Diversity training is any program designed to facilitate positive intergroup interaction, reduce prejudice and discrimination, and generally teach individuals who are different from others how to work together effectively. "From the broad corporate perspective, diversity training is defined as raising personal awareness about individual differences in the workplace and how those differences inhibit or enhance the way people work together and get work done. In the narrowest sense, it is education about compliance – Affirmative Action (AA), Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), and sexual harassment." A competency based definition refers to diversity training as any solution designed to increase cultural diversity awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills. Diversity training is thought to be more needed because of the growing ethnic and racial diversity in the workplace. While major corporations believe that diversity training and active diversity hiring will assist them in remaining competitive in a global economy, other large organizations (universities and colleges) have been slow to embrace diversity training. Diversity training is often aimed to meet objectives such as attracting and retaining customers and productive workers; maintaining high employee morale; and/or fostering understanding and harmony between workers.
Despite purported and intended benefits, systematic studies have not shown benefits to diversity training and instead show that they backfire and lead to reductions in diversity and to discrimination complaints being taken less seriously.
According to Hans Bader, its opponents consider it an oppressive ideology and reeducation tactic that actually reduces the ability of organizations to attain their goals. It has been suggested that diversity training reinforces differences between individuals instead of fostering their commonalities, thus helping to further racialize the workplace, creating situations where people "tiptoe" around issues such as how to relate to people of different cultures as opposed to people learning to communicate with and truly understand each other. Programs which established specific responsibility for diversity, such as equal opportunity staff positions or diversity task forces, have proven most effective in general. However, the results also indicate that white females benefit significantly more from diversity training. The benefits for black females and males were appreciably lower than white females. Networking and mentoring, which were considered bias mitigating approaches, served black females the most. Black males were the least likely to benefit from any of the methods. Sue Steiner and collaborators have advocated that controversy be used as a cooperative learning style. They argue that attempting to see both sides of a controversial issue builds empathy and allows working environments to function better.
Alexandra Kalev conducted a comprehensive review of cultural diversity training conducted in 830 midsize to large U.S. workplaces over a thirty one year period. The results showed that diversity training was followed by a decrease of anywhere from 7.5-10% in the number of women in management. The percentage of black men in top positions fell by 12 percent. Similar effects were shown for Latinos and Asians. The study did not find that all diversity training is ineffective. Mandatory training programs offered to protect against discrimination lawsuits were called into question. Voluntary diversity training participation to advance organization’s business goals was associated with increased diversity at the management level.