Driven by the Equality Act 2010, HR departments across the UK sought to address inclusion within their organisations. However, clients implementing Equality & Diversity policies and awareness training over the last few years slowed to a steady trickle, as organisations ticked the box and moved on.
However, surprisingly of late, we have experienced a significant increase in the number of clients looking to revisit the subject. And in many situations, the call for support from an outside training provider, has been triggered by an internal ‘incident’. In a number of cases, these incidents have led to tribunals which are not only distressing to the people involved and damaging to teams, they are time consuming, expensive and damaging to organisations.
Our recent client discussions have led us to ask – what is the cause of this reawakening of Equality & Diversity training and development for so many organisations in the same year? One would think with all the effort that has gone into bringing sensitive issues concerning age, sexual orientation, culture, religion and disability into the light, people in the workplace would be more aware and incidence a thing of the past. Alas, it seems not.
Savage cuts in government spending: cuts have impacted badly on learning and development budgets for many public sector organisations. These lack of funds are likely to have reduced the amount of equality and diversity awareness that has been sustained in-house.
Post-recession: With the private sector just emerging from recessional years, many are only just bringing development fully back onto the agenda. Years with minimal training may well have resulted in some taking their eyes off the ‘inclusion’ ball.
Reduction in staffing levels: Many public and private organisations have reduced headcount, which increases stress levels on those left to complete, often, the same levels of workload. This is undoubtedly a contributing factor in the increase of people letting off steam and speaking or behaving inappropriately.
Increases in violent media headlines: An increase in violent media headlines, including terrorist attacks, can elicit changes in attitudes and behaviour. This changes how people respond, or what they think of certain cultures and political groups and can be evident in changes in behaviour.
E-learning equality and diversity: Several L&D professional clients have voiced their concerns that management teams receive class-room based equality and diversity training, whilst staff complete a compulsory e-learning package. We are agreed that whilst e-learning is more resource effective; it does mean people miss out on the all-important dialogue and sharing of concerns, questions and ideas. Plus, there are varying degrees of quality and participant engagement within e-learning platforms.
So a broad range of different reasons which might be why we are seeing an increase in the number of equality and diversity related enquiries and discussions about tribunal cases. I would be interested to hear what other training providers in this area are experiencing.