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5 Keys to Effective Diversity Training in the Workplace

diversity training in the workplace

Now more than ever, organizations are embracing the advantages that diversity provides and are striving to ensure that their culture reflects an environment where all employees feel respected, supported, and welcomed. Many employers are incorporating diversity and inclusion training and other initiatives in their workplace to create awareness about the diversity within their workforce, bring about cohesiveness in teams, and foster positive interactions that reduce prejudice and discrimination.

When done right, diversity initiatives can create a more welcoming work environment that respects differences and gives a voice to people who are often underrepresented. This can encourage increased collaboration, enhance interpersonal skills, and make employees feel happy and valued. Studies show that happy workers are 13% more productive and more likely to stay with the organization. Therefore, creating an effective diversity training program can go a long way in boosting engagement, retention, and your organization’s bottom-line.

How to Create an Effective Diversity and Inclusion Program

As we’ve learned through our work with clients, the key to a successful diversity and inclusion program is that it not only aligns to the vision and core values of the organization, but that it also addresses very specific and real behaviors being experienced in the organization. The approach we take with our clients focuses on the culture at its most observable level, the lived values, and the underlying assumptions surrounding how relationships work within the current social environment. To implement an effective program in your organization, consider following the following five tips for success.

  1. Get Commitment from the Top – Building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace is not something to be delegated to one department. Organizational leadership needs to be highly engaged and committed to the process. Everyone within an organization knows that leadership sets the tone. Leaders must show how serious they are about effecting change and shifting mindsets, behaviors, and practices by committing to action, results, accountability, and transparency. They must be ready and willing to learn and change and hold themselves and other accountable. Leaders should also clearly communicate why training is taking place, the problems the organization is trying to solve, and what comes next. This will help keep people motivated as well as help them understand how the learnings tie back to organization’s broader goals.
  2. Start with a Culture Assessment – A culture assessment enables an organization to gain quantifiable data on how employees experience the culture, leadership, and equity across the organization. Additionally, the results of the assessment will help leadership identify the current environment’s DE&I strengths, the opportunities for improvement, and create a baseline for monitoring DE&I progress and measuring success.
  3. Develop a Clear Understanding of Objectives & Goals – There is not a one-size-fit-all approach to diversity and inclusion programs. Establishing an effective diversity and inclusion program for your organization requires development of a clear, detailed definition of what the program should entail specifically for your organization and employees’ needs. Identify what the organization is trying to achieve (the purpose and goal) and the learning outcomes (aims). Use the results of your culture assessment mentioned early to identify the issues that currently exist and demand the most focus. Additionally, consider how the diversity and inclusion program ties into the vision, mission, values, and goals of the organization.
  4. Make it a Daily Practice – A simple once or twice a year diversity training session is not enough to drive sustainable transformation; it has to be embedded in your daily practices. Your leaders and employees must live and breathe the values they desire to be apparent in your culture. Awareness and inclusion must be part of the everyday workplace experience. One way to make diversity and inclusion real is to use religious, heritage, and cultural observations as opportunities for learning. For instance, during LGBTQ Pride month, share actions employees and employers can take to help create equality for LGBTQ colleagues and customers.
  5. Commit to Ongoing Work – An environment that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion is not something that can be achieved overnight nor is it something that can be sustained without effort. It is a continuous learning process that never ends, even for the most progressive organizations. It is important to consistently reflect and assess your organization’s alignment with equity and inclusion to better understand the needs and experiences of your employees, learn from any failures, and identify what needs to be done on your journey forward. Deploying pulse surveys across the workforce can show leaders what strategies are working, which ones are falling short, and identify any patterns of discrimination or biases within a particular demographic or department of the organization.

A well-designed and executed diversity and inclusion training program can go a long way in providing the foundation for positive change in your organization. It’s important to recognize that the benefits of diversity training are only realized when the training is part of a robust strategy that is ever evolving and includes ongoing communication, coaching, counseling, and education. Training alone is not enough; organizations need to make a concerted effort to drive change over time through a variety of initiatives.

When you make DE&I a priority, your organization reaps the benefits in more ways than one. You’ll create an inclusive environment that fosters innovation, encourages better team morale, and draws attention from top talent, which enables your organization to grow with the best possible people.

Our passion for enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace drives us to help our clients evaluate their culture, practices, and strategies to ensure a long-term commitment to DE&I in their organizations. We would love to do the same for your organization. Contact us today to learn more.

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