Why train on diversity specifically? This
article looks at why diversity training
programmes are so crucial.
Business places are the context of
ongoing racial and other forms of
diversity-related tension. At the
interpersonal level, colleagues struggle to
find the words to discuss latent tension
among themselves. Tension goes
unaddressed until it boils over into petty
or serious arguments – both with highly
destructive outcomes. Deep hurt is felt by
those on the receiving end of prejudice, and
valuable reputations are damaged.
Transformation – which should benefit everyone and promote diversity – is mostly ignored by
corporates. There seems to be a belief that these problems will solve themselves eventually
when we are somehow “ready” for transformation. Examining this belief, however, quickly
shows that it is incorrect. We must actively undertake the transformation process as groups and
individuals because the tension will certainly not resolve itself. A major obstacle here is that
businesses don’t view transformation as their responsibility. Generally, they avoid addressing
interpersonal problems, racially related or otherwise.
Nevertheless, diversity problems are systemic social issues which corporate social responsibility
(CSR) efforts ought to be addressing. Businesses are ideally positioned to tackle them and make
radical changes through training and sensitisation initiatives. The fact is that companies have
always had the resources and capacity to effectively mitigate such problems before they even
began to take root. Now we have the democracy and legislation to support this. Why wait any
longer to start the healing process which will benefit all our relationships and networks?
Admittedly, addressing contentious issues at work is awkward. People rather vent to their
families and friends, deepening existing community divisions. Constructive diversity discussions
remain rare. A neutral, qualified third party is indispensable here. Good training companies show
people how to manage diversity to benefit individual relationships, business performance as well
as the broader community. Training officers guide and promote constructive dialogue in a
respectful manner and in line with relevant policies.
To fulfil their leadership responsibilities, CEOs and senior management in general must be
change makers, charting the way forward in social revitalisation. Transformation starts with
strong leaders taking a stand on behalf of communities. Business leaders making wise training
and CSR investments will make a massive impact. There is no point in wishing for a better South
Africa when CEOs, who wield considerable power in society, are not determined to ensure
diversity training happens.
To address the diversity problem, we have to speak to individuals’ perceptions of what diversity
is. In the training environment, we must dig deeper, appealing to each learner in order to change
attitudes and behaviours around race and cohesiveness. The ICHAF Diversity Programme uses
this approach, following a carefully designed method to help businesses and South Africans
individually. Our formula allows people to talk about issues openly and in depth. More
importantly, it ensures they return to work (and the community) with new skills and the ability
to implement them for positive change.