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ATD Blog

Behavior Change That Sticks

Thursday, February 4, 2021

When it comes to inclusion and belonging in the workplace, employees want to do the right thing. There are still times, however, when people fall short despite all their best intentions to be inclusive. These moments are purpose-built opportunities to demonstrate what we mean whenever we talk about the knowing-doing gap.

If you need further proof that this gap in our knowledge is still a problem people face every day, you need only to look at the burgeoning social justice movements that found strong, prominent voices in mainstream media during the past year. Board members, shareholders, employees, and customers all want companies to do better. Consequently, many companies have shifted their strategic priorities to match public demand, thrusting learning and development programs back into the spotlight.

Supporting Inclusive Behaviors Every Day

The long-term focus of any holistic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program is to produce genuine behavior change based in transferable skills and applied knowledge. In theory, this should be a simple process for people to understand and apply in their daily interactions with others. In application, however, it’s easy to let important differences and details fall through the cracks when it comes to inclusion, especially if you aren’t actively aware of your blind spots.

Making an intentional effort to be inclusive is a personal commitment to do better, which begins with foundational knowledge about inclusion and best practices designed to produce a sense of belonging. This seems like a simple distinction, but its effect can be enormous. It’s the difference between choosing to review best practices before performance reviews or interviews and simply relying on your best memory of the latest training session you attended. One outcome hopes to increase inclusive practices and behaviors, and the other centers inclusion as a fundamental element from the outset of the process.

Leading by Example From the Top and Front

Still important, however, is the notion that leadership on inclusion and belonging must come from the top. With conceptual buy-in from a manager or supervisor, the priorities of the day differ. Executives, too, have a role to play in establishing a foundation for inclusion company-wide and ensuring that the focus on inclusion remains a strategic priority.


It’s all about focus and priorities when it comes to affecting behavior change. With all the daily noise around employees’ various roles, there needs to be repetition to create momentum, eventually turning best practices into habits.

What good is it teaching your team transferable skills if they’re never put to their intended use? This priority shift can take several forms such as aligning existing employee incentives with inclusive behaviors or holding team meetings daily to remind employees of best inclusion practices.

Reporting Results and Reflecting on Change

A phrase we repeat a lot with clients is simply stated but much harder to put an answer into practice: How can you measurably improve inclusion and belonging in the workplace if you can’t actually measure it?


Technological innovations in employee engagement monitoring will continue to find new partners in learning and development strategy. As these partnerships grow, DEI stakeholders will be able to point to actionable data sources as either warning signs or signals of improvement. Imagine being able to course correct problematic behaviors spotted months earlier due to trends highlighted by these new sources of human capital data. The impact and value of trend data like this is incalculable. With recent data gathered more frequently, companies can become proactive in talent and attraction.

Continuing the Focus on Everyday Inclusion

This paradigm shift is a symptom that your company culture is beginning to change, not a final result. The truth is, as it usually is, more complicated. To be inclusive is to make a series of choices that centers your interaction on someone else’s sense of belonging. It is a race we choose to run every day or not.

In the next blog post, we will dig deeper into the knowing-doing gap and explain how this collective lack of knowledge in DEI has a ripple effect across your organization and, more importantly, what you can do to change it.

About the Author

Jordan Hanson (she/her/hers) is a content creator and digital marketing manager for the Moxie Exchange.

1 Comment
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Great blog post on how we need to all be aware that we have to be proactive and CHOOSE to run the race of inclusion each and every day
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