Category All, Best Practices What is DEI Training? DEI training supports inclusive workspaces and organizational culture. In this blog post, we’ll define what DEI training is and assess what kinds there are to equip you with the info you need to know to decide what kind is right for your organization. May 3, 2023 By Ravijojla Novakovic Introduction Lots of companies nowadays engage in some form of DEI practice with more or less success. Those that do it right see an immense return on investment, and those that don’t usually don’t have a DEI strategy in place, but rather ad hoc and one-off efforts without a sustainable impact. In the Elevating Equity, The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion report, only 32% of companies mandate any form of DEI training for employees, and only 34% offer such training to managers. Josh Bersin further finds that strategic DEI programs in a workplace improve customer satisfaction, and achieve superior business performance and results. Organizations that struggle with DEI also face legal ramifications of tolerating bias and harassment in the workplace. According to Safecall’s Whistleblowing Benchmark Report, there’s a rise in racism and harassment, and concerns relating to HR, such as unfair treatment, racism, and harassment, made up the majority (55%) of whistleblowing complaints in 2022. What is DEI Training? DEI training is an umbrella term for different types of training that target the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals of an organization. Organizations use DEI training to educate their employees on topics such as bias, microaggressions, race and ethnicity, gender, religion, cultural differences and competencies, inclusive language and communication, diverse workforce, employee rights, and so on. DEI training in itself is only one type of initiative that falls under the scope of DEI in a workplace. By including DEI training among other DEI initiatives, organizations work on creating and promoting inclusive workspaces or communities in which individuals feel respected, valued, and psychologically safe despite their differences (when it comes to gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, ableness or any other defining characteristic). The goal of DEI training in workplaces is for employees to understand the challenges that marginalized groups face, and learn how to surpass them so that everyone can thrive and cohabit in the same inclusive and equitable environment. —> Learn more on how to use performance management to foster inclusivity. Types of DEI Training Companies thrive when there’s an agreement between what they say and do. And employees are taking notice. According to Glassdoor, 3 in 4 (76%) job seekers and employees today report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Most DEI training falls under the category of soft skills; strengthening communication, empathy, leadership, negotiation, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, unconscious bias, feedback, and so on. Whether the courses seek to strengthen and support employees of historically marginalized groups, or raise awareness about the experience of various underrepresented groups at a workplace, the goal is to influence how employees behave with each other and empower people to avoid bias. In the following section, we’ll explore several different kinds of DEI training and what they focus on. 1. Unconscious bias training Unconscious biases are attitudes and beliefs that people usually are not aware of, and that influence the way an individual feels and thinks about the people around them. These beliefs subtly influence people’s actions and everyday choices, such as, for example, deciding on which employee to promote and/or recognize. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, women are 41% more likely than men to be subjected to toxic corporate culture. If women manage to break the glass ceiling and find themselves in top-level executive positions, they’re “53% more likely to experience toxicity in the workplace”. Unconscious bias training helps employees identify their unconscious or implicit biases, how bias impacts workplace dynamics, and how to mitigate the harm caused by it. Unconscious bias training includes case studies and statistics that show how bias impacts hiring, performance management and everyday interactions in a workplace, and tips on how to take action to prevent further bias. Often, this type of training will also include social awareness workshops such as social identity wheel and the cycle of socialization, or allyship training, bystander communication training, emotional intelligence training for leaders, hiring practices training for HR, and similar. GOAL: increase awareness and provide tools to counteract the negative effects of a non-inclusive culture on individual and company behavior and performance 2. Microaggressions training Microaggressions appear in various forms, from stereotypical comments, objectification of minorities or underrepresented groups, tokenism to assumptions of intellectual superiority, however, they do have one thing in common; it’s disrespectful, demeaning or offensive to a marginalized group. Microaggression training is designed to help employees identify subtle and often unintentional displays of discrimination and prejudice, and provide strategies to avoid microaggressions and respond to them. GOAL: create an inclusive environment by eliminating microaggressions with the end goal of increasing feelings of belonging and fairness in a workplace, impacting retention, turnover and productivity 3. Religious sensitivity training Religious sensitivity training helps employees and companies be more sensitive and welcoming towards people of different religious backgrounds. This type of training covers topics such as the historical and social context of different religions, similarities and differences, religious practices, important holidays, and how religious discrimination impacts individuals and companies. GOAL: By raising awareness of different religious practices in the workforce, create a more inclusive, psychologically safe and welcoming work environment that stimulates engagement, productivity and innovation. 4. LGBTQI+ Inclusion training LGBTQI+ Inclusion training helps companies support their diverse workforce, by raising awareness of discrimination and prejudice against people who identify under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, and providing strategies for creating inclusive work environments. This type of DEI training is also a good opportunity to inform employees of company policies and how they support LGBTQI+ individuals communities and individuals and encourage open discussion on topics that matter to these groups of employees. GOAL: Create a safe environment in which companies and employees thrive by increasing employees’ sense of belonging at a workplace, acceptance of diverse identities and improving communication and workplace relationships. 5. Disability inclusion training People living with a disability, also defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual”, are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the world, according to researcher Valentini Kalargyrou. According to Forbes, “at least 15% of the human population has some kind of a disability. Current CDC estimates suggest that about 61 million Americans have a physical or mental disability.” Companies that consider disability as a component of their DEI strategy understand that a diverse workforce needs accessibility, representation and equitable opportunities. Disability Inclusion Training helps companies address ableism, the set of attitudes and beliefs that discriminate against people living with disabilities, and provide support and strategies to mitigate the negative effects of ableism in the workplace. 6. Neuro-inclusion training It is estimated that 1 out of 7 people has some kind of neurodivergence. People who can mask their neurodivergence, usually choose not to disclose it as the stigma around neurodivergence is still high. 40% of neurodivergent employees said they were negatively impacted in their workplace by their condition. Neuro-inclusion training seeks to empower employers and employees to recognize discrimination against neurodiverse people in the workplace and provide strategies to avoid it. Neurodiverse training teaches that neural functioning outside the bell curve is also normal and existent in society, and talks about various talents that neurodiverse people bring to the table, and that are often overlooked. Some companies address neurodiversity within disability inclusion training, and some prefer to keep it separate, depending on whether neurodiversity is defined as a disability or not. Unfortunately, not enough companies include neurodiversity inclusion in their DEI training. According to City & Guilds, “‘just 23% of HR professionals have had specific neurodiversity training in the last 12 months”. With the knowledge gap currently present in the workplaces, it’s hardly possible to provide care and support neurodivergent employees need. GOAL: Tap into powerful talent pools of neurodivergent people by raising awareness of accessibility options and prejudice against neurodivergence. 7. Intergenerational inclusion training According to Glassdoor, “younger employees (52% of ages 18-34) are more likely than older employees (39% of ages 55+) to have witnessed or experienced ageism at work.” Ageism in a workplace, defined as discriminatory attitudes and practices relating to age, is most often not taken into consideration when planning for DEI training, and that’s a mistake. We are living in a unique time in history when altogether 4 generations work side to side; the Baby Boomers are still working (49% of Baby Boomers still do not plan to retire), while Generation Z has started populating the job market for the past few years. Stereotyping people according to their age doesn’t benefit anyone; older workers are often being considered as lacking technological competence or physical or mental ability, while younger workers are negatively stereotyped as lazy, unmotivated and spoiled. Intergenerational inclusion training seeks to bridge people’s age-related differences and teach communication skills that support age equity and inclusion of all ages in the workplace. Bonus channel: employee resource group (ERG) sessions Employee resource groups are excellent platforms for launching further DEI training opportunities; various workshops for professional development and tailored support for underrepresented professionals. For example, these could include various forms of skills-building training, such as personal branding, negotiation skills or confidence building. ERGs (communication channels) are also a space for various groups of employees to address and discuss issues that matter to them, and define the outline of actions and desired outcomes when it comes to company policies, practices and the overall status of underrepresented groups. Often the ERG representatives report to leadership, or have a direct channel of communication with HR, and Chief Diversity Officers if a company has one. Empowering ERGs with recognition The ERG is an excellent way for companies and employees to seek mutually beneficial ways of working in which each party grants the other respect and freedom to be professionals while delivering results and growing together. A best practice is to incorporate DEI efforts with employee recognition to reinforce positive behavior and reward people’s efforts to contribute to better company culture. For example, employees engaged in ERG’s and who help to engage other employees to e.g. complete courses, could be rewarded public acclaim via recognition messages and points, if a company uses a monetary recognition program, further reinforcing a positive change in company culture. Why Implement DEI Training in Your Organization? Alignment of company values internally and externally breeds positive work culture and more diversity in the workforce. However, the alignment does not happen by itself. It takes sustained effort to breed a positive culture that delivers great results. It is not enough to identify and describe values – a successful company culture requires emotional work which needs a specific set of skills (interpersonal, empathy, leadership), a values strategy, and ‘company culture stewards’ – managers, and ideally, every employee to keep the culture healthy. DEI training, with its focus on building empathy, understanding and trust, works on companies’ both cognitive and emotional cultures, as it helps to bridge the way between values as they are proclaimed, and as they are practiced and lived. To warn about the ramifications of neglecting emotional culture in a company, theorist and researcher Sigal Barsade finds that: “emotional culture influences “hard outcomes” like absenteeism and financial performance, as well as employee satisfaction, burnout and teamwork. When business leaders ignore emotional culture, they overlook a fundamental part of being human and thereby stunt the potential of their companies…” (Source: Wharton Magazine) Benefits of DEI Training Improving on company’s DEI goals brings a host of benefits: Easier to attract new candidates According to Glassdoor, “1 in 3 employees and job seekers (32%) would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce”. The upcoming generations factor in a company’s effort to DEI principles, thus the company’s bottom line is increasingly impacted by the DEI-related decisions companies make today. Additionally, according to Forbes, “employees who feel they belong are 167% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work to others.” Saving money DEI training impacts the occurrences of workplace harassment. Workplace harassment costs businesses 7.6 million dollars a year. Additionally, there is the profitability achieved by increased engagement, less money and time spent on training new candidates when turnover is high, and improved innovation and customer support due to a more diverse workforce at all levels. Increased engagement With successful DEI strategies and DEI training, companies become more inclusive and as such, engagement and productivity rise. According to Gallup, companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability. According to Forbes, “employees who feel a strong sense of belonging experience a 56% increase in job performance, and sick days decrease by 75%.” Lessened turnover Employees no longer stay where they don’t feel valued for who they are. According to Abadesi Osunsade, a DEI expert and founder of Hustle Crew, “Companies won’t want to hear this but: “If it costs me my peace, it’s too expensive” — if the workplace doesn’t value you, move on. If your leaders aren’t making the company more inclusive, move on. We live in a world where employees and team members are choosing companies that support their wider needs beyond a basic salary, and don’t get left behind.” According to Harvard Business Review, there’s a 50% lower risk of turnover among employees who have a strong sense of belonging. More innovation According to Deloitte, organizations with inclusive cultures are two times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be more innovative and agile, and eight times as likely to achieve better business results. Furthermore, according to Global Diversity Practice, organizations with diverse workforce spearhead industry innovation, as “diverse teams make better decisions 87 percent of the time.” Do’s and don’ts of DEI training If your company hasn’t yet established a DEI strategy, it’s high time to do it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind prior to designing a DEI plan for your organization. Do’s: Incorporate DEI into your Learning and & Development or skills strategy (so that every new employee gets obligatory DEI training) View DEI as a long-term strategy Set KPIs and measure how your activities perform Align the company’s internal and external messaging and actions Make sure leadership fully supports DEI efforts Support diverse peers and recognize DEI efforts in a company with a Recognition and Rewards program Survey your employees to get answers on expectations and progress made Communicate your company goals, and align all employees Encourage open discussions and create a safe space for dialogue Incorporate DEI into all your business practices, especially recruiting and promoting Language matters – consult inclusive language guides or create company’s own Don’ts: Treat DEI as a one-off activity, or a box to tick Focus on DEI only during milestone moments such as International Women’s Day, Pride or Black History Month Expect that hiring for diversity only will automatically create an inclusive environment. Run disability simulations Conclusion DEI training is designed to help companies target structural inequalities in a workplace and achieve a more positive company culture that values equity, diversity and inclusion – with the goal to increase organizational health and business outcomes. The surge of DEI initiatives in the past couple of years have yielded positive results, with companies improving their DEI metrics. While that’s great news, despite the recent progress, the layoffs due to the recession are showing that marginalized groups are the first to suffer the blow. Alongside that, companies started changing their strategy around DEI programs, cutting DEI positions at a faster pace than non-DEI roles. However, that does not mean that a company’s dedication to DEI values needs to end, just that DEI programs will be handled by other corporate entities, HR, ERGs, the leadership, and external DEI training providers and consultants. There are concrete benefits to running DEI training in a company, when the training is part of a larger plan. The long-term vision of a DEI strategy imagines an inclusive culture that thrives because the employees are encouraged to share their best work, and they don’t withhold ideas because they feel they belong. Here, employee recognition can be an extremely powerful tool to elevate DEI efforts on another level, and it can be tied into training in numerous ways.