The concept of “sensitivity or anti-racial bias training” has been in the news a good bit lately, ever since the Starbucks’ debacle back in April, when two black men were asked to leave a Philadelphia location, and then subsequently arrested, for doing what people across the country do at Starbucks all the time: sit, study, work, wait for others without ordering a thing. The backlash was monstrous and the powers that be at Starbucks acted swiftly and went as far as shutting down the company on May 29 for anti-bias training. Still, people are calling for the coffee giant to do more, including changing its hiring practices.
Other companies are certainly taking notice, asking that infamous question “What if it happens to us?” and “Should we invest in sensitivity or diversity training to prevent it?”
Shutting down an entire organization for training isn’t possible for most companies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to prevent racial bias in your workplace, says Stacey Engle, EVP at Fierce Conversations, a training company that teaches organizations how to have effective conversations. She recommends these tips:
- Ask your employees the right questions. Many team meetings and 1:1’s are focused on the work at hand and don’t venture into larger topics. Change that. Ask your employees how they feel about the diversity of the organization, raise any issues you have seen and talk about them directly. Putting issues out in the open leads to others feeling safer to bring up concerns.
- Encourage your employees to stand up for themselves. A recent study Fierce Conversations conducted found that nearly half (47%) of employed individuals are more likely to stick up for themselves than they were a year ago. This is great news, and means that in many cases, issues will be addressed before they get out of hand. When issues are addressed early and often, everyone benefits.
- Be accessible. While this same survey found that 30% are more likely to address a colleague for inappropriate behavior directly, just 20% are more likely to address said behavior with a supervisor. This includes behaviors such as racist jokes, unwelcome flirting, etc. You can’t help a situation you aren’t aware of. Knowing your employees can and do share any issue with you directly is the best, and most efficient, way to ensure you can address any larger trends that pop up, before they get out of hand.
- Ensure you, and your employees, have the tools to have tough conversations. You, and all of your employees, must have the skills to bring up hard issues, and to address them head on. Avoiding, ignoring or brushing small issues under the rug will only lead to larger, more detrimental problems down the line. Given the right tools, confrontation can be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.
As we are all about conversations here at Fierce, we know that change can start one conversation at a time.
If you are interested in using any of these tips, please attribute to . I would also be happy to set up a quick call to dive into any of this further.
Fierce trains people how to have conversations that clarify priorities, save money, and streamline entire organizations.