Research has shown that diverse teams are smarter, highly productive, and more innovative. It’s hardly surprising—when employees with different backgrounds, identities, and experiences are able to connect and work in a collaborative environment, you have a recipe for innovation and growth

But you can’t just hire a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds and hope that they work well together. Or deliver an hour-long DEI training course that they watch on their screens and mark as completed. 

To create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, you need a systematic and continuous approach to DEI training. Done right, your DEI training will translate into positive change and create a workplace culture where employees experience psychological safety and feel a sense of belonging. That is, they feel accepted—and celebrated—for who they are, their unique backgrounds, cultures, and personalities. 

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9 types of DEI training

Just like the diverse makeup of your employees, DEI training comes in different types and performs different functions. For instance, if your employees often interact with international partners or if your team is geographically distributed, a cultural sensitivity program is beneficial. But if your team is mostly homogenous, this type of training may not address the right need. Take a look at the different types of DEI training so you can start with the one that will have the maximum impact:

1. Basic diversity training

A basic diversity training program focuses on familiarizing employees with company values and the DEI initiatives concurrent with those values. Basic DEI training is useful to give employees a primer on issues surrounding race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This helps set expectations for inclusive behavior and policies within the organization.

Basic diversity training is for organizations that want to cover several aspects of DEI in a foundational program.

Related: Here’s How L&D Teams Can Celebrate Pride Month at Work (and Support Their LGBTQIA+ Colleagues)

Basic diversity training is for organizations that want to cover several aspects of DEI in a foundational program.

Awareness training

Awareness training provides an overview of diversity in the workplace—the different cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities that make up the employee roster. This awareness helps employees learn about workplace equity and how their words and actions can impact their co-workers. 

An awareness program works best for organizations that are looking for the first step in basic DEI training. 

2. Unconscious bias training

The purpose of unconscious bias training (or implicit bias training) is to eliminate words and actions that cause unintentional harm. This type of training helps people recognize their own biases formed by social conditioning and stereotyping, which often lead to snap judgments about a person or racial group’s talents or character. 

Unconscious bias training works best for organizations looking to diversify their workforce by making their hiring and promotion processes more equitable and free of bias.

Unconscious bias training works best for organizations looking to diversify their workforce by making their hiring and promotion processes more equitable and free of bias.

Cultural sensitivity training

Cultural sensitivity training helps employees be mindful of cultural nuances and customs when interacting with their co-workers and business collaborators. Words, actions, gestures, and non-verbal body language are all components of cross-cultural communication. This type of training empowers employees to build authentic relationships with their co-workers by being respectful and genuine in their interactions. 

Cultural sensitivity training is most useful for highly diverse workforces and for organizations that have distributed teams located in different parts of the world. 

3. Skills-based diversity training

A skills-based diversity training program teaches crucial interpersonal skills like communication, empathy, and active listening. This type of training empowers teams to work together without friction and is also useful for equipping managers with the soft skills necessary to lead a diverse team. 

Skills-based diversity training is best for organizations that want to fill skills-based gaps at different levels within their organization.

Skills-based diversity training is best for organizations that want to fill skills-based gaps at different levels within their organization.

Inclusive management training

An inclusive management training program helps front-line managers and leaders learn the language and strategies for adopting inclusive communication. At its core, this type of training encourages managers to identify and overcome their own biases and assumptions. Inclusive management training helps leaders adopt an inclusion mindset and use language that demonstrates this mindset.

Inclusive management training is most useful for organizations looking to start at the top and train their managers and leaders.

Related: Your New Manager Training Isn’t Working—Here Are 4 Ways to Revive It

4. Anti-oppression training

Anti-oppression training, or allyship training, educates employees about historical forms of oppression and how positions of power and privilege work in tandem. This type of training gives learners historical context and actionable tips on how to stand up and advocate for marginalized groups by becoming active allies. 

Anti-oppression training is most useful for organizations that are planning to launch employee resource groups (ERG) or affinity groups as part of their DEI training initiatives.

Anti-oppression training, or allyship training, educates employees about historical forms of oppression and how positions of power and privilege work in tandem.

Microaggressions training

Microaggressions training helps employees identify instances of microaggressive behavior, like a comment about body weight or a racial stereotype, and the outcomes from these experiences. With this training, employees can learn to minimize these occurrences and become aware of the words and behaviors that constitute microaggression, like microinsults and microinvalidations. This type of training also includes techniques on how to respond to microaggressive comments and behavior. 

Microaggressions training is useful for all types of organizations and, in particular, for large ones with a highly diverse demographic.

5. Religious sensitivity training

Religious sensitivity training encourages employees to be accepting of all religions, customs, and beliefs. This type of training also helps managers and leaders establish policies that make accommodations for religious holidays, multi-faith prayer rooms, and flexible work schedules. 

Religious sensitivity training is suitable for all organizations that want to lean into religious diversity and acknowledge different religious practices.

Microaggressions training is useful for all types of organizations and, in particular, for large ones with a highly diverse demographic.

5 benefits of DEI training

In a recent survey, almost 80% of employees said they wanted to work for companies that value and support diversity, equity, and inclusion. Plus, employees are quitting in droves as part of the Great Resignation, and organizations are facing a huge talent shortage. 

This means that if your organization prioritizes DEI training, you’re on the list of reputed companies that employees want to work for and stay at. There are a host of other benefits, too, like increased productivity, engagement, and creativity. 

1. Brand reputation

DEI initiatives help build your brand as a company that takes equity and inclusivity seriously. Millennials and Gen Z are incredibly socially conscious. Whether they are employees or customers, these demographics together make up 42.3% of the current U.S. workforce, and they have a strong preference for diverse companies that are known for being inclusive. 

2. Continuous innovation

When team members come together with a diversity of skills, experiences, and perspectives, it leads to smarter, more creative solutions and continuous innovation. The right type of DEI training can pave the way for such high-performing teams to work together in a respectful and collaborative environment, building a culture of innovation and growth.

3. Employee happiness

A diverse and inclusive organization has a deep impact on employee experience and makes individuals feel like a valued part of the team, regardless of their backgrounds. During the pandemic, a sense of belonging increased employee happiness by 12%. Happy employees are engaged employees, which means they are more invested in their work and make greater contributions to the company.

4. High productivity and profits

When employees feel included and valued, they enjoy a high level of mental well-being and are naturally more productive. According to McKinsey, top-quartile companies with ethnic and cultural diversity are 36% more profitable than those in the fourth quartile. Organizations that make genuine efforts in diversity and inclusion see a positive impact on their bottom line.

5. Increased retention

People feel a greater sense of loyalty to companies that recognize and celebrate diverse ethnicities and identities. When employees are treated with fairness and equity, they stick around and feel a sense of ownership about their contributions.

Top-quartile companies with ethnic and cultural diversity are 36% more profitable than those in the fourth quartile.

Build a successful DEI training program 

At its core, the mission behind DEI training is to educate employees about the differences between people in order to help them understand and respect those differences.

To kickstart your diversity initiatives, you can either choose from a ready list of DEI training programs or customize your course to meet the unique needs of your organization. If you choose to build one, a collaborative and employee-led approach to DEI training is likely to be the most impactful because you are sourcing a large part of the material from your employees. 

Conduct a diversity audit to identify goals and training needs

A training needs analysis is best conducted with a bottom-up approach, where the ones to be trained can declare their own needs. With DEI training, too, a diversity audit is the first step in outlining your goals and identifying training needs. 

A diversity audit begins with identifying the objectives behind DEI training—whether the initiatives are to comply with regulations, improve company culture, boost retention, or build brand reputation. Then, you create a diversity audit team that includes members at different levels in the organization and a communication plan to get maximum participation from employees. For the audit, you can employ a variety of methods, like focus groups, assessment records, surveys, or diversity scorecards.

A collaborative and employee-led approach to DEI training is likely to be the most impactful because you are sourcing a large part of the material from your employees.

Tailor DEI training to your organizational needs

Whether your teams need to start with a basic diversity training course or an inclusive management course, you can build your training roadmap at this stage. Gather and analyze the results from your diversity audit and feedback from employees. Once you identify the gaps, you can create the type of DEI training courses that help fill them. (You can pick from our section above on the nine types of DEI training courses). 

Invite employees to share their subject matter expertise 

If you already have a diverse group of people within the organization, invite them to create courses on their backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities and how these form a part of who they are. A collaborative learning platform makes it easy for employees to become course authors and educate their peers on subjects close to their hearts. 

Create a continuous feedback loop 

Feedback is vital to any training but especially to DEI training. The sensitive nature of diversity training makes it imperative to invite and facilitate peer feedback. A collaborative learning platform like 360Learning offers features like a discussion forum and Reactions that make it easy for employees to ask questions and give feedback on a course.

Make DEI training accessible with microlearning and mobile learning

Your lineup of DEI training courses will have the maximum impact when employees can take them at their own pace and convenience. With microlearning, your DEI training is delivered in bite-sized chunks, which helps employees complete the course and retain more information. And when training is available through a mobile learning solution, employees have the freedom to view courses when and where they want, whether it’s during a commute or while eating breakfast.

Integrate DEI training with a series of initiatives 

A DEI training course isn’t a one-and-done solution to creating a truly diverse and inclusive organization. Organizations need to adopt an integrated, continuous approach to diversity that begins with onboarding and continues at various stages during an employee’s tenure.

 Learn how to craft a holistic DEI program with this on-demand webinar.