February 8, 2022

The success of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training initiatives is enhanced when leaders first engage employees and managers in conversations about what DEI is and why training is important to the organization’s mission, culture and business goals.

DEI training can mean different things to people. Talking about one’s own biases and beliefs, for instance, can make some employees uncomfortable and afraid of doing or saying something wrong. 

Leaders can reduce training anxiety and build employee buy-in by using town halls, team meetings and one-on-one discussions to reassure employees that DEI training explores personal behavior without casting judgment.

These 5 steps can help your organization build employee support for DEI training initiatives:

  1. Collectively set goals
    Invite employees to participate in setting DEI training objectives. Ask them about personal experiences and where they see the problems within the organization. By including them, you are also enlisting them as part of the solution. Share the collective goals with the greater workforce as training is rolled out and regularly report on the organization’s progress towards achieving the goals.
  2. Explain what DEI training is
    Position DEI training as a way of enhancing how people work together. It raises awareness of the many things that make employees unique, including race, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, socio-economic status, age, and physical and mental ability. DEI training provides tips and best practices for how to embrace the varied experiences and perspectives of co-workers to improve communication, collaboration and innovation. 
  3. Focus on inclusion
    Eliminate peoples’ fears of being singled out, shamed or blamed. Instead of focusing on correcting workplace behavior, explain that DEI training is about inclusion. Reassure employees that everyone has personal biases formed by their unique life experiences. DEI training improves connections with co-workers by creating a safe and open environment to explore unconscious bias and microaggressions and their effects on behavior.
  4. Make the business case
    Communicate that DEI offers better outcomes for organizations and employees. A report from McKinsey found that diverse and inclusive companies outperform others by 36%. More prosperous organizations can attract and retain talent, offer employees better job security, higher wages and increased advancement opportunities. A Deloitte survey found that 80% of job seekers and employees want to work for an inclusive company, and that almost 40% of people believe diversity and inclusion offers a competitive advantage. 
  5. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?”
    To gain employee buy-in, address the question “What’s in it for me?” Explain that their participation benefits everyone by improving team dynamics throughout the organization. Shifting the focus away from individuals to the good of the group often motivates employees to participate in training goals.

Traliant Insight

Diversity, equity and inclusion training is most effective when preceded by ongoing workforce conversations to increase awareness and support of DEI objectives and how they benefit employees, teams and the overall organization.