Does Diversity Training Really Work? Angela Duckworth and Katherine Milkman Explore in Harvard Business Review
Though diversity training is available at virtually all Fortune 500 companies, surprisingly few of them have measured the effects. Much of the data suggests that even when training is beneficial, employee behavior doesn’t necessarily change outside of the program. Even more concerning is that evidence shows diversity training can have the opposite of its intended effect: eliciting defensiveness in the very people it hopes to empower.
Lavin speakers Angela Duckworth and Katherine Milkman, along with several of their colleagues, created a training program based on the most relevant scientific findings on behavior change. They rigorously tested their program to determine whether they could change employee attitudes and inspire more inclusive behavior—and whether those behaviors would last.
Duckworth, Milkman, and the team created three one-hour training programs using participants from a large global organization. Of the three programs, the first focused on gender bias; the second addressed biases more generally; and the third, which served as a control, covered psychological safety with no diversity angle whatsoever.
While the results did suggest that bias-focused training had positive effects on the attitudes of select groups, it had no measurable effect on the behavior of men or white people—the two groups who traditionally hold the most power in organizations, and who diversity training is most targeted towards.
Based on the findings of the experiment, Duckworth and Milkman suggest that organizations diversify their approach by investing in multi-pronged programs; regularly collect and review data to better understand a program’s effectiveness; and treat the training as an experiment, measured against a control group, to develop more meaningful insights.
You can read the full results of the experiment here.