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Tips for successful diversity and inclusion training

Jun 15, 2021

While most companies understand the benefits of increasing diversity in the workplace including employee engagement and increased profitability, bringing such change about is not without its challenges. As Saplinghr.com notes, diversity often doesn’t happen without addressing certain well-worn sticking points. These can include communication issues such as language barriers or generational communication preferences, and cultural misunderstandings where words and gestures can mean different things to people of different backgrounds

One particularly thorny issue is not lack of inclusion but a perceived inequitable inclusion that makes the workplace feel inclusive to some employees and not to others.

“An inclusive workplace may mean something different to everyone,” the site reports. “For a transgender team member, it might include a space to add pronouns in your people platforms and gender-neutral bathrooms. For a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, it might include a mental health benefit and flex hours to see a therapist. And for a working parent, it might include a childcare flexible spending account and planning team building events during work hours.”

“An inclusive workplace will always be a work-in-progress, and should be driven by team member feedback. Focus on what will impact the most people, but also pay attention to the feedback from those having the worst employee experience.”

Diversity and inclusiveness training programs, while all working toward essentially the same goal, will (and should) vary widely from company to company to help address specific needs that are different in each setting. As Meir Shemla writes for Forbes.com:

  • Clearly identify what you are trying to achieve. Just saying ‘workplace diversity’ isn’t good enough because only by understanding what the ultimate goal is can you have a chance of reaching it.
  • Don’t ‘copy and paste.’ Every organization is unique, so every diversity initiative needs to be too. Simply borrowing one from somewhere else is unlikely to work.
  • Good design is important but good implementation is vital. There is a long-standing maxim in the military that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Merely handing over even the best designed program to individuals who may not have the tools, the capability or perhaps the motivation to implement it is a likely recipe for disaster.
  • Win hearts and minds. Successful initiatives answer the basic question, “Why should I do this?” If individuals within the organization cannot see the benefits of a program it will ultimately fail.

Another early derailer to diversity and inclusion training is starting out under the misnomer that diversity and inclusivity are the same thing, reports kazoohr.com.

“Inclusivity [is] the next step to successfully supporting a diverse workforce: It’s all about creating an inclusive environment that welcomes and includes each employee,” the site reports. “While inclusivity makes us feel good, inclusive workplace cultures offer far greater benefits than a warm and fuzzy feeling...they’re plain good business sense.”

Among its recommendations, kazoohr.com suggests supplementing diversity and inclusion training programs with behaviors that back up what’s being taught. Some examples include:

  • Buy-in and behavior modeling at the top. The effort to create an inclusive workplace won’t get very far without the full support of company leadership. This might take diversity and inclusivity (D&I) training at the executive level and creating a safe space for leadership to ask awkward or embarrassing questions before they are equipped to lead inclusivity initiatives company-wide.
  • Create an inclusive workplace task force. With leadership’s buy-in secured, consider key players whose input could breathe life into your organization’s inclusivity culture. These individuals should be passionate about inclusivity and be willing to put in the extra time to bring new initiatives back to leadership and work to implement and communicate change.
  • Expand the company holiday calendar, including events and initiatives focusing on diversity. In addition to Christian and secular holidays like Christmas and New Year’s, be sure to include holidays that represent the religious and cultural beliefs of your company at large from expanded religious holidays by faith tradition to ethno-centric observances such as Juneteenth to hosting company events that spotlight Black History or Pride months. Employees also notice when companies support causes surrounding inclusiveness and diversity in the community, too.

To learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion, check out this month’s episode of Connecting Business. Host Christina Munoz discusses how DE&I efforts improve the bottom line and create a better work culture for all employees with Blake Woolsey, Chief Communications and Development Officer at Heartland Forward, and Michael McCathern, Executive Director at the John Maxwell Team.