Given the current state of social unrest, organizational leaders are being forced to acknowledge the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. DEI initiatives are critical to building a strong, innovative workforce where employees feel engaged in and supported to do their best work. And yet, despite high levels of awareness, companies continue to report that they do not feel their DEI training efforts are achieving the desired outcomes.

According to Gartner research, only 36% of DEI leaders feel their organizations have been effective in building a diverse workforce. Further, only one-third of employees believe they have the ability to influence inclusion in their workplaces.
What does it take to ensure that your investment in DEI training achieves desired results?

Ensure Your DEI Training is a Success

1. Align DEI Training Efforts to Strategy

DEI training shouldn’t take place in a vacuum or as the sole initiative to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. As Gartner notes, companies should focus “on what is relevant to their unique employee base and [promote] employee ownership.” The first step is identifying specific organizational and employee challenges-the next building a DEI strategy which training will help to support. This can be accomplished by leveraging a consultant with DEI expertise, but don’t ignore internal resources and champions (Employee Resource Groups, Learning and Development professionals, HRIS analysts, and committed business line leaders) as working committees to shape your DEI strategy.

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2. Organization-Wide Buy-In for DEI Training

Buy-in starts at the top of the organization – from the board level, for publicly owned companies, to your front line team members. Employees will model the behaviors and cultural norms of their organizational leaders. So while it is critically important to have a stated and publicly available commitment to DEI, and written policies to support this statement; it is equally important that leaders are intentional about aligning their actions to organizational values that support the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Practices such as hosting inclusive meetings, promoting inclusive leadership, and being clear about mitigating biases in hiring go a long way to “walking the talk” of DEI.

3. Explain Both the “Why” and the “What” During DEI Training

Once the DEI strategy, supporting objectives, and affiliated tactics are in place, it’s time to consider the right DEI training solution to empower all employees to be a part of inclusive workplace culture.

It's important for training to clearly convey both why DEI is important, what inclusion actually looks like, and how each team member is part owner of the company's DEI efforts.

The “why” can focus on the value of seeking, listening to, and acting upon inputs from the wide range of employee demographics – focusing equal parts on the ‘business case’ and the ‘moral imperative’ is a balanced way to outline the why. The “what” should focus on practical and tactical examples – through policy, protocols, internal communications, and training – of what it means to be inclusive and, conversely, examples of exclusive behavior or language. The “how” can leverage empathy-building, role-playing, and perspective-taking scenarios showing interactions between managers and employees, employees and each other, and employees and customers can help illustrate both inclusive and exclusive behaviors and interactions.

4. Encourage Proactive Bystanders

Every member of the organization has a role to play as an active bystander and to intervene in situations where exclusionary behaviors are observed. Making sure that employees understand their role as an active bystander and providing them with information, resources and support can help them determine how to intervene in situations they observe based on their own comfort level with certain types of responses. As behaviors that either support or detract from an inclusive workplace are observed, all employees should feel empowered to speak up.

5. Monitor, Measure, and Share Results of DEI Strategy

Organizations that take steps to quantify what DEI success looks like beyond simply keeping track of how many employees represent diverse audiences are more successful in progress toward their DEI goals. For instance, measures such as turnover among underrepresented populations, the extent to which employees report that they feel included through employee climate surveys, number of claims of harassment or discriminatory behaviors, etc., are all ways to quantify inclusiveness. In addition, this information should be shared with the workforce regularly to keep them informed of how their efforts and DEI trainings are helping to build a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.

Yes, there is room for improvement in terms of ensuring an equitable and inclusive workplace. By following the steps above, employers can help to ensure their investment in DEI training produces real benefits for their workplace culture.

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