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How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Training Program for the Modern Workforce

Create diversity and inclusion training to boost employee experience, customer care...

Evelyn Duskey
HR tech and digital transformation writer
May 25, 2022
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Creating a modern DEI program that allows your company to attract and retain the right talent is a massive challenge, but definitely worth undertaking. We’ve created this guide to explain why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs are so important, and how your company can successfully build a successful DEI training program.

Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is Important

As more and more companies join Facebook and Amazon in sharing their workplace diversity and inclusion statistics, this data has become a decision-making factor for Millennials in the job market - a significant consideration since Millennials have become the largest generation in the United States labor force. But showing positive diversity and inclusion not only attracts talent, it also aids in retaining employees. We’ll look at why this is the case later on. 

Point is, you want your staff to feel safe, and confident, and have equal opportunities for advancement no matter their background. And, since success in attaining this is vital for the health of your company, you’ll likely want to invest in training to ensure it. 

Diversity and Inclusion Training is a broad term that refers to any program or process designed to facilitate positive interactions in the workplace. It does so by identifying behavior that is discriminatory or demeaning, and by teaching individuals to work together in good faith, regardless of their cultural, physical, lifestyle, and socioeconomic differences.

Diversity and inclusion training at workplace

The Benefits of Achieving and Maintaining Diversity and Inclusion With Training

Incorporating an in-person or online diversity and inclusion training program benefits employees, businesses, and customers in a variety of ways. 

Let’s look at just some of the most important benefits of creating a successful diversity training program:

DEI Boosts Recruiting and Retention

Looking for the best talent? 67% of job seekers consider a diverse, multicultural workplace an important factor when deciding to accept a position according to Glassdoor. Naturally then, employees who experience or witness unfairness will leave. 

As an example of how diversity affects retention: Top talent looks at the levels above them and judges how staying with a company will play out in terms of promotion. If they don't see anyone of their gender, race, religion, or orientation in a leadership role, how can they picture themselves there? 

An Inclusive Culture Fosters Innovation and Employee Engagement

83% of Millennials are found to be actively engaged in their work when their company fosters a more inclusive work environment. When facing challenges, employees will find more creative solutions when they consider multiple points of view. 

Your Positive Reputation Depends on It. 

Companies that have robust diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are being recognized for their efforts. More potential candidates want to work with them. On the other hand, a candidate who sees mistreatment of minorities in company reviews (like the one below) will certainly look for employment elsewhere.  

Bad review of company diversity and inclusion on Glassdoor‍

Customers, in turn, want to feel confident in their choice to work with empathetic businesses. Ongoing improvement in diversity and inclusion is, therefore, a vital part of maintaining a positive brand that clients can get behind. 

Diversity and Inclusion Increases Your Bottom Line

Increasing diversity – especially when it results in more inclusive leadership – has a significant correlation to an increase in profits. McKinsey's research has found that companies with an ethnically and culturally diverse board of directors were 43% more likely to see above-average profits.

Topics to Cover in Diversity Training Programs

Now that we’ve established the importance of diversity and inclusion training, we can look at how you should incorporate it into your workplace.

When creating a plan to foster a more diverse workforce, consider who your current employees are and analyze the demographics present. This information will help you build a diversity and inclusion training program that is unique to your company’s needs and goals. 

Some key topics to include in your training program are: 

The Difference Between Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity refers to a mix of people that identify as different genders, races, ages, education levels, religions, and more. 

Inclusion is allowing all these people equal opportunity to partake in all aspects of the business. You could, for example, have a diverse workforce, but then exclude demographics when it comes to assigning top projects or responsibilities. Inclusivity means that your whole workforce isn’t just on the team, they’re in the game. 

Foster inclusion by inviting your team members to listen to the perspectives and experiences of underrepresented voices. This encourages interactions between different groups, departments, job titles, and management levels within your organization.

Stereotyping and Generalizations

Stereotypes are assumptions made based on how the characteristics of a group of people are generally perceived. Stereotypes can be very degrading, and can affect how team members are afforded chances to contribute. A prime example of this is companies that avoid hiring women of childbearing age, because they factor in the cost of maternity leave. 

Thinking in terms of stereotypes is learned behavior, and can be both explicitly and implicitly taught or reinforced by friends, family, neighbors, teachers, peer groups, and societal influences. It's important to recognize that we all hold stereotypes, but cultural diversity and inclusion training can help us become more sensitive to the impact of stereotypes and address them.

Conscious and Unconscious Biases

Bias is when people make judgments based on stereotypes. 

It happens when we receive information about someone’s race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, or other factors, and judge them based on those factors. Usually, we make these judgments without realizing it (an unconscious bias). 

Including conscious and unconscious bias in diversity and inclusion training is crucial for all employees but especially for those involved in hiring or human resources. An example of allowing bias to affect hiring is to use age as a hiring metric in tech firms due to the stereotype that old people don’t understand computers.

Recognizing and Addressing Microaggressions

Microaggressions are everyday verbal or nonverbal slights, snubs, and insults. Although microaggressions are often made in good spirit, they can be extremely degrading. An example of a common microaggression is giving a person of another ethnicity a nickname because their given name is difficult to pronounce. 

These seemingly harmless comments and actions can cause mental distress for employees, including the added workplace stress of being singled out. Training for this helps employees address situations in which they are receiving, witnessing, or making microaggressions. 

Encourage Allyship and Bystander Intervention

Active bystander intervention is a positive influence on diversity training because it makes everyone on your team responsible for upholding inclusive behavior. Teaching employees to be advocates for their underrepresented and oppressed co-workers increases empathy and buy-in, and results in a more inclusive team.

Diversity and inclusion ally wearing black t-shirt

The Best Diversity and Inclusion Training Solutions

Time to put your strategy into practice. An effective way to ensure your team receives decent diversity and inclusion compliance training is by using a Learning Management System (LMS). 

These platforms are used to train employees and teams on a variety of topics and skills, and the content you choose can be tailored to your needs and budget. We’ve compiled a list of the top LMS based training courses on diversity and inclusion to start the conversation in your workplace: 

Coursera

Coursera offers free online training on diversity and inclusion from the top-rated ESSEC Business School. 

The course takes about 10 hours to complete and requires no prior knowledge on the topic, so anyone from support staff to top execs can sign up. Delegates receive a certificate of completion that is sharable on their LinkedIn. 

eCornell

This option is great for managers, HR professionals, business owners, facilitators, supervisors, and executives. The online diversity and inclusion certificate program takes an in-depth look at ways to improve company culture over 4 courses. 

It has an instructor-led, online format that runs over 2 months. Training employees costs $3,600 per person once off or $950 per month over four months. Classes can include up to 35 delegates. Upon completion, each delegate receives a Diversity and Inclusion Certificate from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations

ProProfs 

ProProfs diversity training software is great for large organizations that want to customize their diversity and inclusivity training with specific videos, webinars, presentations, and quizzes. 

ProProfs lets you choose topics and resources from their existing course library, or create your own diversity course from scratch. Either way, the course material is fully online and available at any time. It is one of the least expensive options at $2 per delegate.

Udemy

Udemy offers both free and paid versions of their inclusivity training programs which range from $12 to $35. 

Their courses cover gender equality, sexual orientation, sexual diversity, multigenerational workplaces, and racial and ethnic differences to name a few. Udemy courses are available on-demand and are often available in multiple languages. 

Bear in mind that Udemy courses are generally created by users, so make sure a particular course is of the quality and substance you want before signing up your whole team. 

HRDQ

HRDQ provides training in the form of Diversity Works - a three-hour workshop and interactive game kit. The kit is designed to help employees understand themselves and each other while encouraging respectful communication. 

This program was created for groups with up to 25 employees at $999. It includes a setup guide, facilitator guide, as well as activity and participant materials. Refills of the resources can be purchased at $499.

The game kit is a useful tool for diversity and inclusion facilitators, conflict resolution counselors, or an HR department to invest in. 

Media Partners

Media Partners offers short diversity and inclusion courses that cover topics like bias training, inappropriate jokes, good workplace behavior, and working with bilingual employees.

The How Was Your Day? course can be purchased as an online access resource, as a DVD, or as a USB that can be shared with an unlimited number of employees for one fee of $950. 

How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

According to Josh Bersin, companies with inclusive workplaces see 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee. That means investing in a diversity and inclusion training program should be a top business priority. But what else can you do to ensure employees feel safe?

Building a diverse and inclusive workplace takes time. It’s all about making consistent choices every day towards inclusivity. Here are some actions you can put in place to foster diversity and inclusion in your company: 

  • Look at your hiring practices: Although DEI is everyone’s responsibility, ensuring you have a diverse workforce lies with HR. Make sure they have all the diversity hiring tools they need to build an inclusive foundation. 
  • Learn from others: Read and talk about strategies that other businesses have used to promote diversity and a more inclusive environment. Ask your team what they think of these solutions, and what they want for themselves. 
  • Educate employees: Be open about the benefits of diversity and inclusivity for the company, as well as the benefits they’ll experience on a personal level - a colleague who is treated fairly will be more willing to collaborate. 
  • Get everyone involved: A culture of diversity and inclusion comes from all levels of your organization and, as a gesture of this, everyone in the company should receive the same training. Seniority should not exempt anyone from being inclusive or taking part. 
  • Create inclusive policies: This includes your company's stance on religious holidays, flexible hours, day-care, physical spaces, and restrooms. 
  • Pay equal wages and salaries: Use the merits of a position as the deciding factor for payment. Not gender, circumstance, or the hire’s past earnings. 
  • Ask for feedback: Have anonymous and direct procedures in place to hear feedback on your diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as suggestions to improve them.  
  • Deal with intolerance fairly: Create an SOP for addressing discriminatory behavior and treat all missteps equally, whether it was made by the CEO or the intern. 
  • Maintain your training: Update the topics covered in your diversity and inclusion training over time, and use different resources to keep it relevant. 

Diversity training is not a one-and-done event, and you certainly don’t want the effort you put in to get lost in a leaky bucket. Make DEI training a fixed part of your company’s annual calendar, and something to look forward to. Invite guest speakers, arrange webinars and arrange workshops to encourage engagement. 

There is always value in refreshing what we know and learning more about workplace equality.

More on DEI:

Enhance Work Culture with Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

How to Choose the Best DEI Certification Program: A Comprehensive Guide

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Evelyn Duskey

Evelyn Duskey is a writer, content producer, and music writer with a Masters Degree of Arts from Georgetown University. She spent 3 years managing the content marketing team at a Human Capital Management SaaS company. She's written for Think with Google, Personal Capital, and other brands in the fields of HR tech and digital transformation.

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