Case Study  – The United Way of Central Indiana

You’ve probably been told this before, “It’s time for our annual, mandatory, diversity training.”  More often than not, this message is met with groans, complaints, a reminder of how busy everyone is, and a general lack of enthusiasm.  Even worse, for many organizations, this is often a short exercise in getting the annual training quota checked off some list, a compliance requirement.

The United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) and PLC and took a new and more participative approach. PLC worked with senior UWCI leaders to create a course that specifically met their needs and desired learning outcomes.  More than120 UWCI employees (nearly all) attended this four hour workshop held over the course of three days (5 sessions) in the spring of 2013. Among our learning objectives were:

  • Create a welcoming environment where everyone is accepted and no one is alone – dialogue and discussion exercises were designed to demonstrate we are more like each other than we are different
  • Understanding self – Examine judgments we make about others – whether consciously or unconsciously
  • Understanding others – Discuss how do our perceptions about others detract from or add to an organization’s environment
  • Understanding our Community – Participants created specific plans and objectives for making the UWCI a more welcoming organization

The course succeeded beyond our expectations. When asked what they planned to do with what they learned, participants responded as follows:

  • Learn more about others’ background
  • Ask questions
  • Be a role model for youth in my family in the area of diversity awareness.
  • Be open, be honest, and communicate.
  • Go learn more about others & make others aware of the richness of differences.
  • Less judgment based on geography, accents and perceived wealth.
  • Move from tolerance to acceptance.
  • Pay more attention to how I view people and limit my quick judgments.
  • Take a more critical look about how I think/look at different people/locations of Indianapolis.
  • Seek out diversity to learn more about other people (appreciate instead of accept).
  • Step out of my comfort zone.
  • Be more conscience of how I think of others and how I respond.
  • Learn new cultures, educate grandchildren, and try to respect coworker’s challenges.
  • Find ways for staff to get to know each other.
  • Expose my kids to new and different viewpoints.

If participants move forward and do the things listed above, we consider the workshop a big success! We expect to work with UWCI again in the future. We were impressed and proud of the level or participation, difficult discussions, and willingness to create a safe environment for dialogue.  We think our collaboration is best summed up by what Kennethe Vaughn, UWCI’s VP of Talent Management and Diversity, had to say about the training:

“We are in the process of tabulating the evaluations.  But word in the hallways is “best diversity awareness training ever”.  I’m very pleased that many felt inspired. Thank you for everything you did. It was great.”