Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

Many approaches were tried from 1964-1999 from direct confrontation with White males to some watered-down version of discovery and awareness that accomplished absolutely nothing. There was a severe backlash and the phrase "reverse discrimination" entered the lexicon of public discourse. Today's programs are more than complying with EEOC regulations. Programs of the new millennium involve long-term continuous education. The target of diversity training is no longer just White males, but is more likely to include an entire organization across racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation lines. All employees must have a cross-cultural understanding and a world-view.

The methods of diversity training vary from one company to the next. Some employ more classroom sessions, others involve roll playing performed by actors, some involve teaming up with a person different than themselves for an extended period of time up to a year. Many of these programs take place over days and weeks as opposed to hours like their predecessors of the 1970s. And technology is driving some to use web-based training through elearning courses.

For any diversity training program to work, there must be clear goals and objectives. Here are some examples of goals and objectives to consider: compliance with EEOC rules and regulations, an emphasis on similarities as well as the differences, learning to effectively work across cultures, developing leadership skills in connection with other corporate training, improving customer service, leveraging diversity for business growth, developing relationship skills to build an inclusive workplace, preparing employees for international work and resolving internal conflict.

Many of the companies mentioned at the beginning of this article were mandated by court order to create a diversity-training program. Some hired a chief diversity officer and setup internal committees to gauge progress. But, many organizations lack a fundamental understanding of the tools necessary to execute an effective diversity-training program.

To combat this problem many have turned to outsourcing. There is no harm in outsourcing such an important task when you lack the expertise in-house. In fact, it's probably better to do so. So how do you choose from the hundreds of companies out there that claim they are the ultimate in diversity training?

Start with your human resources department. Most HR professionals belong to the Society of Human Resource Management. Many of these trainers are either members themselves or work closely with other HR professionals who work closely with diversity trainers.

You might want to try the Association of Diversity Councils. Their website suggests numerous tools available to assist in the development and implementation of the diversity objectives. Check credentials. There are many trainers out there whose claim to fame is having attended a few workshops. If these people get into your company they can cause more harm than good. This training is meant to build up a company not tear it down.

Here's a word of caution about any diversity-training program. A dear friend of mine gave a presentation to an audience equally mixed with U.S. citizens and citizens from several foreign countries. Her presentation was geared to a U.S. audience where she often used the phrase "minority" referring to African-Americans. She wound up spending her entire presentation dodging questions from what soon turned out to be a rather hostile audience.

The moral of the story is simply this, for those organizations that have a global presence, make sure you understand the sensibilities of those in attendance at your multicultural training sessions. As my friend learned, the term "minority" didn't sit well with her audience and the term "diversity" is not all that well accepted either.

And for those who have avoided this issue for so long, we all know who you are even if you don't think we do, and that leaves us to ponder is it racism or insensitivity.