In their recent article in CLO, “Executive order takes aim at diversity training, starting with new restrictions on federal contractors,” Cassandra Santoro and Sean O’Connor discuss the impact of the recent ruling associated with diversity training in the federal government and contracting space. Of note, there is an interpretation of the ruling that closely restricts any training around “divisive” topics – with diversity training being one of those highlighted areas of interest. Granted, there are various arguments on each side of this topic but, moreover, the problem may be more about the need for incorporating “inclusion” as part of the outcomes process as opposed to limiting discussions around the term “diversity.”
As part of our quarterly reach-out to our corporate advisory council, we, Fairfax University of America (FXUA), were cautioned as to the limitations of “pure” diversity training. As one senior human resources executive explained: “diversity is often about meeting certain quotas when, in fact, a corporation may meet a hiring target yet, because these populations were never “included” into the fabric of the organization, high levels of employee turnover occur. The key is to follow an approach of diversity AND inclusion.”
In a related effort, FXUA, through its executive education arm, the Institute of Adaptive Learning (IAL), has been actively marketing a program on empathy-mapping. And, while most organizations have a passing interest in empathy (especially given the trials associated with 2020!), there has been a more robust response to incorporating a series of other competencies as part of these training programs – specifically around cognitive bias and cultural awareness. The key, it seems, is by breaking out sole competency areas, like diversity, we miss the opportunity to shape a more complete learning outcome that combines a series of “related” power skills. In a real sense, a “whole” comprehensive training solution is greater than the sum of the training “parts.”
So, what is the appropriate response to the new executive order? While most training professionals realize the value of learning and development for all levels of their organization, the focus should be on formulating diverse (some “pun” intended!) and comprehensive training programs that effectively “mix” both hard skills, like technology training, with soft or power skills such as empathy, diversity, design thinking and problem solving. The outcomes will be focused on elevating employee competencies across the board versus highlighting specific, single source areas of development. And, per the definition of the executive order, allows federal government contractors to still remain consistent with their learning and development programs.
There is no question that 2020 is a year best left in the rearview mirror. Now, as we enter 2021, we, as educators, need to look at solving and resolving the new paradigms that are facing our organizations. As one of our corporate advisory council members exclaimed: “don’t refer to the future as the new normal but, instead as the next normal.” The dynamics of 2020 have assured us that we will not return to any former means of operations or organizational dynamics and, as such, should be embracing the changes that are needed to navigate a somewhat unpredictable, yet exciting future.
About the Author
Brad Dawson is the Chief Student Experience Officer at Fairfax University of America (FXUA) and author of “The Disruptive Warrior – The Hero’s Journey to Corporate Actualization”. He has nearly four decades of management consulting success with over a decade of that time working with colleges and universities to build relevant and measurable programs. He is a frequent presenter to national and international audiences and has been published in over 100 different periodicals on a variety of management, strategy and operational business topics.