By Dr. Candace Warner, Founder and CEO of people3, Inc.
When you hear the term “DEI training,” it might elicit an eye roll or feelings of skepticism or apprehension from colleagues. While many programs available technically meet compliance requirements for sensitivity training, they are often still cheesy, don’t have a measurable impact on your organization, or don’t capture your team’s attention. This doesn’t have to be the case.
Not all DEI training programs are created equal. And, they certainly don’t have to be boring and ineffective. I write from experience! Learn how to identify a high-quality DEI training program that will bring your organization increased collaboration, better decision-making, and higher profitability.
What Should Organizations Look for in an Effective DEI Training Program?
If your organization is searching for an effective (online or in-person) diversity training program, not one that simply meets basic compliance criteria, look for these key components:
- A curriculum grounded in data
- Content that enables both individual and organizational growth
- Real-world examples and practical strategies for understanding others
1. DEI Curriculum Grounded in Data
According to research, over 85% of well-managed, diverse teams make better decisions, are more productive, and bring in more revenue than their non-diverse counterparts. An effective DEI training course should highlight the value of investing in diverse teams and dive into why diversity and inclusion are important.
A high-quality training program will make it clear with insightful and actionable data how diverse teams are an asset by sharing and building on data like:
- Over 87% of diverse teams make better decisions.
- Two-thirds of job seekers indicate that a diverse workplace is important when considering employment.
- Team collaboration has been shown to increase by 26% in highly diverse and inclusive organizations.
A good diversity and inclusion training program should provide your organization with factual, data-informed resources and educational materials that can be used to drive decisions that will make impactful, lasting changes. Those companies that implement DEI practices throughout the organization will see positive effects.
A good training program may even be able to offer up case studies or references from their own work to show this correlation with increased collaboration, better decision-making, and higher profitability
2. Content That Enables Individual and Organizational Growth
The goal of DEI programs is to create inclusive, respectful, and equitable workplaces. High-quality DEI programs have the capacity to nurture opportunities within organizations to grow across the board… and across the org chart.
These strategies aren’t just meant for individuals, but for building inclusive leaders, policies, and decision-makers within the company. When searching for an effective, high-quality DEI training program, you must also look for DEI implementation strategies that go beyond the initial training program and offer ways to truly make an impact in your organization.
3. Examples and Strategies for Understanding Others
High-quality DEI programs will not only highlight the data-driven benefits outlined above but will also show you how your company can leverage diversity as an asset.
People can better understand and navigate their differences by learning about and mitigating their unconscious biases, building empathy, and practicing mindful communication.
Diversity training programs that go beyond “checking the box” will include resources and recommendations for you to use during the training and beyond. Some of these resources might be educational materials for you to reference, surveys, exercises, or actionable steps to take within your organization immediately.
These activities and related content should ask tough questions that make people reflect on their own identity and how their unconscious biases impact the way they show up and interact with others. The activities will also provide strategies for what to do if people inadvertently “step in it” (as we call it!) during a conversation. Hint: it’s not to ignore it and hope no one says anything or to avoid the person forever.
What Will a Quality DEI Training Course Provide That a More Generic Training Won’t?
Using our own (online and in-person) courses and proven track record of facilitating impactful diversity training across all types of organizations (large, small, government agencies, nonprofits) as a guide, here are four areas we know quality training is different from others:
- Curriculum presented by subject matter specialists
- Exercises to practice ideas and skills
- Downloadable materials and resources
- Informal chat opportunities
1. Curriculum presented by subject matter specialists
Providers with teams who practice this work every day know DEI inside and out. And importantly, from a personal level. Those providers who can offer relevant examples about their own identities and personal stories make the data come alive. Compare this experience with a generic online script written to cover ‘all’ organizational situations delivered by paid actors.
2. Exercises to practice ideas and skills
Exercises that ask participants to think about their own demographic characteristics like race, gender identity, social class, religion, etc. show them how their individual experiences differ from others. This is the start to understand how others’ experiences can differ from their own, and thereby, can create empathy.
3. Downloadable materials and resources
Knowledge is power. The more data you have to inform and advance your organization’s DEI mission, the more reliable your decision will be. Online and in-person training participants who have access to downloadable materials and resources are able to utilize them post-training (when needed most!) to help drive their future decision-making.
4. Informal chat opportunities
Breaks for scheduled informal chats during a course allow for more casual side conversations about subject matter experts’ personal experiences with biases and inclusive environments. These chats give participants another way to relate to diversity and inclusion topics and the reason why mindfulness of these experiences is so important.
If your organization is ready to leverage diversity and inclusion as an asset to build a better workplace, and you need an actionable solution, diversity training can be the answer– if you know what to look for. The data shows an organization that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive is a successful one, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot.
Just make sure you don’t spend your money and time on a course that is low-quality, ineffective, and generic. Do your research and find a training program (online or in-person) that will bring positive change and ongoing improvement to your team and organization.