Do diversity training sessions change attitudes or behaviors?
Yes, even one-off sessions can reduce bias.
Many workplaces use one-off, online diversity training sessions as part of their DEI toolkit. They're far from a panacea for workplace bias, but they do have a positive impact.
Researchers randomly assigned employees at a large company to participate in an hour-long training focusing on gender bias; gender, race and sexual orientation bias; or, as a control, active listening. Across the board, employees who completed a bias training were more likely to acknowledge their own biases. And while the trainings didn't have sweeping effects on attitudes or behaviors, they moved the needle in the right direction.
Employees based outside the U.S. expressed more positive attitudes toward women after the bias trainings. They started off with less supportive attitudes than U.S.-based employees, so the session shrank the gap.
For U.S.-based employees, the trainings led to more inclusive behaviors. For example, when a mentorship program launched a few weeks after the training, participants were more likely to choose women and racial minorities as mentees.
Employees' starting points shaped where they ended up, but the trainings consistently reduced bias.