USDA Sensitivity TrainingThe USDA has been criticized for spending thousands of tax payer dollars on sensitivity training.  Pundits and talk show hosts have criticized the use of tax payer funds for the training, the requirement that all workers attend, and the content of the training.    In a prior post, I supported the idea that sensitivity training should be mandatory for all employees, managers, and executives. In this post I argue the cost of such training is justified and appropriate for both public and private sector organizations.

I am not familiar with the program that was delivered to the USDA, other than what I have seen in the videos, and my purpose here is not to criticize or defend that particular program or trainer.  However, assuming a quality and effective program(and I will expand on what I believe constitutes a quality and effective program in my next post), sensitivity training is a critical investment in what is perhaps an organization’s most important asset – its people.  A workforce’s skills in navigating the interaction, synergy, and cooperation of fellow employees, customers and the public is as important to an organization’s success as the quality of its products or the strength of its technology.

To the extent that an organization invests in the strength of its technology, the quality of its products, and the effectiveness of its employees, workplace Sensitivity Skill development is a legitimate, and indeed, essential investment in the competence of its people.  
This is true for private and public companies, and government agencies alike – as the effectiveness of the organization is only as good as the effectiveness of its people.

When personnel issues come up, as they certainly will, the organization benefits when (a) its people are equipped to address small issues on their own and seek assistance within the proper organizational structure when needed; and (b) it can demonstrate clearly and unequivocally that the organization set out clear behavioral processes and guidelines, and then followed them.

Training is the most effective way of communicating to the workforce the company or organization’s values, policies, and procedures.  One of the benefits of sensitivity training is that it forces an organization to clearly explain those values and to highlight how and why certain policies and procedures are good for everyone in the workplace, and apply to everyone in the workplace.

These policies and procedures are designed to enhance workplace productivity and morale by creating an environment where people feel respected and valued. When people know the organization’s culture, they will bring issues to management’s attention early and be less likely to seek outside counsel.

Failing to create such an environment is expensive and disruptive to the organization.  The costs to the organization of responding to a claim once it is brought to outside attorneys is enormous, both in terms of lost management and executive time, lowered morale, and actual dollars outlaid.

Legal expenses associated with the preliminary pre-trial phases of a typical harassment claim can easily be $100,000 or more.  That’s just the preliminary legal fees, not the costs of trial or settlement.  Recent harassment and discrimination cases have returned verdicts ranging from $200,000 to multi-millions of dollars.

A small investment in training as a preventive, pro-active measure to guard against the extremely expensive and distracting cost of defending claims, is a wise investment of time and money.


I advocate sensitivity training because it delivers a positive return on the investment and makes business sense.  For example, Nextel conducted a quantitative analysis of its a diversity training program which all employees were required to attend and documented an ROI of 163% and determined a direct connection between a diversity training program and a benefit of over $3,000,000. (Diversity Management Series Part II: Measuring ROI for Diversity Management, SHRM).

Sensitivity training is about the success of the organization and it’s productivity.  For the private sector, sensitivity training is ultimately about helping a company be more productive and profitable.  For the public sector, sensitivity training is similarly justified as a means to increasing productivity and the effective and efficient use of tax payer dollars.

Returning to the USDA example, I want the people inspecting the meat that goes into my hamburger to be focused on the critically important task we taxpayers entrust them with, not the distractions and disruptions of harassment claims and intra-office drama.  Equipping workers, including federal employees at the USDA, with interpersonal workplace sensitivity skills is a legitimate and wise investment of an organization’s resources – be they corporate funds or taxpayer dollars.

<== BACK to USDA Part 1 – Required Attendance

NEXT to USDA Part 3 – Content ==>

DB Pargman Consulting LLC is the leading specialized provider of One-to-One Executive Sensitivity Training and Group Diversity & Sensitivity Training. When an organization and it’s Key People face conflicts, accusations, or potential litigation relating to diversity or sensitivity issues, DB Pargman provides prompt and remedial responses that meet expectations of legal compliance, and perhaps more importantly, restore and enhance the performance of Key People. The firm provides trainings through live one-to-one individual executive sessions, live class-room group sessions, live online virtual sessions, and follow-up ongoing executive coaching. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, DB Pargman has served a national client base of businesses, educational institutions, and governmental agencies for over 13 years.  DB Pargman Consulting LLC is Federal GSA Schedule Contract Holder.



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