The forward-thinking corporate leadership of today is working to address disparities in workplace culture caused by social barriers and biased thinking. And as this progress is made, it’s important to emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to hold organizations accountable and work towards a better and more equitable future for employees. Inclusive behaviors and practices are vital skills to cultivate, and luckily, can be taught through ongoing training and learning.
DEI training is crucial to building a safe and equitable workspace for all employees. It has the potential to help an organization uncover hidden biases and address unfair hiring and development practices. It can also benefit company culture, boost growth potential and change the lives of your marginalized employees.
On the other hand, training is only one small part of a much larger DEI puzzle. The reality is that a few training courses aren’t going to be enough to drive meaningful DEI change within an entire organization. But when coupled with other DEI initiatives, such as mentorship programs or workforce education, training can be an instrumental piece of your larger strategy.
Let’s take a look at the different types of DEI training, along with the benefits and challenges that come along with it.
What is diversity, equity and inclusion training?
Diversity, equity and inclusion training helps employees at all levels and in all departments to better work with colleagues of differing identities and backgrounds. It aims to build awareness and skills which support marginalized employees and help to cultivate a safe, compassionate and equitable office culture where everyone feels valued.
Corporate benefits of DEI training
The emphasis should always be on the human case for DEI training as diversity, equity and inclusion are, at their core, human issues. However, organizations at large also benefit from DEI, and there are a number of strong business cases for implementing this kind of training.
Organizations with high employee engagement resulting from improved DEI can be up to 21 percent more profitable than comparable organizations without. Plus, DEI also reduces occurrences of workplace harassment, which is a problem that costs businesses 7.6 million dollars a year. Another statistic from Global Diversity Practice shows how more diverse organizations lead industry innovation, as diverse teams make better decisions 87 percent of the time.
Who should participate in DEI training?
Every member of your organization should participate in some form of DEI training — especially those in people management and leadership positions. It's common for workplace diversity to be lowest across leadership and senior positions, and the people in these positions are often the most influential across the organization. This makes it even more critical for your leadership team to participate and be actively involved in DEI initiatives.
What topics should be included in diversity, equity and inclusion training?
Here are some of the most common topics addressed in DEI training:
Within these topics, here are some DEI competencies to prioritize building:
- Cultural humility: The practice of challenging biases and prejudices in the workplace (including one's own.)
- Awareness of social identity: Understanding of who an individual is based on the groups they belong to.
- Challenging of structural inequalities: Institutional patterns that provide advantages or disadvantages to members of the workplace based on race or identity.
It’s important to take a good look at your organization and identify areas of bias or homogeneity which need work. No two companies will require precisely the same kinds of training.
Types of diversity, equity and inclusion training
Different kinds of DEI training are leveraged to different ends within an organization depending on its needs and culture. Training can work to mitigate biased or unfair behavior, cultivate awareness and empathy or empower your diverse workforce.
Below, you’ll find the types of DEI training tactics developed by cultural competency advocate Glen Guyton. Leadership should have multiple of these DEI training tactics in their toolkit.
- Common ground training is based on finding similar priorities, values, and goals to help align colleagues and get everyone on the same path forward.
- Facilitated conversation training creates an open space for less vocal employees to be heard, issues to be brought up, concerns voiced and feedback given.
- Cultural sensitivity training helps members of a dominant group at your organization to understand how to be better and empathize with colleagues of under-represented cultures, backgrounds or identities.
- Unconscious bias training aims to uncover and identify the subconscious ways in which we engage in biased or oppressive behaviors and practices.
- Accommodation training empowers diverse employees to advocate for how they can be better accommodated in the workplace. It allows employees with different physical, environmental or religious needs to drive the creation of spaces in which they feel comfortable and safe.
- Inclusive management training helps supervisors to recognize discriminatory or oppressive management practices and “dismantle biased systems” within the workplace.
- Community engagement training goes beyond your internal organization and encourages team members to look at how your business can serve the greater community through the lens of DEI.
- Anti-oppression is an advanced type of training that teaches employees how to go from ally to collaborator and take an active stance in supporting and uplifting their marginalized colleagues. This type of training frequently covers subjects such as anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-transphobia and more.
Measuring the impact of different types of diversity, equity and inclusion training
Once you’ve implemented DEI training in your workplace, how can you tell if they’re successful? The first thing to know is that it will take time before you begin to see results. And it’s important to implement diversity training built for the long-term — think of DEI as a marathon, not a sprint.
Example diversity, equity and inclusion metrics
Now, let’s take a look at a few key metrics.
- Diversity percentage in leadership: Do you have diverse representation in management? This includes leadership at all levels, including the C-suite and even a board of directors.
- Retention: Do employees enjoy their jobs and feel they have equal access to opportunities for advancement and upskilling?
- Program engagement: Are your workforce education, mentorship, and other continuous learning programs being used? Has engagement increased since DEI training was implemented?
- Employee feedback: How does your workforce feel about the company culture in regards to DEI? Do they feel served by DEI initiatives? Do they think current DEI initiatives have been effective? Which demographics in your employee base think DEI training has been successful? Which ones do not?
Where DEI training falls short
A commitment to DEI needs to be an ongoing practice at any organization. And to achieve a truly equitable workplace for your employees, your DEI initiatives must extend beyond training. Many of these short-term initiatives can have an impact at the moment but may fall short when it comes to creating lasting change.
This is where additional mentorship and learning opportunities come into play. Ongoing mentorship can help to support advancement for underserved employees, while also enabling continuous training for well-represented employees — enabling them to be better allies.
If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive solution, consider implementing a workforce education program that works hand-in-hand with your existing DEI initiatives to provide learning opportunities to your employees. Businesses are in a unique position to offer educational opportunities that break down systemic barriers and serve underrepresented groups. This approach, when coupled with other DEI efforts such as training, can be a major driver of lasting social impact both at an organizational and individual level.