Why You Need Workplace Sensitivity Training

Workplace sensitivity training has become common at all large corporations and should be considered by any small business that does not already have it.  Most small business owners are not equipped to handle the problems that come with cultural diversity in the workplace.  If a business is not prepared, it could find itself facing discrimination suits, litigation expenses, settlements, employee turnover, and possibly the deadliest for a small business, negative community image. 

As a business owner, you have to respect and recognize the different backgrounds in our communities, workplaces, and society.  Promoting diversity in the workplace, by ensuring that all employees are valued, will do a lot to improve your bottom line.  Each cultural group has different values and styles.  The various strengths of each culture can be capitalized and used to enhance your business culture and reputation.  

Workplace sensitivity training helps promote a work environment where everyone can be comfortable.  An insensitive, or hostile, work environment is one where people are afraid.  They are afraid that their race, religion, age, or sexual orientation will cause them to be discriminated against in the workplace.

There are also compliance issues surrounding enforcement of a sensitive work environment.  The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws and regulations regarding how employees and supervisors interact in the workplace.  For employers to comply with the standards set forth in federal law, the EEOC recommends diversity training.

The most well-known legal issue related to efforts of the EEOC is sexual harassment in the workplace.  The EEOC states that “Harassment violates federal law if it involves discriminatory treatment based on race, color, sex (with or without sexual conduct), religion, national origin, age, disability, or because the employee opposed job discrimination or participated in an investigation or complaint proceeding under the EEO statutes.”

Sensitivity training usually goes beyond the legal requirements.  Sensitivity training not only teaches employees that things not to say, but it also helps to break down some of the myths that spawn insensitive comments and behavior.  Much of sensitivity training address the age old adage, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Employees that have gone through sensitivity training tend to be more respectful in general.  They are more likely to treat each other, their superiors, and your customers with respect.  Several skills are improved with sensitivity training, also called diversity training:

  • Communication skills are improved.  Removing inappropriate content from communications will minimize misunderstandings and foster an environment where an open exchange of ideas is welcomed.
  • Tolerance is improved.  Removing cultural stereotypes from the workplace environment will improve employee focus and productivity.
  • Conflict resolutions skill will be improved.  Employees and supervisors will have greater abilities to explore the facts of a situation with diplomacy and tact.

In a business that is making a first attempt to comply with EEOC recommended sensitivity training, it’s best to have a single “point person” for arranging the training, and for dealing with complaints.  The commitment to workplace diversity needs to be evident throughout the organization and be fully supported by all supervisors.

The benefits of workplace sensitivity training go beyond avoiding legal problems.  True, any business needs to protect itself against complaints of harassment and hostility.  The biggest benefit of this type of training, hopefully workforce culture, is that employees will be more productive.  People will be more likely to share ideas when they are problem solving if they know that their comment won’t be followed by a derogatory comment.  Informal collaboration will happen during other conversations.  A friendly work environment also promotes overall wellness and fewer sick days will be used.  There are no negative consequences of implementing a workplace sensitivity training program.