, Leveraging Professional Development for a Supportive Workplace

Professional development is that perk within the organization that everyone knows they have access to but is still often not utilized in a way that can help to keep the company culture and support.  Employees take university classes, get certifications, but what if professional development was leveraged to develop a spirit of inclusion and support within your company?  In our book, From Sabotage to Support: A New Vision for Feminist Solidarity, we discuss some tools that companies can implement in order to create a supportive work environment for women specifically, but everyone more broadly.

Professional development (PD) training can cover a wide range of topics, including best practices for talking about race, sexual harassment, and microaggressions. Does your company offer PD training, and if so, what does the training look like? Do they address race and racism or sexism specifically? When training stays more generalized and less specific by looking at universal or shared concerns and not addressing concerns that speak to converging identities, they tend to avoid specific issues that challenge the diversity your organization may lack. You can’t just pay someone to do an hour-long presentation. Cultivating the skills to detect bias in policies and procedures is a long-term effort. Individual accountability, small groups, teams, units, and organizations are all responsible for examining their biases in their recruiting and retention practices, as well as their professional development. Implicit bias training is one way, but there are also difficult dialogue workshops and workshops on microagressions in the workplace.

After the trainings, what’s the follow-up and how is it sustainable? The problem we have seen with these trainings is that folks think, “Well, we had that training, so we’re good. We don’t need to do more work on it. That box has been checked.” This is exactly why these particular types of trainings don’t stick. Yes, they open the door, but you have to hire an outside expert to help guide the entire organization so that diversity and inclusion policies are sustainable and are flexible enough to change when the organization gets bigger or otherwise changes. The policies should reflect the evolution of the times, such as implementing gender-neutral bathrooms or ensuring that women are being paid the same as their white male counterparts. We might not have seen those concerns even six or seven years ago. However, now, because times are changing, we want flexible policies to reflect the needs of today’s workforce.

How can your organization leverage professional development for your employees that will not only be supportive of your diverse workforce but also attractive to new hires?  What trainings can be implemented in this final quarter to start that work?

About the author: Kami J. Anderson, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of Bilingual Brown Babies, a company that focuses on fostering bilingualism in black families. She received her doctorate from Howard University in intercultural communication and culture. She is the author of Language, Identity, and Choice.

Her co-authored book with Joy L. Wiggins, Ph.D., “From Sabotage to Support: A New Vision for Feminist Solidarity in the Workplace” published by Berrett Koehler is available now at Amazon and your local booksellers.

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