What’s the difference between sensitivity and diversity training? Isn’t diversity training the answer? So, what do organizations hope to accomplish with diversity training, and what is the difference between diversity training and sensitivity training?

So, let’s begin here. There are two primary reasons for diversity training:

  1. Preventing lawsuits
  2. Promoting inclusion

What’s the Difference Between Sensitivity and Diversity Training?

Does Diversity Training Work?

So, does diversity training work? Will it prevent lawsuits and improve inclusion? According to a study by Harvard University, the answer is…not always. “The good news is that companies that give diversity councils, or diversity managers, responsibility for getting more women and minorities into good jobs typically see significant increases in the diversity of managers. So do companies that create formal mentoring programs. Much less effective are diversity training sessions, diversity performance evaluations for managers” — Harvard Scholar Diversity Training in Corporate America 

Diversity Training Categorizes People

The problem with diversity training is that it categorizes people. Because we tend to stereotype groups of people. Most people have experienced getting to know an individual who broke their perceived stereotype. Most of us have heard statements such as, “Bill isn’t like most of them.” “Jennifer is different.” “Pedro doesn’t act like that.”

“People aren’t prejudiced against real people; they’re prejudiced against categories. “Sure, John is gay,” they’ll say, “but he’s not like other gays.” Their problem isn’t with John, but with gay people in general.” —Harvard Business Review: Diversity Training Doesn’t Work. 

So, What’s the Answer, Sensitivity or Diversity Training?

The answer is sensitivity training. Helping people recognize individuals, not put them in arbitrary categories, is the key to understanding. The first step in reaching understanding is improving communication because people communicate with people, not categories. When people learn to communicate without prejudice, they recognize individuals. People who talk to each other acceptingly learn what they have in common. And when people communicate openly without anger, emotion, or preconceptions, sensitivity to Diversity begins.

See People, Not Stereotypes

Putting people into groups by race, sexual orientation, age, or sex isn’t real, and it doesn’t work. To set expectations of others by their age, race, or sex is (I don’t know any better way to say this) ridiculous. It’s unproductive and misleading. And here’s the proof, we’ve all met that “special” co-worker, fellow student, or neighbor that wasn’t like the rest of “Them,” whoever “Them” is.

A Call to Action 

A retail company I worked with on leadership training asked me to help them with sensitivity training. The company had tried diversity training, but it didn’t lead to the desired outcome. I told them I wasn’t an expert and they should find someone who was. They were familiar with me and asked again if I could help them. So, I sat down with a human resources specialist I worked with and then jumped down the sensitivity rabbit hole. I completed four sessions with the team and was told it was a great success. The following is a summary of the training I conducted.

Cultural Sensitivity and Inclusion Training 

Sensitivity training aims to increase cultural awareness, train sensitivity best practices, and promote teamwork.

Therefore, training staff members can accomplish this by recognizing cultural differences and implementing best practices for working with multiple ethnicities, races, and cultures.


Presentations may vary in length due to audience participation.

Employee Training 

  1. Understanding Cultural Sensitivity in the workspace – In this presentation, employees are introduced to Federal regulations in the workplace and cultural sensitivity. This presentation aims to make employees aware of cultural sensitivity. 20 – 30 minutes.
  2. Sensitivity training – This covers how to interact with multiple cultures and create an inclusive environment in the workplace and how to communicate both verbally and non-verbally in a diverse culture. How to avoid categorizing people and look to each as individuals. 30 – 45 minutes.
  3. Follow-up Training– A follow-up meeting to review A and B and discuss how the training was applied and followed in the workplace. 20 – 30 minutes.

Several studies have shown that diversity training may backfire by pointing out our differences through categorization. Sensitivity training is based on the idea that we are all more than our cultures and background. Because, we all should be treated as individuals. And that’s a worthwhile topic to share. So, please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Image by Tumisu, from Pixabay