Here’s What Your Diversity Training Might Be Missing

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With the voluntary turnover of employees costing US companies $ 1 trillion a year, diversity and inclusion is an area that companies cannot afford to overlook. In addition, numerous studies have now shown how the lack of a diverse and inclusive culture has led to high turnover, less innovation, and organizational performance issues.

Your DEI program may seem to have all the parts: a solid, multifunctional board / committee, active ERGs, talent acquisition data and employee participation activities, workshops and eLearnings, newsletters, signage and communications that support the company’s DEI strategy.

Despite all this, you may not yet be truly building a culture of diversity and inclusion. To determine if you are truly developing a diverse and inclusive culture, ask these questions:

Do leaders and managers receive training in empathy, communication, and emotional intelligence?

Most workplace DEI programs overlook how connected skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, and conflict management are to build a diverse and inclusive culture. They often focus on simply “going through the motions,” without acquiring the skills that can really help integrate an inclusive culture into the organization.

The central axis of DEI’s success in the workplace is building empathy capacity: the ability to understand someone’s point of view and test it like a T-shirt, as if it were their own. People who have empathy aren’t just saying and doing the “right things”. They are forming a deep understanding of those who are different. Empathy is a skill that is increasingly essential for workplace effectiveness.

In many cases, DEI workshops and training include some interaction, but this interaction is often intellectual and abstract, discussing concepts and methods rather than inviting real stories, feelings, and experiences.

One of the best ways to build empathy is to build a culture of storytelling. Create spaces for storytelling in the workplace. It can be live events, a Zoom open microphone session, a company vlog or podcast, or a newsletter. Either way, make sure employees have the opportunity to share regularly and be seen by their unique identities. It allows differences to really be celebrated.

Formal learning is traditionally a one-way process: watch this eLearning video, listen to this instructor, do these exercises, answer this multiple-choice quiz, and so on. However, it is through real-life experiences and stories that people become truly active in creating change and acting on what they learn.

Leadership and management play an important role in inspiring this effort. Encourage leaders to train in storytelling and storytelling as a way to inspire the workforce to share their own stories.

Related: 7 Ways Leaders Can Increase Their DEI Work Strategy

Are you applying DEI concepts to day-to-day operations?

Diversity and inclusion efforts will be largely wasted if the other day-to-day operations of the workplace remain exactly the same. So focus on how DEI concepts can be applied to real workplace situations.

Here are some ideas (which can also be taken virtually):

  • You have more multifunctional meetings, which allow cross-pollination of ideas and better transparency throughout the organization.

  • Change the way meetings are held to create space for less-heard voices.

  • Develop a company-sponsored lunch that matches random employees each week to make a subsidized lunch together.

  • Redesign teams so that they are more diverse if they are not yet diverse.

Whatever your level of personal comfort with change, there are many ways to ensure that you are creating opportunities and spaces for different types of employees to interact and learn from each other.

Related: Here’s how to have the most powerful DEI conversations

Are your DEI policies and processes fair?

Too often, DEI is treated as a black and white problem within companies (no pun intended): there is the “right” way and the “wrong” way. Policies and processes can be punitive and fear-inducing, rather than tolerant and empathetic, inhibiting, rather than encouraging, communication.

Remember that DEI involves a change of mindset for each individual and for the workplace, and no one will do it 100% all the time. Bias is an ingrained aspect of the human mind and existence, and overcoming bias is a process that requires time and active practice. Therefore, make sure that your policies create enough space to distinguish between malicious and malicious errors.

Real harassment, discrimination and hate speech and action must no doubt be punished and uprooted from the organization. However, people can also make unintentional mistakes and learn from them. Create policies and processes that allow for discernment, empathy, and constructive feedback.

Are you measuring the right things, in the right way?

What metrics do you use to measure the success of DEI efforts? Are you sure these are the best metrics for determining business impact?

For example, if the business goal is to increase participation in training workshops, just measuring an increase in attendance is not necessarily the best metric. What if there are more attendees, but they are all off?

Stay away from surveys when you can, as survey fatigue can become a real phenomenon for many employees. Explore other forms of people analysis, such as observing or even conducting an organizational network analysis to see how your organization communicates and interacts. Information like this can help you design strategies to enable more inclusion and collaboration.

Related: 6 signs that your diversity and inclusion program needs revision

There is no magic formula for DEI success. Thus, the DEI seems to be less of a goal and more of a collective process: a journey for the organization and for each individual. It is a collaborative exploration, a challenge to our own assumptions and prejudices at all times, and an active desire to continually learn. It is not just a workshop or a program, but a challenge to the prevailing culture and the incorporation of a “new way of doing things”.

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