The Role of HR in Diversity Training

Human resources is among the first departments to promote diversity training and, therefore, plays an integral role in assessing the company’s need for diversity awareness and sensitivity training. Lobbying for executive support of diversity training is the first of many steps for the HR department leader — as in, supporting the decision that the workforce will benefit from training that promotes inclusiveness and expands the organization’s diversity goals concerning marketing its products and services.

Also Read: SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

Needs Assessment

Determining whether your organization needs diversity training might be a decision your HR leader makes or the training could be mandated as one element of a conciliation agreement with a federal or state enforcement agency. The latter usually occurs when an investigation of workplace complaint reveals unfair employment practices. In either case, the HR manager or director has a primary role in assessing the company’s need for diversity training or accepting the conditions of a conciliation agreement or mediation.

Selecting Trainers

HR generally has a prominent role in the decision whether to outsource diversity training or use in-house resources to conduct employee training on fair employment practice, diversity awareness and sensitivity. In addition, HR leaders for large organizations might lead the company’s selection process for a diversity officer or EEO specialist, based on whether the company has an ongoing need for support and direction in its efforts to manage a diverse workforce. Many HR leaders have keen insight about diversity trainers’ capabilities and creating an in-house diversity management team, which includes trainers.

Policy Development

Before diversity training comes policies on managing a diverse workforce and building cohesive, diverse work groups, and HR typically drafts these policies. The policies are then passed on to executive leadership and launched during a special announcement to employees. Here is where HR has a behind-the-scenes role because employee support for diversity initiatives is likely to be stronger when the message comes from the organization’s highest-ranking leader. It’s the trickle-down theory that suggests that when executive leadership favors certain policies, employees are likely to embrace them too. In an article titled, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Structural, Cultural, and Organizational Barriers Preventing Women from Achieving Senior and Executive Positions,” Merida Johns, Ph.D., women’s leadership advocate and former professor at Loyola University Chicago, cites research that shows employees see the value of embracing diversity when their CEO does. Policy development and diversity training go hand in hand, you can’t realistically have one without the other.


HR reinforces the need for diversity training through counseling employees who feel mandatory training isn’t beneficial. Supervisors and managers who feel diversity training is the first step in creating an affirmative action workplace might believe they’re being railroaded into adopting certain values or hiring applicants based on preferences for diversity candidates instead of qualified candidates. Although mandatory diversity training often is criticized as ineffective, it’s up to HR to ensure that leaders and staff recognize its value and that they become fully participate. HR also is responsible for reinforcement of diversity principles in all employment decisions.

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