Diversity and Inclusion Training: Everything You Need to Know

Dec 08, 2022

by United Way NCA

In today’s workplace, diversity and inclusion training programs are more important than ever. By cultivating a more diverse and inclusive workplace, your company can embrace people from all walks of life, tap into a larger talent pool and foster a more creative and innovative environment.

Employees feel respected, valued and heard when the work culture is inclusive and supportive of diversity. This contributes to a more positive work experience for individuals and better business outcomes for the company. In addition, companies that cultivate an inclusive environment improve employee retention rates, attract top talent and boost productivity.

Why Are Diversity Training Programs Important for Companies?

In today’s workplace, employers must take diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) seriously and make it an organizational priority. Prioritizing DEI means acknowledging the long history of structural disparities in the distribution of resources that has led to both advantages and disadvantages based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and other characteristics. Left unchecked, these disparities harm underserved and underrepresented groups, who often struggle to obtain the same opportunities, pay and benefits as those who are not a part of a historically marginalized group.

Racial training for companies with diverse workforces should be considered when planning DEI strategies. Racial equity is among the most pressing social issues of our time, and companies have a responsibility to leverage diversity training programs to create lasting societal change.

Diversity training programs should address inequality both in and outside the workplace by helping employees from various backgrounds and cultures understand and empathize with the experiences of people who are different from them. Diversity training encourages meaningful relationships between people from different backgrounds and ethnicities and seeks to break down barriers to improve communication and collaboration, helping teams work more effectively.

The Goals of A Diversity Training Program 

Companies with well-developed inclusivity programs gain an edge over the competition by being better positioned to reflect the demographics of the customers and communities they serve. They also benefit from the following:

Increased Engagement

Employees aware of their employer’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive environment are more passionate about their work and motivated to contribute to the company’s success. Additionally, employees who feel included and valued are more likely to stay with the company and recommend it to others, leading to better business outcomes.

Increased Team Efficiency

Most employers want their workplace to be a safe, comfortable environment for their employees. However, tensions around race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or other factors can contribute to decreased productivity and teamwork. Diversity training programs increase the likelihood that employees will work together efficiently by teaching them to appreciate and respect their differences and communicate effectively with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Improved Company Reputation

Companies that offer diversity training to their employees enjoy a positive boost to their reputation. By educating their employees on diversity issues, they send a strong message that they are committed to creating a fair and inclusive workplace and a more just society. In addition, these efforts assist with recruiting talent and improve customer and client satisfaction.

Innovative Problem Solving

A diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives and experiences to the table, which is a powerful tool for finding innovative solutions. By tapping into the creativity of all employees, companies can stay ahead of the curve and better adapt to change.

How to Implement Diversity Training at Your Workplace

Diversity training can have a profound and lasting positive impact on an organization, but research indicates that these effects tend to decay without regular reinforcement. Therefore, companies must commit to their DEI goals on an ongoing basis and recognize that a one-off workshop won’t be enough to create lasting change. Initial training should take place over an extended period and be accompanied by (and followed up with) additional diversity initiatives focused on understanding bias and developing skills to curb its impact on behavior. 

DEI issues are nuanced, complex and ever-changing. Companies must be flexible, adapt their programs as new challenges arise and set aside enough time to explore and unpack these issues in depth. 

Start with Leadership

Inclusivity and sensitivity to racial and cultural bias are hallmarks of strong leadership. Company leaders should be actively involved in the diversity training process from start to finish. Leaders play a fundamental role in setting the tone for workplace culture and shaping employee attitudes and beliefs. Leadership must take ownership of the program and be willing to have their own assumptions and beliefs challenged. They must be open to feedback, self-reflection and accountability for their words and actions if they want employees to feel safe doing the same.

Leaders should also ensure that the company’s commitment to DEI carries over to all aspects of the business, from recruitment and promotion practices to evaluating performance.

Have Clear Goals

Diversity training should address the organization’s unique needs and align with its DEI goals for maximum effect. Generally speaking, the overarching goal should be an inclusive environment where employees feel they can actively identify oppressive or racist behaviors, practices or policies and know they will have company support in taking action to address them. But, achieving such an environment will look different for every company, so it’s essential to be clear about the specific goals your company hopes to achieve. 

When creating the program, it’s important to be clear about what you want employees to take away from the experience. For example, some common DEI goals for professional teams include:

  • A better understanding of their own biases
  • Fostering a more open environment for talking about DEI issues
  • Identifying and addressing oppressive behavior in the workplace culture and policies
  • Gaining skills to become better allies to marginalized groups
  • Understanding how microaggressions reinforce systems of oppression in the workplace

Microaggressions are everyday slights, insults or verbal, nonverbal or environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based on their marginalized group membership.

Include the Entire Team 

It’s not enough to train only managers or those in leadership positions. Including everyone in the DEI training process is essential for creating a cohesive and supportive workplace culture. Ensure the training program is mandatory for all employees and that the program materials and activities are engaging and relevant for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but some standard methods for making training more inclusive include:

  • Using a mix of interactive activities, videos and lectures
  • Encouraging employee participation through group work and discussions
  • Making sure the program material is relevant to a wide range of experiences
  • Providing opportunities for employees to give feedback and suggest improvements

Practice Patience & Revisit Often

Creating an inclusive workplace culture is an undertaking that requires time, patience and a lot of practice. It’s important to remember that employees come from all different backgrounds and may have had very different experiences with DEI issues. As such, it will take time for everyone to develop a shared understanding of these issues and how they impact the workplace.

One way to ensure that employees put the training into practice is to provide daily opportunities to discuss what they’ve learned. In addition, revisiting the material regularly helps ensure that employees retain what they’ve learned and can apply it in their day-to-day lives.

Get Started with Diversity and Inclusion Training Today!

In today’s workplace culture, top talent wants to work for companies committed to creating and maintaining diverse, inclusive environments. The best way your company can demonstrate a commitment to DEI is to provide employee training to help workers understand these issues and how to address them.

It’s important to remember that creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing process. The most important thing is to be clear about your goals and create a training program that meets your organization’s specific needs.

Check out the United Way of the National Capital Area’s website for a wealth of resources and information on DEI topics, like this DEI quiz. We encourage you to explore these materials and incorporate them into your workplace culture. The more we learn about diversity, equity and inclusion issues, the better equipped we are to address them and make positive changes to improve employees’ lives.

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