by David Rock & Heidi Grant
Originally published: May 8, 2017
Although diversity and inclusion training is prevalent in corporate America, its impact is inconsistent. According to the evidence, sometimes the programs even have the opposite effect of what they intend. One 2016 study of 830 mandatory diversity training programs found that they often triggered a strong backlash against the ideas they promoted. “Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance,” wrote sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev in the Harvard Business Review, “and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.”
The problem is not with the programs themselves. They make a strong case for valuing differences — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it leads to much higher levels of performance. Inclusive companies have a demonstrated advantage, both in financial performance and in general levels of innovation, and being around others from different backgrounds has been shown to make people more creative and hardworking. Drawing on multiple perspectives leads teams to see a greater number of solutions to problems. The training itself is increasingly well-designed, sound in its messages and convincing in its delivery.