Companies in the U.S. have spent billions of dollars to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace—but investing in DEI is about more than money. You have to commit to real, long-lasting change and a shift in company culture. The best way to do that: a diversity audit.
An in-depth look at your company’s commitment to DEI through the lens of a diversity audit can help you to create a more inclusive environment. A diversity audit gives you an objective way to look at the DEI conditions at your company so that you can make improvements and continue to evolve in the future.
Regular evaluations of your diversity initiatives will help you measure their impact and create a workplace that includes and supports everyone at the company. As a result, communication and employee engagement will improve, helping you to retain your most talented employees for longer and build a truly diverse workforce.
Even the best DEI programs need to be audited, especially when it comes to training. You can identify opportunities to improve DEI training by checking current practices for knowledge gaps. A data-driven audit will help you identify areas where additional or new training is needed and set you up to revamp your program.
A review of existing materials and courses allows you to identify areas of any training programs that need to be more inclusive, accessible, or diversely represented. Remember, you’re not just looking at your DEI training modules but also making sure all training modules fit within DEI best practices.
If you don’t already have a designated diversity specialist, this part will require some research or hiring a consultant. If you’re doing the research yourself, look for resources to help you understand what to look for as you review your training. For example, check out our list of diversity training examples and our tips for avoiding bias in your diversity training.
Measure representation by looking at the diversity in your training modules’ videos, photos, examples, and resources. Make a note of each person’s demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity. Assess whether these materials reflect a wide range of representation in these areas, as well as ability and sexual orientation.
Measure accessibility to make sure all employees are able to easily access, read, and use your training materials. For example, in your audit, you may find that some training modules are not inclusive for employees with hearing impairments because they include videos that don’t have captions. Note any materials that don’t offer multiple formats or resources that can adapt the material, such as screen readers for written resources.
A training needs analysis for DEI will look a little different from a typical needs analysis because when it comes to DEI, people often have implicit biases that they’re not aware of. You can’t simply ask someone if they’re prejudiced against a particular group. Most people would say no. Instead, you need to assess their biases to find the underlying prejudices people are not aware of.
The best way to do this is a bottom up-approach where input from employees informs training decisions. Your employees are the ones who will ultimately use your training resources, and they can give you the most direct insight into areas where your DEI efforts need improvement. For your training needs analysis, consider these tools:
Diagnostic surveys are helpful in understanding implicit biases or what your employees need from your DEI program. Frame questions in a way that gives you realistic responses. Instead of asking employees, “What don’t you know about X,” ask them questions that reveal what they don’t know. For example, identify common unconscious biases and use those to develop scenarios in your survey to find out which biases your employees unknowingly have.
Diversity scorecards allow you to measure your diversity, representation, and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. You’ll look at metrics like how many employees come from underrepresented groups and how many employees have completed DEI training. Using the results of a diversity scorecard, you can determine what needs to change for your company to establish more equity among employees.
Focus groups are especially valuable in gathering direct input from marginalized groups. Ask employees to volunteer to discuss what they wish their coworkers would do, know, or say in certain situations. Be sensitive to the fact that these questions may be difficult, and some employees may not want to participate. To avoid putting too much emotional labor onto the shoulders of your marginalized employees, keep participation optional. You’re asking for their input, but L&D should take on the role of actually implementing DEI training that supports their concerns.
A combination of these strategies will help you to pinpoint the areas of weakness in your DEI program and gain a better understanding of how you can improve.
A data-driven audit will help you identify areas where additional or new training is needed and set you up to revamp your program.
After a diversity audit, you can use that data to directly improve your DEI training by filling in any gaps. You’ll also identify any existing training that falls short of DEI standards. Improvements like more inclusivity, strengthening your DEI initiatives, and creating diverse training opportunities will help your L&D team lead by example.
An inclusive learning environment gives everyone a fair chance to learn and build their skills and knowledge. To create an inclusive learning environment where people from all backgrounds, with all ranges of abilities and needs, can learn effectively, consider not just what information is presented but also how it’s presented.
For instance, if you use a digital learning platform or website page, it should be easy to navigate and should be made accessible to everyone. Make sure every training course has accessible functions for any person with a disability or special need.
All the copy, media, and resources in your training materials should include video captions and image descriptors like alt text. All training materials should use inclusive language to avoid terminology that’s harmful to certain genders, ethnicities, mental conditions, and disabilities. For example, instead of the term “blind spot,” which can be offensive to visually impaired people, use the phrase “missed opportunity.”
Other common examples of inclusive language:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to training materials as well. That means making accommodations for people with a range of disabilities and backgrounds. For example, if you work with folks with ADHD, offer frequent breaks during training, add microlearning and self-paced courses, and send reminder emails ahead of the courses.
In addition to legal requirements, learning opportunities should be flexible. If you have employees working remotely or in different time zones, flexibility is especially important so every employee can take courses during their individual work hours.
A diversity audit will surface any weak spots or missed opportunities in your training program—use the data to strengthen them. You can plan and build specific training that educates employees to eliminate those weak spots.
For example, if the diversity audit shows that employees are unsure of how to be inclusive of disabled employees on projects or tasks, develop a module that covers what employees need to know.
Training modules like the example should include:
Your company can’t improve its DEI initiatives without the help of employees. But you have to give them the right tools and knowledge to be inclusive and accepting in the workplace.
Due to the sensitive nature of diversity training, it’s important to encourage and facilitate ongoing feedback from employees. Employee feedback on DEI in your training programs can inform future course development and other training program decisions. For example, if you get a lot of feedback that there are no alt text descriptions on the images you use in training, you can implement that feedback right away by adding alt text to your images.
Another way to encourage feedback is to use a collaborative learning platform, like 360Learning, where employees can have discussions, ask questions, and leave general feedback on the company’s training program.
To create an inclusive learning environment where people from all backgrounds, consider not just what information is presented but also how it’s presented.
The DEI landscape is constantly evolving as more marginalized groups feel comfortable speaking up about their needs. A continuous assessment of your DEI initiatives will help you keep up with these changes, especially within your DEI training. Use the feedback you get and translate it into action by improving your training program.
360Learning makes it easy for you to implement changes and address feedback from employees. For more guidance, read our article on how to make diversity training a top priority in your organization.