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ATD Blog

Taking DEI Out of the Training Room

Friday, January 15, 2021
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The annual, compliance-centric training models used by so many workplaces do not work. According to research from Deloitte, 79 percent of survey respondents indicated that a sense of belonging in their workplace was important to them. A further 93 percent agreed that this sense of belonging drove improved organizational performance. Why, then, did only 13 percent say their organization was “very ready” to address this need? People are being left behind.

Annual training programs along the lines of “what not to do” create little incentive to build transferable skills. They implicitly suggest to employees that these are issues of liminal importance, valuable in a given moment but not necessary to retain. Supporting long-term behavior change must be done with a more holistic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) approach that trades short-term diversity efforts for results that can create a real business impact.

What Holistic Diversity and Inclusion Looks Like

A key focus of holistic DEI programs is a sustained emphasis on desired behaviors rather than a focus on the punitive measures that threaten the company or its prospects. Employees should be encouraged to think about their behavior and how it affects others instead of simply minding their manners. Providing tools and customer engagement strategies instead of boundary lines establishes a solid foundation for behavior change.

Connect the desired behavior with its business impact and hold employees accountable with smart measurements. If employees understand that diverse and inclusive companies outperform their competitors, they may be more likely to reorient their focus toward acting on what they learned in any given training environment. With return on investment top of mind, your team may find it more useful to focus on monitoring desirable behavior change while on the job rather than a one-time assessment taken on the coattails of a training session.

Establish reliable sources of data that keep a pulse on your workforce. If you can’t measure inclusion or employee well-being, how can you expect to measurably improve it? A regular cadence of weekly or monthly employee wellness surveys provides a more consistent understanding of your company culture, rather than the snapshot-style understanding that comes with monitoring an employee’s sense of well-being around semiannual surveys.

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Change the Focus From Knowing to Doing

These suggested methods for integrating DEI into the foundation of your company culture extend from a simple premise made clear in the events of the last year: It’s not enough to know anymore. Board members, shareholders, employees, and customers demand action to meet the challenges of institutional, systemic discrimination.

One of the most vital ways to answer these calls to action is to bridge that gap between knowing and doing. Providing a series of best practices within the context of a leader-sponsored DEI strategy establishes a common framework and shared language for evaluating the effectiveness of employee behaviors that last long after the training is over.

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Conclude With Culture Change

One benefit of emerging DEI technology is that all this new a info and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace can also be organized into dashboards that focus on making the data usable by HR managers, as opposed to checking an annual compliance measure off the list.

Beyond the boardroom, the benefits of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace are well-known. Drive revenue growth by attracting customers interested in your company’s commitment to actualizing social justice. Win the talent war by attracting and retaining diverse talent. Establish a reality that says your brand stands for positive social change and follows through on your commitment to “doing the right thing.”


About the Author

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

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