How can we persuade organisations that diversity matters? For example: how can we make sure police officers from ethnic minorities stay in the force? Because although enough candidates from this group join the police force and successfully complete their two-year on-the-job training, a high proportion of them subsequently leave. So how can we solve this problem?
This was the question put to us by national police commissioner Jack Thakoerdin at a meeting in Almere this week to talk about diversity in the Dutch police force.
He said that a recent survey found that 20% of ethnic minority police officers were considering leaving the force, compared to 6% of their ‘native Dutch’ colleagues.
Unpleasant comments, a feeling that they had to constantly prove themselves and doubts about their chances of promotion were some of the reasons given by the police officers from ethnic minorities.
As expected, training was one of the possible solutions offered by the audience in Almere. But who do you train? The old garde on the work floor? Management? Or the newcomers?
And what sort of training would work? Is it about explaining police culture to recruits and stressing the importance of following anti-discrimination protocols to long-serving cops?
Or should we try to change the way officers behave? Or is it about winning hearts and minds – motivation?
And here comes the next dilemma. Should people be motivated by the heart and be persuaded to do the right thing – or is it more effective to appeal to their professional persona and stress the benefits of diversity (better chance of solving crimes in certain areas)? The first is not easy and endless statistics proving the latter have not been that successful either.
So what is the answer? Well perhaps we should start by swopping the word ‘training’ for ‘learning’. Training is something imposed from the outside. And as such its success will always be limited: as a trainer you can explain why diversity is important with all sorts of impressive facts and figures.
You can explain how it feels to be ignored by colleagues and do all sorts of exercises to bring the message over. Voila, your trainees have been trained.
But learning is a personal process and people will only apply what they learn when they are genuinely convinced of its value to them personally. And that might be a rational consideration or an emotional one. Or both. And the only role a trainer can really play is to kick start the process.
The meeting with Jack Thakoerdin was organised by Seba cultuurmanagement and Avanti Almere the city’s diversity platform. Read more (in Dutch) about Jack and ideas on how to keep ethnic minority officers in the police force.