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What is Sensitivity Training?

Sensitivity training is designed to focus individuals on their attitudes and behavior toward others. The goal of sensitivity training in the workplace is to help employees become more mindful and aware of their own attitudes so as to better appreciate--  and work with-- those who are different from them.

Most often, the training focuses on issues around groups where members are different in race, color or ethnic background; gender identity (i.e., transgender); ableness; religion; and other protected groups that fall under the Civil Rights Act.

Sensitivity training focuses on developing the emotional intelligence and communications skillsets necessary so as to better work with difficult personalities, as well as address issues of sexual harassment and other inappropriate workplace behavior.

How is Sensitivity Training Done?

The foundations of sensitivity training first appeared in 1946 by a man named Kurt Lewin, around the same time that group therapy developed in response to wartime traumatic stress disorders. Sensitivity training has since further evolved to become applicable to groups in organizations, involving skills that include the ability to develop authentic relationships with others. In some aspects, it has been likened to group psychotherapy; creating a safe space to explore self-awareness, perception and group dynamics, and invest in personal development.

In sensitivity training, you will be working in a group and understanding your perception of others and your role within the group, working with the principles of:

  • Awareness - being aware of your own cultural biases, assumptions, and beliefs about yourself and others.
  • Respect - the ability to consider other cultures as equally valid and viable as your own
  • Humility - considering what others may experience and recognizing that yours is not the only perspective in the conversation
  • Open-Mindedness - an attitude of inquiry into what others may feel, believe or experience.

You will learn to facilitate good working relationships as well as grow in self-awareness. Part of that self-reflection will involve learning about your communication style and responses to what others say, as much unnecessary conflict can occur from misinterpretation.  Training will also address issues such as gender and multicultural sensitivity as well as sensitivity towards the disabled.

Overall, learners will understand the tools for how to build and keep a mutually-respectful atmosphere where harassment and discrimination are not tolerated.

Sensitivity Training Courses

Sensitivity courses and programs cover a range of areas including:

  • Promoting a Diverse & Harassment-Free Workplace
  • Enhancing Diversity, Respect & Sensitivity within the Workplace
  • Sensitivity Training for Doctors and Physicians
  • Preventing Harassment in the Workplace
  • Effectively Manage & Communicate in a Diverse Workplace

In a sensitivity training course, depending on the training provider, you might study the following topics:

  • All applicable federal and state laws
  • Recognize the actions/words/behaviors that are really causing people to claim harassment or discrimination
  • Understand the 'gray areas' that can contribute to a "hostile work environment" harassment or discrimination claim
  • Recognize that people's perceptions of us influence their reality
  • Identify where or how our communication/behavior style may be contributing to a potentially negative perception from employees, co-workers or superiors
  • Preventing insensitivity, harassment or disrespectful behavior before it happens

It’s not just managers or human resources departments that should attend Sensitivity Training courses.  Anyone who needs to interact, collaborate and make decisions with others to achieve their goals can benefit from some extra knowledge on how to earn trust from others and navigate situations with those different from themselves. In other words, everyone and every company can benefit from Sensitivity Training!

Delivery Options for Sensitivity Training Courses

Sensitivity courses can be delivered in a range of formats for both groups and individuals.

If you are looking for a sensitivity course for a group of employees, you'll want either on-site training or online training. With on-site training, the provider will travel to your location to deliver the training. Online sensitivity training for a group will generally be offered live over Zoom or a similar platform. With corporate / group sensitivity training, the provider will often adapt the course content to ensure it covers any challenges your company might be facing.

Individuals seeking sensitivity training can choose either classroom or online sensitivity courses. A classroom course will be held alongside your peers in a classroom setting while online training will either be on-demand or scheduled as live online. An on-demand course will allow you to study at your own pace, but a live online class will be much more interactive with both the instructor and your classmates.

Frequently asked questions

  • Sensitivity training in the workplace is a program designed to increase awareness, empathy, and understanding of diverse perspectives and experiences. It aims to foster a respectful and inclusive work environment by addressing issues like unconscious bias, discrimination, and cultural differences.

  • Employees who participate in sensitivity training develop better communication skills, increased empathy, and an improved understanding of diversity and inclusion. This leads to a more positive and respectful work environment, enhanced collaboration, and reduced incidents of workplace discrimination or conflict.

  • During a sensitivity course, participants engage in discussions, role-plays, and interactive exercises to explore topics like unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive language. The training may also cover legal and ethical responsibilities, and strategies for promoting inclusivity in the workplace.

  • Online sensitivity training can be effective, especially when it includes interactive elements like virtual discussions, real-time feedback, and group activities. However, the effectiveness depends on the quality of the course content, the facilitator's skills, and participants' engagement levels.

  • Yes, sensitivity training is available for groups. Many training providers offer customized programs designed to meet the specific needs of your organization, ensuring that the content is relevant and tailored to your team's unique dynamics and challenges.

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