Diversity training or DEI training (diversity, equity and inclusion) is taking on new urgency as many organizations tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing social movement to make systemic changes to address racism and injustice. While there are no simple answers or check-the-box solutions, for HR leaders and other decision makers, this is an opportunity to strengthen diversity and inclusion efforts and reinforce the organization’s commitment to positive change.
As part of an ongoing, multi-pronged approach to DEI, training is an important step in engaging and motivating employees, at every level, to understand and apply inclusive thinking to their interactions and decisions. An effective training program should offer insights and practical steps to foster respect, diversity and inclusion.
When considering how to make diversity training more relevant and effective in 2020 and beyond, consider these five questions. Does the training:
1. Address racism and racial bias
Racism is a difficult and uncomfortable topic for many people, which makes it all the more important to create an environment in which employees can learn and have conversations about race. A modern, interactive approach to diversity training can provide a positive learning experience for addressing racial identity, different forms of racism, and ways to appropriately respond when encountering racism in the workplace.
2. Raise awareness of unconscious bias and microaggressions
Training can help employees recognize and manage unconscious bias or implicit bias, and understand how they can influence the hiring process, leadership pipeline and other business practices that may increase the risk of discrimination. Along with helping employees manage their personal biases, training can help individuals respond to and stop microaggressions — those subtle, everyday hostile or derogatory comments or behaviors directed at marginalized groups — that can negatively affect decisions and the health and well-being of their targets.
3. Encourage allyship
Particularly now, when many people may feel isolated and disconnected, diversity training can foster allyship and encourage employees and managers to listen to their coworkers from underrepresented groups, learn about events and issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and speak up when they see or hear about discrimination or unfair treatment.
4. Reflect the organization, policies and workforce
Effective diversity training should reflect and reinforce the organization’s values, principles, policies and leadership’s commitment to creating a positive culture of respect and inclusion. Setting the right tone from the top can make a difference in employees’ perception of DEI initiatives, why it matters and their role in its success.
5. Encourage conversations, feedback and questions
Among its other learning objectives, diversity training can serve as a tool to encourage employees to raise questions, provide feedback and have ongoing conversations about diversity, inclusion, racism and related topics.
Successful HR leaders understand that everyone, from entry-level employees to senior executives, is responsible for creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace culture. As part of a holistic strategy and framework for advancing diversity and inclusion, training provides insights and practical steps to address unconscious bias, microaggressions, racism and discrimination, while reinforcing behaviors that foster a more respectful, inclusive and productive workplace for everyone.