Spin Doctors

By Thomas Kochman - 03.15.2010

Almost every piece of news that gets reported these days seems to have one kind of spin on it or another from people bent on promoting one or another social or political agenda. We expect that behavior from politicians, cults and other thought squads, caught up in what David Brooks characterized as “information cocoons” in his excellent article, “Getting Obama Right!”

However, the media is no less guilty of spin when it chooses “sexy” or controversial topics for airing or publication to draw in viewers or readers.

And even researchers fall prey to spin in selecting criteria whose single greatest virtue is that it is measurable giving the research and themselves, a sense of relevance or importance that –upon looking deeper—is unwarranted.

As a case in point, Drake Bennett’s article “Who’s still biased” cites researchers who, using prejudice reduction as a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of corporate diversity training, imply that there is somehow a causal connection between prejudice reduction and behavioral change—presumably with prejudice reduction needing to occur in order to achieve the latter. Read more »

The Value of Diversity Training

By Thomas Kochman - 03.07.2010

Drake Bennett’s article “Who’s still biased” cites researchers who, using prejudice reduction as a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of corporate diversity training, “found no empirical support for the idea that diversity training programs change attitudes or behavior.”

Another criterion researchers used was the extent to which companies have become more diverse as a result of having gone through diversity training.

As Bennett notes, “Research by a team of sociologists on more than 800 companies over three decades has found that the best diversity training programs make little difference in who gets hired and promoted, and many programs actually decrease the number of women and minorities in management.”

Both statements raise more questions about the research than they do about the effectiveness of diversity training.

For example, the first research criterion presumes both a link between prejudice reduction and behavioral change –doesn’t this itself have to be proven– and that prejudice reduction is the best criterion for judging whether diversity training “works.”

The second criterion reduces diversity training to a numbers game: how many diverse people are in management or get hired or promoted, as if other factors aren’t more critical or telling.

My view is that too much reliance is placed on diversity training as the instrument of organizational change. Read more »