Organizational diversity learning framework: going beyond diversity training programs

Yuka Fujimoto, Charmine E.J. Härtel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: To overcome the shortcomings of diversity training programs, the purpose of this paper is to conceptualize an organizational diversity-learning framework, which features an organizational intervention for employees’ joint decision-making process with other employees from different statuses, functions, and identities. Borrowing key principles from the diversity learning (Rainey and Kolb, 1995); integration and learning perspective (Ely and Thomas, 2001; Thomas and Ely, 1996), and the key practices informed by deliberative democratic theories (Thompson, 2008), the authors develop a new organizational diversity learning framework for behavioral, attitudinal, and cognitive learning at workplaces. They conclude with directions for future research. Design/methodology/approach: This paper first presents an overview of key shortcomings of diversity training programs in relation to their group composition, design, content and evaluation. Second, it borrows the key principles of diversity learning (Rainey and Kolb, 1995); integration and learning perspectives (Ely and Thomas, 2001; Thomas and Ely, 1996), and the key practices informed by deliberative democratic theories (Thompson, 2008) to delineate the organizational diversity learning framework. Third, it presents a table of the approach contrasted with the shortcomings of diversity training programs and discusses practical and theoretical contributions, along with directions for future research. Findings: This paper conceptualizes an organizational diversity-learning framework, which features an organizational intervention for employees’ joint decision-making process with other employees from different statuses, functions, and identities. Research limitations/implications: The organizational diversity learning framework developed in this paper provides an inclusive diversity learning paradigm in which diversity learning rests in the experience of the learner. As stated by experiential learning theory, this framework encourages workers to heuristically learn about diverse perspectives in a psychologically safe environment, to reflect on different perspectives, and to create a new awareness about learning from others. As the participants learn to apply new repertoires for interacting with others in their daily work interactions (e.g. listening to different perspectives shared by unfamiliar social group members), it proposes that their behaviors may create a ripple effect, changing other colleagues’ attitudes, behaviors, and thinking patterns on working with diverse coworkers. Practical implications: This paper provides detailed instructions for practitioners to facilitate diversity learning. It highlights a few key practical implications. First, the framework provides a method of organization-wide diversity learning through intersecting networks within the workplace, which is designed to reduce the elitist organizational decision making that mainly occurs at the upper echelon. Second, unlike other stand-alone diversity initiatives, the framework is embedded in the organizational decision-making process, which makes employees’ learning applicable to core organizational activities, contributing to both employees’ diversity learning and organizational growth. Third, the framework provides a preliminary model for transferring employees’ diversity learning in daily work operations, nurturing their behavioral learning to interact with different social groups more frequently at work and inclusive of their colleagues’ perspectives, feelings, and attitudes. Social implications: Workforces across nations are becoming increasingly diverse, and, simultaneously, the gap and tension between demographic representation in the upper and lower echelons is widening. By joining with other scholars who have advocated for the need to move beyond diversity training programs, the authors developed the organizational diversity learning framework for meaningful co-participation of employees with different statuses, functions, and identities. By inviting minority perspectives into the organizational decision-making process, top managers can explicitly send a message to minority groups that their perspectives matter and that their contributions are highly valued by the organization. Originality/value: There has not been a conceptual paper that delineates the diversity inclusive decision-making process within a workplace. The authors established the organizational diversity learning framework based on the diversity learning, organizational diversity integration and learning perspectives, and deliberative democracy practices. The proposed framework guides organizations in structural interventions to educate employees on how to learn from multiple perspectives for better organizational decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1141
Number of pages22
JournalPersonnel Review
Volume46
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Critical
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Diversity learning
  • Diversity management
  • Diversity training
  • Equality

Cite this