Narrow minded diversity training
After the compulsory ‘talking to’ we did the clichéd ‘break-out’ sessions, where we were asked to sort several statements into three piles – true, false and don’t know. The statements were banal, sometimes plain wrong and not very useful. Here’s an example, “Can you advertise for a Welsh speaker who must also be of Welsh origin.” No was, of course, the obvious answer. So what was learnt here? How many non-Welsh Welsh speakers are there? To what problem was this exercise a solution? Did you know that Chinese adults are healthier, on the whole, than British adults? No, then again it’s not a fact I’ve ever reflected on. There was a moot point about the percentage of people who were born disabled. This is famously misleading as many disabilities have a mixed nature/nurture relationship, including mental illness, even short-sightedness has a genetic component. It was a tired old format.
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.
There were two very expensive, full-colour brochures full of those stock colour photographs you only ever see in corporate brochures – darts bang in the middle of targets, a jar of jelly beans, smarties, sharpened pencils, dice strewn across a table. Completely over-engineered. This stuff should be online.
The written case studies were a hoot – the West Bromwich Building Society, Ford and Bernard Matthews.
Tragic waste of time and money
What is really worrying is the recommendation for Complete screening, impact assessments, monitoring and publishing. There’s a small army of champions and data gatherers, spending huge amounts of time on fruitless detective hunts, producing endless policy documents and amendments to such polices. All this does is bog organisations down in paperwork. To what problem is this a solution? These organisations are full of people who are sensitive to these issues. There’s no sense of proportion here. The time and cost associated with this process is enormous and wasteful.
Doesn’t work and often unproductive
And just for the record – read Professor Frank Dobbins Harvard report on diversity training in 702 organisations. It doesn’t work, and worse, is often counterproductive.