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The rich get richer: Predicting participation in voluntary diversity training



This research examined whether trainee demographics and pre-training competence predicted participation in voluntary diversity training. Results indicate that demographic variables had no impact on interest in training (Study One) or on actual training participation (Study Two). However, pre-training competence levels had a positive effect on both outcomes. More competent trainees expressed more interest in additional training (Study One) and were more likely to attend a voluntary training session (Study Two). The authors suggest that trainees with low competence in the diversity domain are unaware of their low competence levels and therefore are not motivated to participate in training programs designed to increase diversity competence. Implications of these findings for organizations offering voluntary diversity training are discussed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The rich get richer: predicting
participation in voluntary
diversity training
School of Management, City West Campus, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
5001 Australia
Box 9, Gonzaga University Spokane, WA 99258-0009 USA
Teachers College/Columbia University, New York, NY 10027 USA
Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN UK
Summary This research examined whether trainee demographics and pre-training competence predicted
participation in voluntary diversity training. Results indicate that demographic variables had
no impact on interest in training (Study One) or on actual training participation (Study Two).
However, pre-training competence levels had a positive effect on both outcomes. More
competent trainees expressed more interest in additional training (Study One) and were more
likely to attend a voluntary training session (Study Two). The authors suggest that trainees with
low competence in the diversity domain are unaware of their low competence levels and
therefore are not motivated to participate in training programs designed to increase diversity
competence. Implications of these findings for organizations offering voluntary diversity
training are discussed. Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
‘Diversity training’ is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide array of specific programs designed to
train and direct employees in behaviors that display an openness and receptiveness to diversity (Button,
2001; McKay & Avery, 2005). Initially, diversity training focused specifically on race and gender.
Because of its focus on the organizational recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices that might limit
opportunities for women and members of racial minority groups, this training was often described as
equal opportunity training. More recently, diversity training has expanded to encompass a broader
range of diversity dimensions (e.g., disability status, cultural differences) and places a stronger
emphasis on individual-level attitudes and motivation (Crane, 2004; Egodigwe, 2005). Whether the
organization adopts a narrow (race and gender) or broad (multiple diversity dimensions) focus,
diversity training is designed to help employees take a positive, proactive approach toward diversity
that goes beyond passive non-discrimination (Brief & Barsky, 2000). Training brings subtle forms of
Journal of Organizational Behavior
J. Organiz. Behav. (in press)
Published online in Wiley InterScience
( DOI: 10.1002/job.444
* Correspondence to: Carol T. Kulik, School of Management, City West Campus, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471,
Adelaide, South Australia, 5001 Australia. E-mail:
Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 21 December 2005
Revised 16 December 2006
Accepted 2 January 2007
discrimination to the forefront and teaches employees how to counteract them (McKay & Avery, 2005).
It also aims to give employees knowledge and skills they can use in everyday work situations
(Egodigwe, 2005).
Diversity training is often seen as the cornerstone of diversity initiatives. Cox (Cox, 1994; Cox &
Beale, 1997), for example, views education and training as a primary driver of organizational change,
and recommends that training always be included in a diversity program. Organizations seem to have
heeded this advice. Training is one of the most common activities included in diversity initiatives, used
in 67 per cent of U.S. organizations (Esen, 2005). Internationally, multinational firms are increasingly
adopting diversity training programs (Egodigwe, 2005). Further, in a thorough review of the diversity
training literature, Kulik and Roberson (in press) concluded that, with sufficient attention to
pre-training needs assessment and post-training organizational support, diversity training has a positive
impact on employee knowledge and behavior. Research suggests that diversity training participants
leave the training with more knowledge about the value of diversity (e.g., Hanover & Cellar, 1998; Ellis
& Sonnenfeld, 1994). Further, diversity training can improve employee diversity skills and on-the-job
diversity behavior (Roberson, Kulik, & Pepper, in press; Roberson, Kulik, & Pepper, 2001). Overall,
the evidence indicates that diversity training can be used to effectively disseminate information about
organizational diversity goals and to teach specific diversity management skills (Kulik & Roberson, in
However, employee resistance to these training programs has been an ongoing problem (Burke &
Black, 1997; Flynn, 1999; Kidder, Lankau, Chrobot-Mason, Mollica, & Friedman, 2004). Many
employees perceive equal opportunity programs as offering an unfair advantage to the non-traditional
employee, rather than leveling the playing field for all (Gilbert, Stead, & Ivancevich, 1999). Diversity
training has been described as ‘punishment for the insensitive’ (Rossett & Bickham, 1994) and some
employees feel that these programs unfairly blame white men for the problems experienced by women
and members of racial minority groups (Flynn, 1999). Recommendations that organizations initiate
mandatory diversity training programs have prompted public commentators to criticize diversity
training as ‘thought reform in disguise’ (Silverglate, 2005).
In response to backlash concerns, many organizations are choosing to make diversity training
opportunities available to employees on a voluntary basis instead of requiring employee participation.
In a national survey of human resource professionals, Esen (2005) found that 60 per cent of
organizations made diversity training mandatory for top-level executives, but only about 50 per cent of
organizations made diversity training mandatory for non-managerial employees. This emphasis on
voluntary diversity training is consistent with a general trend for organizations to offer developmental
opportunities to employees, but to leave the choice of whether to participate in these opportunities to
the individual (Guthrie & Schwoerer, 1994).
The training literature is divided on the value of voluntary training (Tomlinson, 2002). Requiring that
employees attend training can be inefficient, as some participants will already have the requisite skills
and no need for training (Bernardin & Russell, 1998). However, the success of voluntary training
depends on the ‘right’ people volunteering based on their self-assessed need (Guthrie & Schwoerer,
1994). Ideally, a voluntary training program would attract those individuals who are most in need of
skill development, and who are in positions where improved skills in the training domain would be of
greatest benefit to the organization.
Who participates in voluntary diversity training?
The choice to participate in any voluntary training depends on several motivational factors: Trainees
are more motivated to participate in training that they perceive will lead to valued outcomes, and
trainees are more motivated to participate when they are aware of a personal need for training (i.e., a
Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/job
skill deficit that the training will correct) (Noe, 1986, 1999). In the diversity domain, these motivational
factors suggest two important predictors that might influence an employee’s interest in diversity
training, and his or her choice to participate in voluntary opportunities.
First, trainee demographics may be related to trainee perceptions of the value of diversity training and
therefore influence trainee motivation to attend a voluntary training session (Kidder et al., 2004).
Diversity initiatives, including equal opportunity and diversity training, are designed to remove obstacles
to the hiring and promotion of non-traditional employees and make organizations more multicultural.
Such changes are likely to have adverse effects on currently dominant groups by re-distributing power
and resources (Kossek & Zonia, 1993; Mor-Barak, Cherin, & Berkman, 1998). As a result, diversity
research demonstrates that diversity initiatives in North America are generally received with more
enthusiasm by women and people of color than by men and whites (Alderfer, Alderfer, Bell, & Jones,
1992; Kossek & Zonia, 1993; Mor-Barak et al., 1998). In contexts where white men occupy the largest
proportion of the organizational hierarchy, women, non-whites, and other non-traditional employees
might be more likely to volunteer for training, since they are most likely to benefit from diversity
initiatives. Unfortunately, programs that do not attract members of the dominant demographic group are
unlikely to result in any systemic organizational change (Linnehan & Konrad, 1999).
Hypothesis 1. Women, non-whites, and older employees will be more interested in voluntary
training on diversity issues than traditional employees.
Second, low pre-training competency levels in the training domain might trigger a perceived need for
training and therefore influence trainee motivation to attend a voluntary training session. Unfortunately,
research suggests that people who have low knowledge or skill levels may be unaware of their skill
deficits. In a wide range of skill domains including social competence, humor, logical reasoning, and
grammar, Kruger and Dunning (1999) found that people with low skills consistently overestimated
their skill levels. Kruger and Dunning (1999) note that the domains they studied share a common
characteristic: Performance in these domains is not constrained by physical attributes (e.g., strength) or
by mental abilities. Instead, successful performance in each domain is largely a consequence of the
individual’s rule-based knowledge about the domain. Therefore, a lack of skill in the domain implies
simultaneously the inability to perform competently (to apply the rules) and the inability to recognize
competence (to recognize when rules are violated). Diversity competence is similarly a skill area where
successful performance depends largely on cognitive knowledge. Diversity competence represents a
trainable skill, in which trainees can learn to diagnose diversity situations and identify appropriate
responses (Gudykunst, Guzley, & Hammer, 1996; Tan & Chua, 2003; Triandis, Kurowski, & Gelfand,
1994). If the ‘unskilled and unaware of it’ phenomenon extends to diversity competencies, trainees with
low competence levels may be unaware of their skill deficits and therefore unlikely to take advantage of
voluntary opportunities to improve their skills (Yammarino & Atwater, 1993). This suggests that those
individuals with high levels of diversity knowledge and skill will be more likely to volunteer for
training than those with low knowledge or skill. High-skill trainees are in a better position to identify
their skill deficits and recognize a need for training.
Hypothesis 2. Employees with high competence in the diversity domain will be more interested in
voluntary training on diversity issues than low-competence employees.
Voluntary diversity training is one of many training controversies that have thus far received little
direct research attention in the diversity literature (Roberson, Kulik, & Pepper, 2003). We engaged in
two studies to examine how demographic variables and pre-training competence levels might impact
participation in voluntary diversity training programs. In Study One, we examined how employee
demographics and equal opportunity knowledge predicted interest in additional equal opportunity
Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/job
training in a police constabulary. In Study Two, we examined how trainee demographics and
pre-training cultural competence predicted attendance at a voluntary diversity training program in a
university setting.
Organizational Context
Study One
This study was conducted at a UK police organization, which is one of over 40 police constabularies
within the UK. Each constabulary has its own Chief Constable who reports to the home office.
The constabulary investigated in this study covered one of the largest geographic areas for a UK
police force. Women police officers made up only 17 per cent of the policing work force, and only
one per cent of all staff were from ethnic minority groups. At the time of the survey, the minority
ethnic population within the area served by the constabulary was also very low (approximately 1.2
per cent), reflecting the constabulary’s location within largely rural and agricultural counties.
Although this figure was projected to change with a growing increase in immigrant workers moving
to the area, ethnic minority issues were less salient within the police organization than gender issues.
Gender issues were a high priority for both national and local reasons.
Nationally, there was much interest in regard to equal opportunity within the police service. In
part, this reflected a long history of the non-integration of women (e.g., specialized women police
departments and separate women’s roles) and a growing public demand for better representation of
women. The average representation of women police officers within the force as a whole was less
than 20 per cent, and considerably less within some specialist departments like criminal
investigation. In addition, there had been several recent high profile sexual harassment court cases
which led the home office to make equal opportunity a strategic priority.
Within the constabulary, there was considerable pressure to improve equal opportunity policies and
practices, particularly those relating to gender. This reflected the national agenda, but also the fact that
one of the high profile harassment cases had been initiated by female police officers within the
constabulary. The representation of women within the constabulary was also identified as lower than
for the force as a whole. A new equal opportunity officer had been recruited who was particularly
committed to improving the management of diversity within the organization. In light of a strong
backlash from staff against gender-specific policies, this officer was focusing on increasing overall
perceptions of fairness by improving internal appraisal and grievance procedures and by introducing
specific practices to support greater diversity (e.g., equal opportunity training). The current research
was part of this overall agenda, and was aimed at monitoring the impact of policies that were in place,
as well as diagnosing areas in need of further improvement.
The constabulary was a training-active organization, with a moderately high level of training
occurring at any particular time. Generally, training was considered to be valuable, and was
widely deemed to be a benefit rather than a cost, especially since evidence of training and development
was important for advancement and promotion within the organization. Our data were collected in
2000 as the constabulary was completing a first wave of mandatory equal opportunity
training. Employee reactions to the mandatory training had been positive, with a very large
percentage (87 per cent) of trainees describing the training as ‘moderately’ or ‘very’ useful on a
three-point scale.
Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Study One Method
Participants and procedure
Study One used a survey methodology and participants were police officers and staff members in a
police constabulary in the United Kingdom (see contextual sidebar for details). All female police
officers, an equivalent sized stratified random sample of male police officers, and all female and male
support staff were given the opportunity to complete a questionnaire sent through the internal mail
system. A sampling procedure was used for male police officers because their numbers far outweighed
any other group. To ensure a reasonable spread across the constabulary, the male police officer sample
was stratified on the basis of rank (above and below sergeant) and department (criminal investigation/
specialist departments and other departments). A reference group including representatives from all
levels of the organization and the union oversaw the research. To encourage participation, the survey
was endorsed by the Chief Constable as well as union representatives in various communications to
staff. Confidentiality of responses was assured. Participants returned the surveys by mailing them direct
to the researchers. 420 surveys were returned, reflecting a response rate of 47 per cent. Comparisons of
sample statistics against organizational statistics suggested the responding sample was representative
of the broader organization.
At the time of the survey, the constabulary was completing a wave of equal opportunity training.
Every staff member was expected to participate in this training and attendance was recorded for
performance appraisal purposes. Organizational records indicated that nearly 92 per cent of the staff
had completed the training. The constabulary’s purpose in conducting the survey was to evaluate equal
opportunity policies and practices, to assess staff members’ current equal opportunity competency, and
to investigate staff members’ interest in participating in additional, discretionary, training on equal
opportunity. Our analysis focuses only on respondents who reported that they had the opportunity to
participate in the first wave of mandatory training, and who had actually attended the training.
However, analyses using the full sample of respondents (including those who did not have the
opportunity to participate due to sickness or scheduling clashes, and those who did not attend for
whatever reason) produce the same pattern of results as those reported here.
Training interest
Training interest was assessed by a single item: Would you welcome the opportunity to attend (more)
equal opportunity training? (0 ¼would not welcome, 1 ¼would welcome).
Gender and age
Respondents reported their gender (0 ¼male, 1 ¼female) and their age in years. Respondents also reported
their racioethnicity. However, since more than 99 per cent of the sample described themselves as white, this
variable was not used in the analysis. Instead, we focus our analysis on only the white respondents.
EO knowledge
Equal opportunity (EO) knowledge was assessed by a series of eight statements describing principles of
equal opportunity and the operation of these principles within the constabulary. The constabulary
policy on equal opportunity encouraged the use of ‘positive action’ strategies (Chater & Chater, 1992)
for increasing non-traditional employee participation in the labor force such as part-time work and
Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/job
schedule accommodation for working parents. Respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which
they agreed that each statement was correct (1 ¼strongly disagree; 5 ¼strongly agree). However,
because the scale was intended to measure participants’ knowledge of material covered directly in the
training program, and not participants’ opinions, we treated the scale as a ’true or false’ knowledge test,
where ‘strongly agree’ and ‘agree’ responses reflected the trainee’s endorsement of a factual statement
as ‘true.’ After reverse scoring appropriate items, ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘agree’ were coded ‘correct’ (1),
and all other responses coded ‘incorrect’ (0). The number of ‘correct’ items was used as a total test
score. The statements are included in Appendix. Our measure of EO knowledge is a formative measure
rather than a reflective one. In a reflective measure, indicators are caused by (reflect) a latent construct;
in a formative measure, individual indicators combine to form a latent construct (Bollen & Lennox,
1991; MacKenzie, Podsakoff, & Jarvis, 2005). Traditional internal consistency measures of reliability
(e.g., coefficient alpha) are inappropriate for formative measures because each item captures a unique
aspect of the knowledge domain and item pairs may have positive, negative, or no correlation. In order
to ensure that our measure of EO knowledge was appropriate, we asked subject matter experts working
within the constabulary to confirm that the items reflected the content of EO training and EO practices
within the organization.
Study One Results
Table 1 presents correlations among the study variables. Table 2 shows the results of a logistic
regression analysis predicting training interest. Only one variable (EO knowledge) predicted a
Table 1. Correlations among study variables (Study One)
Variable Mean SD 1 2 3 4
1. Training Interest 0.47 0.50
2. Gender 0.54 0.50 0.03
3. Age 39.91 9.94 0.01 0.36
4. EO Knowledge 4.38 1.86 0.14
Note: Training interest coded 0 ¼would not welcome more training, 1 ¼would welcome more training; Gender coded 0 ¼male,
Table 2. Summary of logistic regression analysis predicting training
interest from gender, age, and EO knowledge (Study One)
Variables b s.e
Gender 0.23 0.27
Age 0.01 0.01
EO knowledge 0.28
Model chi-square 16.70
Classification Accuracy 61.1%
Note: The logistic regression predicts the likelihood that a staff member would
welcome additional EO training.
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DOI: 10.1002/job
respondent’s interest in attending additional EO training. The respondents who were most interested in
further training were those with the highest levels of EO knowledge. When we divided the sample into
thirds based on their EO knowledge scores, we found that only 41 per cent of those in the lowest third
were interested in training. In contrast, 48 per cent of those in the middle third and 55 per cent of those
in the highest third expressed an interest in more EO training.
Organizational Context
Study Two
This study was conducted at a large public University in the southwestern United States.
The U.S. workforce is rapidly increasing in demographic diversity. The U.S. Department of
Labor predicts that between 2002 and 2012, the Hispanic labor force will grow from 12.4 per cent to
14.7 per cent and the African American labor force will increase from 11.4 per cent to 12.2 per cent.
The female labor force is projected to grow by 14.3 per cent, compared with 10 per cent for men.
Demographic diversity is also reflected in the composition of the University’s student body. Fifteen
per cent of graduate students are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 17 per cent are international
The University is strongly committed to the promotion of diversity in all of its activities. Diversity
training is part of this commitment, and is intended to provide students with the diversity skills they
need to work and study effectively at the University and the diversity skills they will need later in the
workforce. The business school developed and administered a diversity training program for
teaching assistants in 1999. In Fall 2000, the University modified this program and made it available
to research assistants in 26 departments on a voluntary basis. The research reported here was part of
the Fall 2000 voluntary program.
Study Two Method
Participants and procedure
Study Two used a field study methodology. The research was conducted at a large university in the
southwestern United States, using research assistants (RAs) in 26 departments as trainees (see
contextual sidebar for details). 300 RAs, both new and continuing, were sent a pre-training survey and
invited to attend a half-day diversity training session during the middle of the fall semester— after the
university’s midterm period but several weeks before end-of-semester assignment due dates and final
exams. The survey was accompanied by a letter from the associate dean of the Graduate College
strongly encouraging the RAs to participate in the training. The letter assigned the RA to a particular
training session but provided contact information if the RA needed to reschedule. All rescheduling
requests were accommodated by the researchers. 112 surveys were returned, indicating a response rate
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DOI: 10.1002/job
of 37 per cent. Comparisons of the demographics of the survey sample against the original population
of 300 RAs suggested the sample was representative of the population in terms of gender, but contained
a higher proportion of white RAs (0.60) than the population (0.49, p<0.05). The final training sample
consisted of 53 trainees. The trained sample did not differ significantly from the population on either
gender or racioethnicity.
Training program content
Training was conducted in small groups, included a mix of awareness and skill components, and used a
variety of teaching techniques, including exercises, small group activities, large group discussions, and
brief lectures. The four-hour training program was developed from materials contained in the training
manual, ‘Developing diversity training for the workplace: A guide for trainers,’ written by the National
MultiCultural Institute (NMCI) located in Washington D.C. NMCI provides individual and
organizational change programs, produces resource materials for trainers, and sponsors conferences
on diversity issues. Before designing our training program, one of the researchers had attended a
train-the-trainer workshop offered by NMCI. The researchers in turn trained five trainers from the
University’s Graduate College staff and counseling psychology graduate program to conduct the
training sessions.
Training attendance
Training attendance was tracked by the trainers (0 ¼did not attend, 1 ¼attended).
Gender and racioethnicity
The Graduate College training office provided data on the racioethnicity and gender of participants.
Gender was coded 0 ¼male, 1 ¼female. Racioethnicity was coded 0 ¼white, 1 ¼non-white.
Cultural competence
Behavioral skills in managing and responding to diversity were measured by an adaptation of the
Instructor Cultural Competence Questionnaire (ICCQ; Roberson, Kulik, & Pepper, 2002), an
instrument that assesses the behavioral or skill-based component of diversity learning. The ICCQ is an
open-ended situational questionnaire that presents a series of classroom diversity incidents to
respondents, who are asked to explain what they would do in each situation. Since the RAs in this study
did not have direct teaching responsibilities, the incidents in the ICCQ were modified to take place in
settings outside the classroom (e.g., in a department general office, on a professor’s research team). In
these incidents the respondent had no formal authority to produce change but had the opportunity to
behave as an ‘active bystander’ in response to a diversity challenge (Jackson, 2006; Morrison &
Milliken, 2000). Other research using this modified version of the ICCQ demonstrates that cultural
competence scores are positively correlated with other diversity training outcomes including diversity
attitudes and diversity knowledge (Roberson et al., in press).
The scoring system for the ICCQ is based on Bennett’s (1993) model of intercultural competence.
Bennett (1993) described six developmental stages ranging from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism as a
person develops greater cultural awareness and competence. Two undergraduate coders were taught
Bennett’s (1993) cultural competence model and given scoring guidelines with examples of behavior at
each stage. The six stages were collapsed to three to simplify the coding task. The coders first applied
the scoring guidelines to previously-coded responses from an earlier study. After coding the responses
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independently, they discussed their answers and received feedback from one of the researchers. This
process continued until the coders were consistently meeting a criterion of 0.70 reliability based on
their independent coding. The coders then worked independently to score each of the respondents’
answers to the current study’s four vignettes. Scores for the four vignettes were averaged to obtain a
measure of each participant’s Cultural Competence (interrater reliability (intraclass correlation) ¼
0.76). This level of reliability is slightly higher than reliabilities reported in other research using the
original ICCQ (Roberson et al., 2001: 0.71; Roberson et al., 2002: 0.75 (pretest) and 0.71 (posttest)).
Study Two Results
Table 3 presents correlations among the study variables. Table 4 shows the results of a logistic
regression analysis predicting training attendance. Only one of the antecedent variables (pre-training
cultural competence) predicted training attendance. The trainees who were most likely to attend the
training were those with the highest pre-training cultural competence levels. When we divided the
pre-training sample into thirds based on their pre-training cultural competence scores, we found that
only 23.7 per cent of those in the lowest third attended training. In contrast, 51.4 per cent of those in the
middle third and 70.3 per cent of those in the highest third attended training.
Table 4. Summary of logistic regression analysis predicting training attendance from gender, racioethnicity, and
pre-training cultural competence (Study Two)
Variables b s.e
Gender 0.13 0.38
Racioethnicity 0.28 0.25
Cultural competence 2.68
Model chi-square 17.05
Classification accuracy 64.5%
Note: The logistic regression predicts the likelihood that an RA will attend training.
Table 3. Correlations among study variables (Study Two)
Variable Mean SD 1 2 3 4
1. Training attendance 0.48 0.50
2. Gender 0.46 0.55 0.01
3. Racioethnicity 0.40 0.49 0.17 0.03
4. Cultural competence 1.32 0.36 0.36
0.08 0.01
Note: Training attendance coded 0 ¼did not attend, 1 ¼attended; Gender coded 0 ¼male, 1 ¼female; Racioethnicity coded
0¼white, 1 ¼non-white.
Copyright #2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Organizational diversity training may be implemented with many goals in mindto increase trainee
knowledge about diversity, to change trainee attitudes toward diversity, or to improve trainee diversity
skills and behavior. The available research suggests that diversity training can have positive effects on
trainee knowledge about diversity and trainee diversity skills (see Kulik & Roberson, in press, for a
review). However, these positive effects can only be realized in voluntary diversity training initiatives if
the training attracts the people most in need of the training. We examined training attraction effects in
two different organizational contexts. In Study One, we examined employee interest in attending a
voluntary equal opportunity training session following participation in a mandatory one. In this study,
the original training operated as an information dissemination mechanism, designed to educate staff
about the organization’s equal opportunity procedures and policies. In Study Two, we examined
graduate research assistants’ participation in voluntary diversity training. In this study, the training was
intended to improve the RAs’ diversity skills. We found parallel effects in the two studies.
First, trainee demographics had non-significant effects on training interest and training participation.
In Study One, women and older employees expressed as much interest in equal opportunity training as
men and younger employees. In Study Two, whites and men were as likely to voluntarily attend training
as non-whites and women. We had anticipated a demographic effect based on previous research
suggesting that non-traditional employees are, in general, more supportive of diversity initiatives than
members of the dominant demographic group (Alderfer et al., 1992; Kossek & Zonia, 1993; Mor-Barak
et al., 1998). We expected that women, non-whites, and older workers in the organizational contexts
studied here would be more enthusiastic about voluntary diversity training, because they would
perceive the training as offering more personal benefit (Noe, 1986, 1999). In fact, traditional and
non-traditional employees embraced (and avoided) training to the same degree. The lack of effects for
trainee demographics in both contexts is heartening, since they indicate that members of the dominant
group are no more likely to avoid diversity training opportunities than the non-traditional employees
who might directly benefit from diversity initiatives.
Second, pre-training competency had a significant effect on training interest and training
participation. In Study One, employees with greater EO knowledge expressed more interest in
voluntary equal opportunity training than employees with less EO knowledge. In Study Two,
employees with higher diversity skills were more likely to attend voluntary training than employees
with lower diversity skills. We had anticipated this competency effect based on the findings of Kruger
and Dunning (1999) who demonstrated that individuals who lack skills in a given domain frequently
lack the skills needed to assess competence in that same domain. Individuals with higher competence
levels in a given domain also have developed skills needed to recognize good performance and to
identify skill deficits. Therefore, high-competence individuals are more likely to take advantage of
opportunities that will enable them to continue to hone their skills and correct deficits.
Implications for organizations
Our research presents a ‘good news, bad news’ picture for organizations relying on voluntary diversity
training programs. On the positive side, our results suggest that organizations offering voluntary
diversity training are likely to recruit a demographically diverse mix of trainees. Trainee diversity is
frequently recommended in the diversity training literature (e.g., Ellis & Sonnenfeld, 1994; Kirkland &
Regan, 1997) and these recommendations have sometimes prompted well-intentioned efforts to
monitor and ‘adjust’ the demographic mix of organizational training groups (Caudron & Hayes, 1997;
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Markels, 1997). Our research suggests that this kind of micro-management of demographic
representation in voluntary diversity training is probably unnecessary. The ability of a voluntary
diversity training program to attract people from different demographic groups offers a distinct
advantage to organizations. Demographics are associated with the size and scope of employees’ social
networks (Ibarra, 1993, 1995); the broader the demographic representation in the training group, the
more social networks the organizational training can influence, and the greater the eventual diffusion of
training outcomes through the organization.
Unfortunately, there is also a negative side to our results. Voluntary diversity training is most likely to
attract the trainees who have the least need of training. Repeated or refresher training is associated with
the maintenance of complex skills (Farr, 1987; Ginzburg & Dar-El, 2000), and when high-skill
employees take advantage of training opportunities they will continue to develop and maintain their
diversity skills. Voluntary training is likely to miss the employees with low skill competencies — and it
is these individuals who are likely to do the most harm in damaging the organization’s diversity climate.
In the long run, organizations that rely exclusively on voluntary skill training are likely to develop a
two-tier workforce, with some employees exhibiting extremely high competence levels in contrast to a
low competency tier. The high competence individuals may become diversity champions in the
organizations and act as role models for other organizational members (Cross, 2000). However, their
‘good works’ may be counterbalanced by the low competence employees who fail to develop even
moderate skill levels. These low skill employees are unable to evaluate competence in the diversity
domaintheir own or anyone else’s (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). Therefore, their own behavior will
continue to display diversity ‘errors’ and they will not be able to provide effective coaching to peers or
subordinates with respect to diversity.
Can an organization afford to miss training their low-skill employees? The answer to this question
probably depends on two elements of a pre-training needs assessment (Roberson et al., 2003). First,
exactly how low is the low end of the skill continuum in the organization? While there is no absolute
benchmark, an organization cannot afford to have low-skill employees putting it at risk of employee
complaints or discrimination lawsuits. This suggests that the pre-training needs assessment should
specify the minimal skills required for compliance with local equal opportunity and civil rights
legislationand ensure that employees failing to meet this criterion do not slip through the training
‘net.’ This is especially important when the low-skill employees have supervisory responsibilities or
occupy positions where diversity incompetence might have particularly large consequences for the
organization (e.g., front-line sales employees who regularly interact with diverse customers). Second,
what are the organization’s diversity goals? Some organizations are motivated to adopt diversity
training to minimize their legal liability (Langevoort, 2004; Sturm, 2001), and these organizations may
be satisfied with minimal employee skills that avoid the most problematic forms of discriminatory
behavior. However, organizations wishing to capitalize on diversity’s benefits on creativity and
innovation need employees with more finely-honed diversity skills and a more proactive approach to
diversity management.
Regardless of where they place the ‘minimally acceptable’ diversity skill criterion, organizations
need to consider how they will attract low skill employees to participate in voluntary diversity training
efforts. One possibility might be to make prospective trainees aware of their skill deficits —perhaps by
requiring a skills pretest and giving trainees direct (but confidential) access to their pre-training scores.
Without the metacognitive skills needed to evaluate their own and other people’s performance, low skill
employees are unable to engage in the informal social comparison processes that high skill employees
use to assess their relative competence levels (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). As a result, ‘low skill and
unaware’ employees may be more dependent on objective benchmarking data provided directly by the
organization (Silverman, Pogson, & Cober, 2005). However, learning that one has low diversity skills
may be very threatening to an employee’s self-concept, and the way in which this feedback is
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DOI: 10.1002/job
communicated may make the employee more or less open to training. DeNisi and Kluger (2000)
suggest that the most effective feedback interventions focus the attention at the task level, provide
specific recommendations for improvement, and come from a trusted and knowledgeable source. These
feedback elements can keep the employee from generating the negative emotions (e.g., disappointment
or despair) that would de-motivate improvement efforts. Therefore, the feedback should emphasize
how developing particular skills (in this case, a diversity skill set) will help the employee to be a better
performer rather than describing the employees as biased or insensitive.
Another possible strategy for attracting employees to voluntary diversity training is to highlight the
personal value of the training by offering incentives for participation— for example, recognizing and
rewarding training participation as part of performance reviews or evaluations of managerial potential.
These incentives run the risk of transforming voluntary training programs into training programs that
might be perceived as mandated or even coercive by employees. Therefore, it is important to maintain
employee freedom in choosing among alternative training programs or developmental opportunities
that relate to the same skill domain. Employee choice enhances trainee perceptions that the training is
appropriate for their needs and trainee commitment to the training (Hicks & Klimoski, 1987).
Additionally, minor variations in advertising may affect employee interest in diversity training.
Research exploring ‘framing’ effects has found that individuals reacted most positively to training
descriptions with a traditional ‘Diversity Training’ title and a broad focus spanning a large number of
diversity dimensions (Holladay, Knight, Paige, & Quin
˜ones, 2003). This stream of research should be
extended to examine how framing affects actual participation rates.
Finally, another strategy for exposing low skill employees to diversity issues might be to ‘yoke’
diversity training with other organizational training efforts. If low skill employees are not interested in
general diversity training, they may be attracted to training efforts that address particular diversity skills
(e.g., training that develops interviewing skills, performance development skills, or conflict
management skills within a diverse context). All of these strategies are designed to get the low
skill trainee through the diversity training door. In the training program, the information provided can
simultaneously address the diversity skill deficit and develop the metacognitive skills the employee
needs to recognize situations in which he or she is performing poorly (Kruger & Dunning, 1999).
Our results demonstrating the key role of competency in determining interest and participation in
diversity training may suggest another, less obvious, avenue for attracting employees to voluntary
training. This avenue requires that organizations reflect on the factors that lead to employee
competency in the first place. Employee knowledge and skills in a given domain, and employee
self-efficacy for acquiring knowledge and skills in that domain, are likely to be highly related. Bandura
and Schunk (1981) argued that when individuals experience a sense of self-efficacy in a situation, they
are more likely to develop an interest in the activity than are those who fail to develop such efficacy.
Therefore, organizations need to consider how they can develop employee interest in diversity— and
simultaneously encourage a sense of diversity self-efficacy in employees.
The training literature suggests that self-efficacy can be enhanced through mastery experiences,
modeling, and persuasion (Colquitt, LePine, & Noe, 2000; Gist & Mitchell, 1992). Research to date has
focused on developing self-efficacy within a particular training program, but researchers (e.g., Mathieu,
Martineau, & Tannenbaum, 1993) have speculated that there may be spillover effects across related
training courses that over time contribute to ‘continuous learning’ processes within organizations. That
is, an early training experience that enhances employee self-efficacy for learning a particular skill set
might motivate the employee to seek out other developmental opportunities in the same skill domain.
Organizational diversity training is rarely designed or delivered as a multistep progression (Kulik &
Roberson, in press). However, diversity training might be particularly beneficial if self-efficacy
development strategies were incorporated into early mandatory training efforts to increase interest and
ready employees to take advantage of related, voluntary, training initiatives. Voluntary training
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DOI: 10.1002/job
programs are then more likely to be perceived as advanced skill development rather than remedial
training, evoking more positive employee reactions (Quin
˜ones, 1995).
The challenges associated with attracting employees to voluntary training programs are not limited to
diversity training efforts. Similar challenges might be associated with career management training, safety
training, ethics trainingany domain in which an organization is not legally mandated to train employees
but might nonetheless benefit if employees participated in training. Requiring participation in training
programs sends a clear and direct signal to employees that training is important (Mathieu & Martineau,
1997). However, the organizational value of voluntary training can be signaled indirectly, by ensuring that
organizational policies and supervisory practices establish a climate in which certain behaviors and skills
are consistently rewarded and supported (Zohar & Luria, 2004; Zohar & Luria, 2005). Organizational
climate is usually examined for its post-training impact on transfer of trained skills to on-the-job behavior
(e.g., Tracey, Tannenbaum, & Kavanagh, 1995), but climate may be equally important in influencing
trainee motivation to participate in voluntary training programs. Employees are more likely to take
advantage of voluntary training opportunities if they work in organizational contexts that recognize and
reward employees for training participation.
Limitations and recommendations for future research
Our research displays several strengths. Most notably, we were able to demonstrate parallel effects using
two distinct methodologies in two different organizational and cultural contexts. However, several
important limitations should be acknowledged, and these limitations provide directions for future research.
Our review of the literature suggested that employee demographics and pre-training skill levels
would influence trainees’ perceptions of the personal value of training and their perceived need for
training. However, these intervening motivational variables were not measured directly. Future
research should assess these mediating variables and contrast them with alternative mediators that
might further our theoretical understanding of the decision to participate in voluntary diversity training.
For example, based on Kruger and Dunning (1999), we suggested that low skill employees were
unaware of their low skills and therefore did not perceive a need to participate in diversity training.
However, it is also possible that low skill employees are aware of their skill levels but have low
self-efficacy for change (Bandura, 1977; Combs, 2002). Distinguishing between these causes is
important, because they suggest different strategies for attracting low skill employees to voluntary
training. If low-skill employees are unaware of their skill deficits, but have high-self-efficacy for
change, pre-training assessments that highlight their diversity management errors are most likely to
motivate their interest in training. However, if low-skill employees are being held back by low
self-efficacy, providing ‘mastery experiences’ that identify their existing skills, capabilities, and
diversity management successes may be more effective (Combs, 2002).
Further, even if low skill employees are aware of their need for training and experience high
self-efficacy for their ability to change, they may be skeptical about the value of an organizational training
program in addressing their skill deficits. This skepticism may reflect trainee cynicism about
organizational change efforts in general (Dean, Brandes, & Dharwadkar, 1998), or about diversity
training in particular. Diversity training may be perceived as too ‘touchy feely’ to generate substantial
outcomes in skill levels. Or the diversity training may be perceived as ‘window dressing’ in a
diversity-insensitive organization and the trainee may anticipate few rewards for improving his or her
diversity skills.
Future research should directly examine the mediational mechanisms that attract employees to
voluntary training. These mechanisms may represent competing hypotheses about the reasons low
competency employees fail to take advantage of voluntary training opportunities, but they may also
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DOI: 10.1002/job
operate in tandem. Noe (1986, 1999), for example, has suggested that trainee perceptions of the need
for training and perceptions of the value of training have distinct motivational effects. Attracting low
competency employees to diversity training may require a multi-pronged strategy that improves
employee awareness and self-efficacy at the individual level, and improves the reputation of diversity
training at the organizational level.
We thank Elissa Perry for her helpful feedback on an early version of this paper.
Author biographies
Carol T. Kulik is a research professor in human resource management at the University of South
Australia. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research
focuses on how human resource management practices can be used to manage demographic diversity
and promote fairness in organizations.
Molly B. Pepper is an assistant professor of management in the Jepson School of Business at Gonzaga
University. She received her Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Her research interests include
mentoring, diversity and computer-mediated communication.
Loriann Roberson is a professor of psychology and education in the social-organizational psychology
program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of
Minnesota. Her current research interests focus on workforce diversity and diversity interventions in
Sharon K. Parker is a research professor at the Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield,
UK, where she also earned her Ph.D. Her research focuses on how work structures and practices,
particularly job design, affect employees’ well-being, performance, and development. Current interests
focus on how employee proactivity is enhanced and inhibited within the work place.
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Appendix: Study One Equal Opportunity Knowledge Scale
Part-time working should be discouraged by senior managers to avoid the organizational problems it
might create (reverse-scored).
Women should not be given any special treatment just because they have just returned to work after
having a child (reverse-scored).
Women should be left alone to get on with their career, without any special consideration
Employees who work part-time are usually just as committed to their work as those who work full-time.
‘Equal opportunities’ means that everyone who applies for a job should be interviewed
Advertising for a woman to fill a post, even if a female is actually required for the job, goes against
equal opportunities (reverse-scored).
(Locality name) police should do more to make it possible for women to combine a career with having
If there’s a choice, it’s economically more sensible to choose a man for a job rather than a woman
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DOI: 10.1002/job
... Next, organizations should have mandatory race equity training for all staff and volunteer mentors. Our study supports prior evidence that adults with higher cultural competence may be more likely to attend optional trainings than those with lower reported cultural competence (Kulik et al., 2007), indicating that if social justice and race equity work are left optional for volunteer mentors, those who are least aware of racial privilege may be the least likely to attend. Organizations can use strategies to reduce barriers to mandatory training for volunteer mentor populations and to boost attendance among mentors who may be less motivated to attend. ...
... Further, organizations can incentivize training attendance by providing meals at training or providing additional activities (e.g., tickets to a sporting event) for mentor-youth dyads after the mentor attends the training. Although relying on a volunteer mentor population presents unique barriers, mandatory race equity and social justice trainings would indicate that antiracism work is central to the core values of the mentoring agency and desired organization outcomes (Bezrukova et al., 2012;Carter et al., 2020;Kulik et al., 2007;Outley & Blyth, 2020). ...
... Last, organizations should prioritize cultural humility support beyond a stand-alone training. Ongoing support is useful for mentors developing complex skills for addressing power and privilege in the mentoring relationship (Kulik et al., 2007). One possible way organizations can support mentors is through communities of practice (Wenger & Snyder, 2000), in which mentors can share best practices with other mentors and with support of an agency staff member. ...
Mentor training on cultural humility is an area of needed support in formal youth mentoring relationships. This pilot study used an experimental design to examine the role of a social justice and race equity training on volunteer mentors’ cognitive and affective outcomes related to cultural humility in mentoring. The sample included 99 volunteer mentors paired with adolescent mentees in an established formal mentoring program. Mentors predominantly identified as White (89%), and the majority (72%) were paired with youth of color. Participants were randomly assigned to either the training or control condition. Findings from intention-to-treat analyses indicated that training group participants (n = 49) exhibited greater increases in self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support over time than participants in the control group (n = 50). As-treated analyses indicated that training attendees (n = 23) exhibited greater increases in self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support over time than participants who did not attend the training (n = 76). Results indicated no significant changes over time in participants’ training content knowledge, awareness of racial privilege, ethnocultural empathy, or social justice interest and behavioral intentions. Analyses also indicated an attendance bias within the training condition, such that mentors who attended the training reported significantly more awareness of racial privilege, social justice interest, and social justice behavioral intentions compared to training condition mentors who were invited but did not attend the training. Implications for training volunteer mentors within formal mentoring programs are discussed.
... Patton (2018) refers to these strategies as a kind of "window dressing" that provides the illusion that White-run organizations are making an effort to address racism. Moreover, these strategies have failed to empirically demonstrate the power to reduce, change, or eliminate racist microaggressions by White men, women, and children (Fitzgerald et al., 2019;Kulik et al., 2007). Reviews of similar training have determined that these solutions are ill-suited in providing actionable, evidence-based recommendations for reducing prejudice (Paluck et al., 2021). ...
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This paper continues the discussion on the linkage between racial microaggressions and the development of Racial Battle Fatigue. Moreover, this paper centers on the collective impact of these transgressions on the academic development of Black students within K-12 and collegiate settings and challenges acceptable strategies for addressing racial microaggressions. I posit against centering strategies that require White individuals to change their behavior and argue for allocating resources to develop strategies of resistance by Black students towards racist agitators. I conclude this paper by providing students, parents, and educational practitioners with Black student-centered strategies for responding against racist micro-aggressive attacks.
... The authors continue explaining that most times diversity increases when not being forced and with intervention programs. The explanation is simple -anything mandatory and forced causes distress, anger and negativity (Kulik, Pepper, Roberson, & Parker, 2007). Not only they do not bring positive results but at times even the opposite tendency towards the subjects of trainings follows by (Anand & Winters, 2008). ...
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The purpose of the study is to analyse and uncover non-discriminatory (other than societal stereotyping or bias) factors that are affecting the inequality of women’s career and to suggest implications from the HR’s perspective to ensure equality of career outcomes. Among main objectives are increased awareness around multiple factors of leadership gender inequality, and deeper understanding of work related gender specifications. With these findings, future researchers may select a singular variable to study in depth and with targeted interview process; practitioners to use this knowledge in effective utilization of strengths and transformation of weaknesses to the competitive advantage of their organisation. Research methodology is deductive/inductive with semi-structured cross sectional interviews with women employees of age 25-45 and high career goals. An empirical part is supported by comprehensive literature review on equality and aspects negatively affecting it. The pre-defined categories of our data collection are built from 3 main levels of influence – individual, organizational and private, and include: Career Orientation, Value, Traits, Job Satisfaction, Working Pre-Conditions, Social Context, Household Organisation and External Support Systems. Data collection is followed by a framework analysis with thematic coding and 2 additional categories – under/above 30 years old. Among key confirmed factors of career stagnation are career/family dilemma, prioritization of life balance over aggressive competition, value system conflicts (particularly for those in male dominated teams), lack of supervision and mentorship. Individual factors include different career choices, goals, focus at better results over organizational politics and competition due to deviating values (integrity, ethics, supportive social environment, family), aspirations (life balance, self-fulfillment, positive work experiences) and traits (conflict avoidance, lack of confidence and assertiveness). Among other reasons, the study identified weak diversity initiatives, negative perception of working mothers by businesses, high costs of family care services, and lack of awareness around the challenges women experience daily. Despite high motivation, women feel overwhelmed engaging fully in both family and career roles, and with time choose family over leadership role.
... These studies underscore the need for all scientists to participate in diversity efforts for these to be successful, especially those who believe this work is not for them. Recognizing one's position in society and the barriers or opportunities that accompany that position is an important first step in increasing diversity in science as studies have shown (Grasswick, 2014;Kulik et al., 2007;Raymond, 2013;Ross, 2015;Sheltzer and Smith, 2014). ...
Women's experiences as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, have been explored showing how gender, race, nationality, etc. increase barriers to participate in the production of climate science even for the best scientists. Recently, the IPCC Gender Task Force, conducted another survey exploring barriers to participation in the IPCC that included men as well as women. The Gender Task Force released a report on gendered barriers mostly focusing on quantitative responses. This paper presents a qualitative analysis of the fourteen open-ended questions in the survey. In addition to qualitative analysis, storytelling and the concept of feminist objectivity are useful approaches to convey the complicated web of responses of over 500 scientists about their experiences participating in the IPCC and in climate science more broadly. Gender, race and nationality continue to be barriers. I stress the connection between exclusions of underrepresented scientists in the IPCC with the persistent western belief that science is an objective and impartial practice. The paper brings attention to exclusionary structures that prevent participation in the IPCC and in science more broadly, but also provides stories of how these are resisted. These stories go beyond recognizing people as disadvantaged toward addressing the intersecting structures that exclude people from participating in science. As climate science becomes more diverse, and evidence points toward the benefit of diversity for superior science, understanding barriers and opportunities for scientists participating in multidisciplinary and international reports such as the IPCC becomes increasingly important. The stories provide a theoretical and methodological catalyst for international science institutions who seek to increase the influence and presence of underrepresented groups in science and produce superior science.
... These reviews reveal that anti-racism training should occur in conjunction with broader organizational efforts; multipronged approaches demonstrate larger effects on training attendees' outcomes compared with stand-alone efforts (Bezrukova et al., 2012). Additionally, anti-racism training should be mandatory for all volunteer mentors given evidence that mandatory training exhibits greater effects than voluntary training, which tend to attract attendees who are already educated on the topic (Bezrukova et al., 2016;Kulik et al., 2007). These strategies can demonstrate a mentoring organization's commitment to anti-racism. ...
Racism and White supremacy culture shape the experiences of youth and adults in mentoring programs, which is detrimental to the development of BIPOC youth. The aims of this paper are to a) show why anti-racism training and education for adult mentors is necessary for promoting the positive development of BIPOC youth and b) offer a framework for anti-racist education and training for mentors. We review research showing how mentors’ attitudes about race, ethnicity and culture can harm their relationships with BIPOC youth and research on general mentor training, anti-racism training for mentors, and general diversity and anti-bias training in the workplace. Crossing disciplinary boundaries to inform developmental science, we draw upon critical mentoring, culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogy, and ethnic/racial identity frameworks, and propose four components for anti-racist education and training for mentors: a) acknowledging, confronting, and interrupting racism, b) facilitating youth critical consciousness, c) supporting positive identity development in youth, and d) mentors and mentees as active agents and partners. At the foundation of these pillars is decentering and interrupting Whiteness and youth as co-constructors of knowledge. We offer suggestions for future research and practice in anti-racism training for mentors, which also have implications for youth-adult relationships across settings.
... With regard to diversity trainings, the argument is often made that they are not necessary for individuals who already hold positive diversity beliefs, but more so for individuals who hold negative beliefs. However, employees with positive diversity beliefs are mostly the ones who sign up for diversity trainings in organizations, which suggests to make diversity trainings mandatory or incentivize participation (Bell, Connerley, & Cocchiara, 2009;Kulik, Pepper, Roberson, & Parker, 2007). Since the majority of research found negative effects of perceived diversity, it is a small step to assume that a lot of people hold less positive beliefs about diversity. ...
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This paper makes a case for explaining diversity effects through cognitive factors as compared to demographic or other differences in backgrounds. We argue that studying perceived diversity in conjunction with diversity beliefs can explain positive and negative effects through a motivated opening or closing of the mind (Need for Cognitive Closure, NFCC). NFCC is the motivation to avoid uncertainty and ambiguity. In Study 1, we experimentally demonstrate that asking participants to think about differences among their coworkers increases their NFCC. Study 2 shows that greater uncertainty about social norms in the workplace is positively related to NFCC. Study 3 confirms the mediating role of NFCC in explaining divergent thinking attitudes in expatriates working in various multicultural cities around the world. Study 4 demonstrates that perceived diversity is positively associated with NFCC when people hold negative beliefs about diversity, whereas positive beliefs mitigate this effect. Lastly, Study 5 shows that the interaction between perceived diversity and diversity beliefs is further moderated by task type. Taken together, the present research highlights the importance of studying cognitive factors to explain diversity effects.
... Research has indicated that compulsory DT can often result in backlash (e.g., Legault et al. 2011, Sanchez & Medkik 2004 and may actually lead to less diversity in the workforce (Dobbin & Kalev 2016). However, voluntary training may only benefit participants who already appreciate diversity at the onset (Kulik et al. 2007). Although the mandatory versus voluntary training debate is beyond the scope of this review, recent research has provided a potential avenue of resolution. ...
In this review, we utilize a narrative approach to synthesize the multidisciplinary literature on diversity training. In examining hundreds of articles on the topic, we discovered that the literature is amorphous and complex and does not allow us to reach decisive conclusions regarding best practices in diversity training. We note that scholars of diversity training, when testing the efficacy of their approaches, too often use proxy measures for success that are far removed from the types of consequential outcomes that reflect the purported goals of such trainings. We suggest that the enthusiasm for, and monetary investment in, diversity training has outpaced the available evidence that such programs are effective in achieving their goals. We recommend that researchers and practitioners work together for future investigations to propel the science of diversity training forward. We conclude with a roadmap for how to create a more rigorous and relevant science of diversity training. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 73 is January 2022. Please see for revised estimates.
Although scholarship documenting the effects of racism on educational outcomes is extensive, less empirical research has been done on interventions designed to mitigate racism and racial bias in schools. Based on case studies of two elementary schools, we have found that educators participating in a yearlong racial justice program demonstrated a deeper understanding of their own racial biases, developed a shared language to identify and name different forms of racism, and reported greater confidence to disrupt racist incidents in their schools. In one site, however, inconsistent leadership and resistance from a vocal White minority limited the program’s potential to change schoolwide practice. In the other site, educators reported changes in curricular materials and changes to disciplinary decisions, but widespread organizational change will likely take longer than a single school year. Drawing on these findings, we discuss implications for anti-racist interventions in other educational contexts as well as recommendations for studying their efficacy.
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Gamification has become increasingly common in employee training. Simultaneously, our scientific understanding of gamified learning has grown. However, there are few resources that provide specific recommendations for science‐based gamification in employee training to address the research–practice gap. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to describe our current scientific understanding of gamification as it can be used to realistically improve web‐based employee training. First, because gamification is commonly misunderstood, we explain what gamification is in the context of training. Second, because gamification is commonly misapplied, research on the effectiveness of gamified learning as related to training design is reviewed. Finally, to provide a clear roadmap for training design, we describe a formal process for gamifying web‐based training in a scientifically supported way.
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Executive Overview Performance feedback is an important part of many organizational interventions. Managers typically assume that providing employees with feedback about their performance makes it more likely that performance on the job will be improved. Despite the prevalence of feedback mechanisms in management interventions, however, feedback is not always as effective as is typically assumed. In this article, we present specific conditions under which feedback might be less effective, or even harmful. We then discuss the implications of our results and model for designing of interventions aimed at improving performance, and focus more narrowly on 360-degree appraisal systems. After arguing that these systems typically have design characteristics that reduce effectiveness, we conclude with recommendations for improving their effectiveness. We also emphasize the need for systematic evaluations of feedback interventions.
Presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from 4 principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Factors influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arise from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and behavioral changes. (21/2 p ref)
Performance feedback is an important part of many organizational interventions. Managers typically assume that providing employees with feedback about their performance makes it more likely that performance on the job will be improved. Despite the prevalence of feedback mechanisms in management interventions, however, feedback is not always as effective as is typically assumed. In this article, we present specific conditions under which feedback might be less effective, or even harmful. We then discuss the implications of our results and model for designing of interventions aimed at improving performance, and focus more narrowly on 360-degree appraisal systems. After arguing that these systems typically have design characteristics that reduce effectiveness, we conclude with recommendations for improving their effectiveness. We also emphasize the need for systematic evaluations of feedback interventions.
Despite voluminous research indicating that women and minorities have limited access to or are excluded from organizational networks, two central questions remain unanswered: (a) In what specific ways, if any, do the interaction networks of men and women and whites and racial minorities differ? and (b) What mechanisms produce those differences? The central thesis of the article is that the organizational context in which interaction networks are embedded produces unique constraints on women and racial minorities, causing their networks to differ from those of their white male counterparts in composition and characteristics of their relationships with network members. Organizational context is hypothesized to affect personal networks directly, as well as through its impact on individuals' strategies for managing constraints. A theoretical perspective that views women and minorities as active agents who make strategic choices among structurally limited alternatives is offered.
The organizational literature began emphasizing the “business case” for diversity in the late 1980s (Cox and Blake, 1991; Johnston and Packer, 1987; Robinson and Dechant, 1997). The business case predicted a range of benefits resulting from greater workforce diversity within organizations (Jayne and Dipboye, 2004; Konrad, 2003). Specifically, an organization making maximum use of the talent available in the labor pool would select a diverse group of employees. These diverse employees would be more effective in dealing with a diverse customer base, and the diverse employees would bring a greater range of perspectives to bear on organizational decision making. In sum, “a more diverse workforce, [managers] say, will increase organizational effectiveness. It will lift morale, bring greater access to new segments of the marketplace, and enhance productivity” (Thomas and Ely, 1996: 79). The business case for diversity, and its optimistic expectations of the benefits achieved through employee diversity, has been enthusiastically embraced by managers. In a Catalyst-sponsored study of 15 Fortune 500 companies, every corporate executive interviewed by the researchers cited the business case as the primary rationale for their organizations' diversity efforts (Giscombe and Mattis, 2002). And there is evidence of a trickle-down effect to the employee level: a diversity program accompanied by a “competitive advantage” justification is likely to generate the most positive employee attitudes (Kidder et al., 2004). Given the widespread acceptance of the business case, it is ironic that the academic literature has documented so many negative outcomes associated with workforce diversity.