In today’s workplace, diversity training is table stakes. But if you think you can run a single DEI seminar or training event and call it a day, you’re fooling yourself. If you want to build a truly inclusive environment, you need to put in the time and effort to make sure the training you’re providing is structured well and implemented thoughtfully. If you take a haphazard approach, it can have a negative effect on your company culture and leave your employees feeling isolated and undervalued.
As all of us go through life, we develop lots of habits and behaviors. Learning how to consciously adjust them doesn’t happen overnight. To have a positive impact on your organization, your initiatives need to be more than a token effort. They need to be an ongoing process that involves everyone inside your organization. The most effective diversity initiatives take a multifaceted approach and take more time and effort than you might expect.
If your diversity training initiatives are lacking, it’s time to rethink your approach by moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach and broadening your efforts by developing more comprehensive training.
Educational knowledge and practical, real-world application are two big components of effective DEI initiatives. You can improve your chances of building a successful DEI initiative by combining awareness training with skill-based training.
The most successful DEI training programs build an inclusive culture. That means creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected—regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disabilities. It also means breaking down stereotypes and making sure that everyone has access to equal opportunities at work.
Research by Ivuoma Onyeador, an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, revealed that most successful types of diversity training in the workplace help people identify and reduce bias. Everyone walks away with a better understanding of bias and practical tools to help them adjust their behavior.
To accomplish that, diversity training programs need to develop both awareness and skills. Awareness is important because it helps employees understand the context of their work environment by making people aware of their prejudices, biases, and cultural assumptions about others.
By providing skill-based training, your team will be more prepared to deal with diversity issues and foster a more inclusive work environment. Skills training helps employees develop tools and methods that allow them to deal with their biases, interpret differences more accurately, and improve communication with people from different ethnicities and backgrounds.
Most successful types of diversity training in the workplace help people identify and reduce bias.
Awareness-based diversity training, which is sometimes referred to as basic diversity training, provides learners with an understanding of the different ways they perceive others based on their race and gender. It also explains how these perceptions may impact others. The goal of this kind of training is to teach people that everyone has biases and preconceived notions about other people, but they should work together to ensure those biases aren’t harmful.
Rather than changing employees’ behavior at work, basic diversity programs help employees understand what diversity means, why it’s important, and how to respect differences. The goal is to create a more supportive environment and establish standards for inclusive behavior and policies within the organization.
In introductory training session, participants have the opportunity to take part in discussions and group work to gain a better understanding of the concepts involved in creating an inclusive workplace. While it shouldn’t be considered your only form of diversity training, it’s an excellent place to start.
According to diversity expert and trainer Glen Guyton, basic workplace diversity training should start with:
Common ground training that defines terms, principles, and objectives as the first step. This training kickstarts change in your organization by getting everyone on the same page.
Facilitated town halls that create a safe way to talk about issues, lay out challenges, listen to people, and share important feedback about the needs or pain points of your company.
Cultural sensitivity training that helps employees with sensitivity to cultural differences and makes them more aware of other employees’ backgrounds and lifestyles so they can show more empathy to coworkers. This type of training can also unearth and start the process of identifying underlying cultural diversity issues, like miscommunications, hostility, and workplace competition.
The goal of this kind of training is to teach people that everyone has biases and preconceived notions about other people, but they should work together to ensure those biases aren’t harmful.
Skill-based training develops employees’ abilities to manage diversity in the workplace. During this training, employees learn tools and techniques to improve communication, reduce bias, and increase their awareness of and ability to adapt to cross-cultural challenges.
Unconscious bias, also called implicit bias, is the way a person sees or perceives other people without even realizing it. These beliefs are based on experiences from the past that influence people’s actions or decision-making. Unconscious bias training helps people identify and manage those biases so they can understand how the biases affect decisions and use that knowledge to work together more effectively in teams.
If left unchecked, this kind of bias can have a significant impact on your organization—it can negatively affect hiring decisions, team dynamics, and career paths and lead to inequities in roles and pay.
Therefore, to be effective, UB training needs to be a long-term program that provides a toolkit learners can use to manage their biases and adjust their behavior. Additionally, it should offer employees information that challenges stereotypes and give them the opportunity to connect with people from diverse backgrounds.
These kinds of training courses work well when they are interactive, with participants completing activities that help them understand how prejudice and discrimination can affect their work environment. This helps the training be engaging enough to keep people’s attention during the session—which is important because you want attendees to walk away feeling like they learned something useful.
When implementing your unconscious bias training program, keep these tips in mind:
If left unchecked, this kind of bias can negatively affect hiring decisions, team dynamics, and career paths and lead to inequities in roles and pay.
Inclusion training programs are designed to help employees understand the importance of working together as a team, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. They are also intended to help employees feel more comfortable expressing themselves in the workplace.
Training programs that promote inclusion help create an environment in which everyone feels welcome and can contribute to the organization’s success. It helps employees feel happier at work, which can lead to higher retention and boost productivity for everyone.
Setting up an inclusion training program is not difficult, but there are some things you should keep in mind before getting started:
Intercultural competence training is a process that helps people gain awareness of how their own cultural values influence how they interact with others. It’s an important skill for any employee to learn, but it’s especially important for global team members.
The goal of intercultural training is to help employees understand how they can make themselves more approachable and welcoming to people who may not share their values or beliefs. It does this by teaching employees to adapt different behaviors to avoid misunderstandings and practical ways to develop cultural intelligence to improve interactions.
This type of training can improve employee performance by helping them communicate more effectively in cross-cultural situations. It can also build trust between coworkers, which can strengthen team performance. When you have more trust at work, your teams are 23% more likely to come up with new ideas or solutions.
Consider the following if you’re conducting intercultural training:
The goal of intercultural training is to help employees understand how they can make themselves more approachable and welcoming to people who may not share their values or beliefs.
The mentoring process provides opportunities to keep the discussion going, which is an important part of making sure your diversity training succeeds. It also helps employees further develop the skills they have been learning in your other training programs.
Mentoring can be done through programs or more informally, depending on which style works best for your teams. Peer mentoring is a great way for employees to get to know each other better while creating shared experiences with people from different backgrounds. By facilitating peer-to-peer mentoring or mentoring circles, employees can meet people from a variety of backgrounds, which goes a long way toward confronting and overcoming bias.
Establishing peer groups can be as simple as matching up two or more employees based on their interests or backgrounds, so everyone gets exposed to a different perspective. In some companies, this takes place inside employee resource groups, which bring employees with shared identities together to build a community.
Diversity training can easily fail when it’s delivered without an accountability framework in place. Ivuoma Onyeador suggests leadership and management should be responsible for your DEI goals and should hold teams accountable. This shows your employees that you take diversity seriously and understand how crucial it is to your company’s success.
One way to build ownership into your programs is by developing goals and measuring your progress toward them. If you don’t have a clear plan for how you are going to measure or evaluate the effectiveness of your diversity training program, it’s going to be difficult to know whether or not it actually works. For example, if one of your DEI goals is to increase the number of female executives in six months, you need to track that data over time to evaluate whether you’ve been successful.
To get your baseline metrics, consider running a diversity audit that includes a detailed survey of your company’s demographics and culture. The purpose of this type of audit is to identify specific factors that contribute to a diverse workplace. By conducting this assessment, you can identify areas for improvement and gather solid baseline data you can use to measure your progress and hold teams accountable. When you can quickly identify what is and isn’t working, you’ll be able to make adjustments right away.
To make lasting progress, your employees need to have a voice in shaping and evolving your DEI initiatives. This includes helping you identify which diversity training programs will be most effective and providing feedback to evaluate their impacts. It’s been shown that many company leaders underestimate the challenges faced by diverse employees. When different groups are involved early on in your planning process, you’ll avoid blind spots and make sure your programs are well received.
Before launching your diversity training, set up a feedback loop to find out what people think is working and what needs improvement. By incorporating these loops into your program design, you’ll get early signs of any gaps and identify ways to evolve your programs. Plus, feedback loops allow employees to feel heard, which can lead to greater engagement and a better bottom line.