Sephora will close all of its stores, distribution centers, and corporate offices in the U.S. on Wednesday for an hour to host inclusion workshops for all their employees. Sephora is the latest company to go so far as to shut down during traditional store hours to conduct companywide diversity training on this scale.
Last year, Starbucks closed all of its stores for a half day to conduct training on cultural bias, after two African American men were arrested in their store after attempting to use the restroom without having first bought something. Starbucks condemned the arrests and has since changed its official policy, making it possible for all customers to use the restroom without needing to make an advance purchase.
It is clear that conversations about diversity, inclusion, belonging, and unconscious bias need to be had in more companies on a regular basis. Dove, Heineken, H&M, Prada, and Gucci have all apologized after producing culturally insensitive advertising or products. Papa Johns, Disney, and Netflix have each severed ties with high-profile talent after their use of racist language. And Nordstrom, Yale, Starbucks, and even Sephora have all publicly apologized for employees' mistreatment of customers due to racial profiling and bias. And, unfortunately, these are just some of the high-profile cases over the past 18 months.
Even though Sephora and Starbucks have good intentions when it comes to conducting these diversity training sessions, the jury is still out on their effectiveness.
One study attempted to assess the effects of a one-hour online diversity training on 3,016 employees at a company, to see how it impacted their attitudes and behaviors.
Participants in the study reported receiving value from the online diversity session, and there were no ill effects of going through the training. However, there was almost no impact on behavior change. The researchers concluded that this finding doesn't mean that diversity training isn't effective. Just that it is important to note that you won't see lasting change in attitudes, behavior, or your company culture with a one-off training.
How to make diversity, inclusion, and belonging a priority in your business
These ways have to become a part of your culture. And nothing becomes part of your DNA with a one-hour or even a one-day training. They are established and modeled from the top down and reinforced over and over again in every part of your organization.
Training is one component. But training isn't effective if the goal is to check the box. Once your team goes through a session, you've got to give them opportunities to put what they learn into practice, so that it becomes part of the way your team operates, rather than something that gets filed away in their head.
You also need a staff who are representative of the customers you serve, at all levels of your organization. When you have a team with varying backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking, who feel comfortable speaking up to voice their opinions, the likelihood of producing culturally insensitive marketing diminishes.
Of course, you can't stop there, either. It is also important to build and nurture strong relationships and a deep degree of intimacy with the various communities you serve and represent within your company.
As you develop those relationships over time, you'll develop the kind of empathy and insights that help you solve your customers' problems like none other -- in particular for traditionally underserved groups like women and minorities. Over time, as that intimacy grows, biases and stereotypes give way to understanding, insight, and a shared sense of belonging. That is important, because business is belonging.
When you focus on building an inclusive company culture that makes everyone feel like they belong, you'll be able to deliver better employee experiences, which will result in their delivering better experiences for your customers.
Training is a nice place to start to demonstrate your commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. But if you want to have a lasting impact, that transforms your business, your team, and your customers, make it an integral part of your company culture.