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Foster Engagement With Diversity and Inclusion Training

Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment that workers have to an organization and can be measured by how they promote the organization, remain loyal to it, and strive to do their best to make the organization thrive. 

According to the CEB, engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave an organization than those who are disengaged. Moreover, Towers Perrin-ISR’s “ISR Employee Engagement Report” outlined a study in which companies that had high levels of employee engagement enjoyed a 19.2 percent improvement in operating income, while companies with low levels of employee engagement declined to 32.7 percent. The good news is that through training and development, organizations can create a culture of engagement. 

Global Dynamics senior associate and diversity and inclusion expert, Carrie Spell-Hansson, shares the following best practices for training that promotes employee engagement: 

  • Explore the values of cultural orientation.
  • Examine personal values and how they influence behaviors and interactions.
  • Acknowledge differences, define what the differences are, and leverage those differences.
  • Conduct diversity and inclusion training for managers and for employee, when possible, but separate the groups for training so that both groups feel more free to open up and discuss relevant issues.
  • Help mangers and leaders see the link between engagement and productivity.
  • Assist the organization in developing a consistent operational definition of employee engagement and diversity.
  • Discuss perceptions and how unconsciously our perceptions and respond to others.
  • Illustrate the impact of cultural differences. 

Spell-Hansson points to these best practices as ways for companies to avoid an all-too-common pitfall—trying to achieve employee engagement without first considering inclusion. 

“When you don’t take individual or group diversity into account, people become disengaged,” Spell-Hansson says. “People need to feel welcomed, included, and encouraged to be involved and know that they will be provided access to opportunities as well as information.”  


Employees of organizations that are successful in earning their engagement make comments, such as: 

  • “I know what’s expected of me.”
  • “Someone encourages my development. “
  • “I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”
  • “I have the opportunity to learn and grow. 

Despite the indisputable role of diversity and inclusion training in fostering employee engagement, Spell-Hansson warns that an improperly executed program could backfire. Selection of the trainer is critical, and she advises organizations to evaluate potential trainers on their 

  • understanding of all dimensions of diversity, including cultural differences, gender differences, developmental differences, and the like
  • ability to communicate to participants how the value of the program is not about raising one group at the expense of another
  • commitment to creating a safe space so that people understand that the program is for all people, not just specific groups
  • credibility and data to support the content, which may be grounded in a theoretical background the areas such as organizational dynamics or human development
  • ability to provide participants with a flexible framework that can be tailored to the organization’s particular needs
  • approachability and comfort, stemming from self-exploration of their own biases. 

If you would like to share your cases or examples of best practices in employee engagement and diversity and inclusion training, please send them to for potential use in a future column.


© 2015 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Neal Goodman is an internationally recognized authority on globalization, global mindset development, and cultural competence for global corporations. His programs have helped hundreds of thousands of corporate executives to be more effective in international settings by learning how to apply a global mindset. Global Dynamics, the company he co-founded in 1983, designs, organizes, and implements programs that support global mindset development, cultural competence, global team building, global leadership, virtual workforce effectiveness, and diversity and inclusion in leading Fortune 500 companies that wish to succeed in the global arena. As CEO of GDI, he leads a team of more than 400 innovative, cross-cultural experts from around the globe to create in-person, blended, and web-based solutions for his clients.
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