One-Time Diversity Training Programs Are Ineffective in Changing Behavior, Study Finds

According to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania, the one-time diversity training programs that are common among organizations are not beneficial for remedying bias in the workplace.

For their study, the research team asked 10,000 employees if they would volunteer to participant in a workplace training session. Of all the employees, 3,000 participants volunteered. The researchers placed them randomly in one of two one-hour trainings: a diversity training or placebo training that was unrelated to bias, stereotyping, or diversity. After the participants completed their trainings, they answered a survey to measure any changes in attitude from before the training. The research team also observed the participants in the months following the trainings to see if what they learned changed their behaviors.

The researchers found that although the after-training survey results were positive, the participants behavior in the following months did not change very much, particularly among men and White people. Additionally, very few senior level executives even volunteered to participate in the trainings at all.

The research team believes that more interventions may be needed to create lasting change in employee behavior. They also suggest that organizations devote more resources to recruit more women and underrepresented minorities, particularly into leadership roles, and change processes and structures to mitigate the effects of stereotyping and bias.

The full study, “The Mixed Effects of Online Diversity Training,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. It may be accessed here.

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