Connection Point October Diversity
ATD Blog

Growing DEI Knowledge and Practice

Friday, March 12, 2021

We continue our conversation on taking diversity, equity, and inclusion out of the training room and examine how creating a holistic approach is a win for practitioners, learners, teams, and the organization. Four key areas will help bridge the gap between learning and putting that knowledge into practice. We are driving toward creating small actions that will build and scaffold into impact in those daily moments.


When approaching learning in the DEI space, start from a place of positive intent. This body of learning is a journey and evolving. To build the bridge between knowledge and practice, we have to examine intentions with a lens of positivity and curiosity. Build your exposure to different people and cultures than your own to help strengthen your ability to emphasize and ask good questions.


The leap we all make from facts to interpretation is quick. Our minds work overtime to make meaning of everything. Creating a foundation with bias education is an essential part of your comprehensive approach. Bias terminology is being tossed out in the news and social feeds. While awareness is great, learning the depth behind the terminology and its background is needed to become aware of how it applies to each of us.

First, reinforce our evolution and our brains. We have survived as a species because we have looked for patterns in our surroundings and created meaning that motivates our actions. This was fantastic at keeping us alive from threats, but in today’s society these same split-second reactions can hinder us or cause HR issues. We need to slow our impulses and reaction time and ask ourselves, “What else could be true?” This small question unlocks our ability to disrupt the process of acting on a perceived situation and opens alternatives.

Second, when we stay curious, we move to look at the situation through others’ experience or perspective. We can take our knowledge of our own bias and look at how it may be affecting the situation or understanding.

Third, we have created patterns of behavior and language for ourselves as we have developed over the years. This is great when we are driving a car but not when we’re facing added and new information. We must change. Disrupt automatic responses with practice and you'll create new neural pathways. Create in-the-moment resources and tools to aid in disruption and help you as you change behaviors. It'll get easier in time.



Having a psychologically safe environment to learn and to practice is paramount. Start by communicating clear behavioral expectations for your learning environment. Lean into these ideas:

Part of learning is making mistakes. Acknowledge we will all mess up as we move to practice new skills. Again, come from a place of positive intent until you have more information.

Give room to try again. If you make a mistake or say something wrong or inappropriate, acknowledge it and apologize. Next, try again!

Create space for others. Allow physical, emotional, and mental space for others to be present. This means being aware of your presence. Maybe pausing and listening more than you are used to or even sitting down.


Acknowledge you want to learn and take the steps to build your awareness.


When I began my education in DEI topics, I began working on my own use of “Hi, guys.” It had become part of my natural vernacular, and I used it often. I quickly realized I unintentionally may have left others feeling excluded or offended. With my new knowledge, I began disrupting my patterns. I actively worked to use inclusive language like “Hi, everyone.” Yes, I slip up, but I correct myself, and I keep at it!

It takes time and practice to apply new skills. Take small steps and encourage others to do the same. Practice and focus on one thing or one area and keep expanding. Give yourself and your learners the tools to help along the way.

Next, we’ll look at cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture.

About the Author

Andrea DiMatteo has decades of experience crafting organizational culture and learning from the ground up. She served as head of Learning and Development with New Belgium Brewing and in 2018, co-founded DiMatteo Consulting. Currently, she is Head of L&D with The Moxie Exchange blending her passion for creating inclusive cultures with her strengths in learning organizations and teams. Andrea holds a Master of Education in Adult Education and Training, a Bachelor of Arts, and several certificates in leadership development and training.

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