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Dr. Aikyna Finch

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In today’s business world, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training has become vital. It is necessary for creating an organizational culture that cherishes diversity, endorses equity and ensures an inclusive atmosphere for everyone.

However, DEI training is a continuous educational journey that requires steadfast dedication to perpetual learning and critical self-reflection. It is not a one-time experience, but an evolving strategy crucial for building a culture that is genuinely appreciative of the full spectrum of human diversity.

What Is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

DEI consists of three vital principles integral to cultivating a thriving organization. Each principle is necessary to create and maintain a positive company culture:

  • Diversity is the collective mixture of different cultures within an organization. It encompasses the spectrum of employees’ cultural backgrounds, life experiences and inherent characteristics. These characteristics include race, gender, age, religion, disability status, sexual orientation, educational background and cognitive diversity.
  • Equity involves the strategic approach to ensure fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all employees while simultaneously identifying and eliminating barriers preventing the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges individuals’ unique challenges and obstacles. Paying attention to equality also means that resources are allocated and opportunities are created to achieve equal outcomes for everyone.
  • Inclusion concerns an active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity. Inclusion encompasses courses, student organizations, communities, and all the ways people might connect with each other (intellectual, social, cultural, and geographical). Inclusion involves awareness of disadvantaged groups, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication and an empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.

What Is DEI Training?

So what is DEI training and how does it translate into tangible benefits for your company? DEI training is much more than raising awareness; it’s a profound educational effort to equip employees with the knowledge needed to cultivate an inclusive workplace. This effort involves tackling unconscious bias, enhancing cultural competency and improving communication amidst diversity through various interactive, engaging formats.

For those organizations focused on nurturing a dynamic, agile organizational culture, effective DEI training serves as a catalyst for profound change. It equips both leaders and staff with the tools to establish clear objectives, track advancements, and refine tactics in line with the shifting landscapes of both the workforce and societal norms.

This dedication steers a business towards an environment enriched by inclusivity and innovation. By prioritizing DEI training, companies not only uphold commendable values but also set the stage for reaping various advantages that contribute to sustained growth and viability.

The practical gains of DEI training are substantial for any business. A few of the benefits of DEI training include:

  • Enhanced employee engagement: DEI training fosters a sense of belonging with employees feeling valued and respected by peers and leaders. In turn, that leads to lower employee turnover and higher productivity.
  • Fostering innovation: By welcoming diverse teams and perspectives, DEI training paves the way for innovation and creative problem-solving.
  • Improved decision-making: An inclusive approach to decision-making yields more informed and equitable outcomes to business problems.
  • Attracting talent: A strong DEI program signals a commitment to progressive values, attracting top talent from diverse backgrounds.

DEI Training Best Practices

Once the benefits of DEI training have been established and the goals have been set, it is time to create effective DEI training for your organization. While some training content is universal, most of that content will be developed with the organization’s needs and knowledge gaps in mind.

Some key elements to consider in your training are:

  • Tailored content: Customize training programs to meet the unique needs of different employee groups’ specific roles, levels, and departments.
  • Interactive learning: Encourage employees to participate in interesting activities rather than passive lectures. Interactive workshops, simulations, group discussions and role-playing create a safe, engaging learning environment.
  • Expert facilitation: Utilize skilled trainers with expertise in DEI and adult learning principles to guide DEI training discussions and learning.
  • Actionable skills: Focus on equipping your staff with practical knowledge for inclusivity in everyday interactions and decision-making.
  • Cultural alignment: For lasting impact, ensure that DEI principles are reflected in company policies and evaluations.

Assessing DEI Training Outcomes

Assessing your organization’s DEI efforts and considering how DEI training can be enhanced or introduced is a game-changer. Data collection and reporting is one of the areas of DEI where organizations feel confusion and frustration during the training and development process.

The impact of DEI training can be evaluated through surveys, focus groups and examining retention rates, providing insights that can guide the refinement of future training programs. Start small if you need to, but get started — the benefits to your company culture and bottom line are too significant to ignore.

Seeking out a DEI consultant may also be helpful during this process. Diversity consultant firms, such as Brooks Consultants, conduct diversity audits. These audits include assessments where HR professionals or company leaders answer a series of questions and receive a comprehensive report that will give an organization a solid foundation to create the training needed for DEI initiatives.

Building a Culture of Inclusion

As workplaces evolve, DEI training must keep pace with that evolution. That will require a flexible, data-informed approach to every aspect of business operations from hiring to performance reviews. DEI training must also be customized to align with an organization’s unique culture, setting, and requirements.

A genuinely inclusive culture is built through:

  • Leadership advocacy: Leaders must be visibly committed to DEI principles because they set the tone for an organization.
  • Ongoing feedback: DEI trainers should regularly gather and act on employee feedback from regular surveys, focus groups, and employee resource groups.
  • Data-driven strategies: Use metrics such as demographic representation, employee retention rates, and engagement surveys to track progress and make informed adjustments.
  • Continuous learning: Companies should provide ongoing opportunities for DEI education to equip employees with the latest tools and resources for inclusive practices.
  • Recognition: People who champion inclusivity and actively promote diverse perspectives should be celebrated and acknowledged.

Remember that resistance to DEI training often arises from a misunderstanding of the value of DEI. Clear communication about the goals and expected outcomes of DEI training is essential, and DEI trainers should ensure the training resonates personally with everyone. By investing in DEI training and nurturing a culture of continuous learning and action, the results can transform an organization.

Related: Driving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education

The University’s DEIB Initiatives

For DEI initiatives to be genuinely effective, they need to be continuous, inclusive, and safe. DEI training has to be constant in an organization and involve everyone from executives to new hires.

An example of DEI training in practice is the University’s DEI initiatives. The University has infused diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) into its culture and has a DEIB Council that includes viewpoints from everyone.

The DEIB Council created more initiatives for faculty, staff and students to promote diversity awareness across the University. There are also a number of student organizations for different cultures to create safe spaces for members to grow personally and professionally. These student organizations have hosted several events based on the DEIB-related goals of the University. 

Related: Celebrating Diversity in Student Organizations Like AALIGN

DEI Training Can Help an Organization Reach Its Fullest Potential

DEI extends beyond mere policy adherence; it is the foundation for creating a workplace where every team member can actively participate and contribute to their fullest potential. For HR leaders, DEI training represents a pivotal moment to guide your company toward a vibrant and inclusive future.