cultural divide with a thumbs up in Manchester it means ok, in Brazil in it mneans XXXX off

    In short this sort of training should always be consultative using the opportunity against the 4 drivers above and in house policies,what they actually know and what they think the whole organistion ought to be doing to further develop its diversity and equality policies

    Measure for equality of process,outcome and choice




    QED Training

  15. Great question – no evidence uncovered!

     Great question Garry. 

    Despite the wealth of large research and evaluative studies from Dobbin, Kochlan and Karlev, that support the proposition that it’s a waste of time, even counterproductive, no evidence seems to exist to support the case for diversity training, other than anecdote.


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Garry Platt

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