And it isn’t going to work!
It isn’t going to work because like most organizations, Starbucks made the three most common mistakes when it comes to tackling diversity and inclusion.
Mistake #1: Having training in response to conflict
This training was done in response to conflict which means the problem is already systemic. There is only so much that can be done in a 4-hour training. It might be a PR silver bullet, but it likely won’t result in any significant change across the organization.
Solution #1: Invest in continuous and ongoing learning and development
Organizations need to make a long term commitment to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. This means investing in continuous and ongoing learning and development to ensure that employees develop the awareness, attitudes, skills, and knowledge necessary to be inclusive in their daily interactions with one another and their customers and clients.
Mistake #2: Making training mandatory
While Starbucks said the training was not mandatory, it was perceived as mandatory by both employees and the public. And when organizations make training mandatory, the majority of the organization thinks they are being punished for problem of only a few. People are not open to learning and growth when they think they are being punished so the training is wasted on them.
Solution #2: Take a deeper look
Organizations need to be willing to take a deep dive into the various factors that created the conflict. Often bias, racial or otherwise, are symptoms of larger more systemic problems within the organization. When I have been invited to help organizations with issues on bias and discrimination, upon a deeper analysis it is common to find that they are more systemic issues related to trust, communication, and policy at the root of the conflict. These problems have to be resolved before any diversity and inclusion training can be successful.
Mistake #3 Training is not enough
Organizations think Diversity training is enough. And it isn’t!
Solution #3 Create a strategic long-term plan
Organizations who truly want to be diverse and inclusive have to be intentional and steadfast in their efforts. It can’t be a one off training, speaker, event, or activity (Stop having international potluck day! It isn’t facilitating deeper cross cultural awareness). Efforts must be made to ensure that the organization in its entirety supports diversity and inclusion.
Organizations have to have strategic long-term plans that include:
- A review of all policies and procedures to ensure they support an inclusive work environment for all categories of difference including race, gender, age, ability, and sexual identity.
FOR EXAMPLE: While it is clear that racial bias was a factor in the initial incident in Philadelphia last April, one critical factor has been ignored. The policy to keep the bathroom locked.
Why do some Starbucks have locked bathrooms and others don’t? Why do public stores limit access to their bathrooms? Who are they trying to keep out?
The practice that coffee shops (and gas stations, etc) have to keep their bathrooms locked is an “exclusive” practice and inevitably results in someone being discriminated against.
- An assessment of the organizations culture and climate to ensure that the organizations “norms” support an inclusive environment. This includes discussing the language and terminology used, office layout and facilities, team dynamics, problem solving, and other behavioral expectations.
- Identifying the organizations learning and development needs, and to invest adequate time and resources into them. I get calls from organizations that want a 2-hour training or want multiple days of training for the price of one. Organizations that are not willing to invest the time and money will not get the results they want and in the end there will be a cost. The estimated cost to process a single EOE claim is about $50K-70K so invest upfront. It will save you money on the backend. I promise.
To ensure you get it right:
#1 Hire qualified Subject Matter Experts (not celebrities).
#2 Invest in training that happens over an extended period of time.
#3 Create an annual budget for learning and development, now, before conflicts happen.
While I hope something good comes of Starbucks efforts yesterday, it is difficult for me to imagine that it was much more than a PR exercise. It is better for organizations to get it right from the start than to try to dig oneself out of a hole. So don’t make the same mistakes, invest now in a strategic long-term plan to make your organization not only diverse, but inclusive.