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How to Implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training at Your Organization

How to Implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training at Your Organization

In recent years, most companies have increased spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion training. CFO Dive reports that, according to a survey by OneStream Software:

  • 86% of financial executives at companies in North America are expanding their budgets for DEI training.
  • 77% of financial executives in finance, and 65% in information technology are investing more.

How should companies implement DEI training? Carefully, says Ayana King, founder/CEO of Maximum Communications, and a DEI education facilitator who hosts workshops and webinars nationwide and consults with corporate leaders and their teams on advancing DEI efforts.

“I never work with clients who are eager to jump into strategizing without first understanding key principles,” King says. These diversity, equity, and inclusion principles include:

  • Diversity = representation.
  • Inclusion = purposefully including others.
  • Equity is not the same as equality.
  • An understanding of, or willingness to explore, unconscious bias. 

An understanding of what DEI training is, its purpose, the types of training and what to include is important for leaders in companies of all types and sizes. Whether mandated by federal, state and local governments, and other agencies, or undertaken to build and bolster a strong DEI culture, effective training can make a difference.


What is diversity, equity, and inclusion training?

DEI training is training designed to inform and educate participants about the impacts of a strong and supportive culture. It teaches the types of behaviors and actions that can support that culture, and the expectations of the company about how employees interact with each other, with customers, and with other key stakeholders.

DEI should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Education and communication related to diversity, equity, and inclusion should be embedded in a wide range of communication efforts that are ongoing and part of a strategic process designed to support a positive DEI culture.


What is the purpose of diversity, equity, and inclusion training?

The purpose of DEI training is to minimize the potential for bias, discrimination, and harassment and to establish a foundation for building a strong culture that is supportive of diversity, equity, inclusion, and bellowing.

There are a number of corporate benefits related to DEI training:

1. Raising awareness.

DEI training helps to raise awareness among employees about the ways bias can impact a wide range of employment decisions and interactions—from hiring, to promotion, to everyday interactions between employees.

2. Dispelling myths and misperceptions.

There are many myths and misperceptions about DEI that can be dispelled through effective training. For instance, the myth DEI efforts focus only on women and people of color. In fact, DEI training is designed to convey that all employees have their own diverse attributes and that all should expect to be treated in an inclusive and equitable way.

3. Clarifying expectations.

When companies are explicit about their expectations related to how leaders, managers, and staff at all levels will behave and interact with others, they can minimize or eliminate behaviors that can have a negative effect on their DEI efforts.

4. Minimizing or eliminating bias, harassment, and discrimination.

Ongoing DEI training and education can help to eliminate, or minimize, behaviors that detract from a strong and supportive culture. When managers—and employees—are aware of their organizations’ expectations and how their own actions and behaviors impact DEI, negative impacts can be minimized.

5. Supporting a strong culture.

Ultimately, organizations’ DEI training efforts work in concert to support a strong culture that values the diversity of input and opinions from all employees, maintains an inclusive environment, and ensures equitable treatment of employees throughout the organization.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion training “can be one of the most effective ways to create inclusive work environments.”, says Kimberley Tyler-Smith, an executive at the career tech platform Resume Worded, a company that helps job seekers advance their careers. 

“When employees feel that their workplace is welcoming and accepting, they are more likely to enjoy their jobs and stay engaged in their work,” she explains. “This can have a positive ripple effect on your company’s bottom line, as well as its reputation as an employer.”


Who should participate in DEI training?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion training is for everyone in an organization. While senior leaders and managers, arguably, have the greatest potential to influence (positively or negatively) the DEI culture, all employees have a role to play. Any employee’s actions can serve to either support or detract from a company’s DEI efforts.

That said, King says that she always starts with executive leadership “since they are drivers of culture.”


Types of diversity, equity, and inclusion training

Diversity, equity, and inclusion training can take a number of forms. Some of the most common types of DEI training, according to the Association for Talent Development include:

  • Unconscious bias training. Unconscious bias training helps employees recognize that we all have unconscious, or implicit, biases that impact our interactions with others. This training focuses on helping employees recognize this bias in themselves and others with the goal of minimizing the impact unconscious bias may have on employment decisions and actions.
  • Allyship training. Allyship training educates employees about the role they can play as an ally, or advocate, for others.
  • Bystander communication training. HR and corporate leaders can’t be all places at all times. Employees can play a vital role in being proactive and stepping forward in situations where they observe harassment or discrimination. This training helps employees understand the role they can play and offers tips and insights for handling these situations.
  • Training on hiring practices. This training is generally offered to those who will be involved in the hiring process and helps participants understand where bias may creep in and how to ensure that the hiring process does not marginalize or discriminate against candidates. 

Keep in mind that training should be ongoing and can range from traditional in-person sessions with a speaker/facilitator, to lunch and learn sessions, webinars and on-demand training, and coverage of key points in all-hands or division/department meetings. 


The 10 best diversity, equity, and inclusion courses for 2023

There are a wide range of DEI training offerings available today—so many, in fact, that a Google search for “top dei training programs” turns up almost 15 million results. It can be hard to wade through that many options. Fortunately, EM360 Tech has summarized what they believe to be the “Top 10 Diversity Training Programs of 2022”; these are worth exploring as you plan your DEI courses for 2023. 

  1. eCornell (Diversity and Inclusion). Bearing Cornell’s reputable brand name, this two-month program offered online is designed for HR professionals, managers, and business owners.
  2. Media Partners (Diversity 101). Training solutions specifically designed to deal with complex DEI-related issues like team building, leadership development, and harassment.
  3. Udemy (Diversity Deep-Dive). Udemy’s “Diversity Deep-Dive” is one of its highest rated courses, offering research and practical insights into overcoming diversity obstacles.
  4. AMA (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). A 3-day certificate program offering training to develop the skills to become a champion of diversity and a leader of inclusive teams, and to learn the nature of biases and how to overcome them.
  5. HRDQ (Diversity Works). Interactive training session incorporating elements of gamification and including team building exercises on topics like communications and understanding others.
  6. Get Smarter (Diversity and Inclusive Leadership). An eight week course for those in leadership positions, including supervisors, managers, and senior leaders.
  7. HR University (Diversity and Inclusion). A series of lessons makes up this 20 hour training program offering certification through HR University including topics on unconscious bias, micro aggressions, and sexual harassment.
  8. ProProfs (Diversity Training). A customized approach to diversity training offering companies the ability to create their own courses through existing resources and the ability to add unique content and branding.
  9. Coursera (Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace). Offered by the well-known online training course provider, Coursera, this course applies diversity lessons to the workplace with tips on how to improve DEI.
  10. Compliance Training Group (Workplace Diversity). Short–just an hour long–but comprehensive; this is a great course to introduce teams to the concept of diversity and its implications in work settings.

What is included in diversity and inclusion training?

There are a number of considerations that companies and their DEI and L&D leaders should take into account when introducing a DEI training initiative for employees. 

1. A solid strategy.

At the outset, says Tyler-Smith, it’s important to start with a clear purpose in mind. “What do you hope to accomplish by implementing DEI training? Are there specific goals that need to be met?” Then, she advises, build a plan. 

Unfortunately, that kind of focus on strategy is often lacking, says Gena Cox, PhD, an organizational psychologist, executive coach, and author of the upcoming book, Leading Inclusion

“Much DEI training is ad-hoc and not grounded in a corporate strategy, articulated from the top of the house, that defines the desired outcomes and how they will be measured. Without this template we cannot say if training is having the desired effect.”

Clarifying the desired strategy and outcomes should drive an action plan to establish accountability and awareness.

“Create an action plan for implementation and follow through on this plan consistently,” Tyler-Smith stresses. “This means following up with employees who need additional education or support after receiving DE&I training. It also means ensuring managers understand what they should expect from their employees after being trained so that they can provide feedback if necessary—and rewarding them when needed.”

A solid strategy and clear plan are essential for ensuring that you can deliver on your DEI promise.

2. A focus on leading inclusively.

“Since manager behavior is the most important variable that drives employees’ day-to-day work experience, DEI training must prepare managers to lead inclusively,” Cox says. “Organizations should pivot from training that simply educates and raises awareness to coaching that will help managers change behavior.”

Inclusive leaders, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, “are individuals who are aware of their own biases and actively seek out and consider different perspectives to inform their decision-making and collaborate more effectively with others.”

3. A focus on employees’ role as advocates for DEI. 

Employees can play a significant role in supporting and strengthening their organizations’ DEI efforts. We’ve seen how ally training can be one area of focus for companies through their diversity, equity, and inclusion training efforts.

Arming employees with the information they need to understand their role as an advocate or ally for DEI and being explicit about the company’s expectations can help them effectively serve in this role.

4. Measurement

As with any HR effort or initiative, measurement is critical. People analytics offers an opportunity for HR leaders to quantifiably demonstrate the impact they can make.

It’s important to ensure that what you measure is meaningful, Cox advises. “Training is often measured in terms of reaction, learning, behavior, and results,” she says. “However, for DEI work, what I look for is data about the way managers versus employees perceive changes in their day-to-day work environment.” Often, she says, there is a wide gap.

Using people analytics to identify where you are today is a critical input to establishing your future goals and ensuring that they are realistic and achievable. Continuous use of people analytics through a platform like Visier to quantifiably track results will create credibility in your reporting efforts.

About the author: Linda Pophal

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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