Creating and delivering diversity and inclusion (D&I) training programs is a great way to address prejudices and biases within the workplace. What is a diversity and inclusion training program? As the name suggests, it is a professional training program designed to encourage positive interpersonal and intergroup interactions and reduce bias, prejudice and discrimination. Such training enables greater understanding, collaboration and empathy amongst employees cutting across all divides of culture, education, gender, religion, race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, and physical and mental disability. Diversity and inclusion at the workplace is more than just being politically correct. It is how people embrace differences and consider all inputs and perspectives of all colleagues regardless of their background, beliefs and orientation.

Diversity and inclusion training can have several benefits for an organization. Firstly, it helps to promote a conducive work environment and provide a level playing field to all employees regardless of their background and gender. Secondly, it promotes greater acceptance and empathy amongst colleagues and thus, supports teamwork. Employees learn to recognize and be tolerant of differences between each other. Finally, diversity and inclusion supports harmony and prevents civil rights violations.

Also Read: Diversity & Inclusion – 5 Steps For Building An Inclusive Workplace

While several organizations have taken steps for diversity and inclusion, they still struggle to overcome the biases that limit harmonious interactions between the staff.  With inclusion and diversity, organizations can also reap financial differences as brought to light by a research by McKinsey & Co., which found that diverse workforces are 35% more likely to have above-average profit margins than companies with more homogenous employee bases. A well-designed diversity and inclusion program can boost employee morale, drive customer satisfaction and improve the bottom-line. Such a program will promote employee collaboration, improve interpersonal skills and empower the under-represented.

Here in this article we discuss how to deliver an effective diversity and inclusion training program and create a welcoming workplace that respects and values differences.

1. Define Your Diversity And Inclusion Training

To create a diversity and inclusion program for your organization, the first step is to develop a clear definition of what it would entail. Develop a draft that targets all employees and addresses a range of issues, both general in nature and specific to your workplace. Effective training goes beyond just encouraging employees to shed or tolerate their differences, rather the goal should be to promote harmony and mutual respect, and teach them to embrace differences and diverse perspectives. While some biases will be specific to your area of operations, your training program should address discrimination and prejudice based on factors such as gender, religion, ethnicity, race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic status.

2. Deliver Inclusion And Diversity Training Program Over An Extended Time Period

There are several studies that testify that for a diversity and inclusion program to be successful, it has to be delivered over an extended period of time. It may be that you see the impact of the training after a few sessions; however, it is likely that employees would regress back to their original behavior before the training. What the training aims to change is behavior that is generally deeply ingrained in the psyche. In fact, managers have to be able to observe and respond to any signs of behaviors and attitudes among employees that contradict an inclusive environment. So, for the training to be effective, the message has to be reinforced regularly to make it long term and sustainable. Diversity and inclusion should therefore be an integral part of a company’s culture. Such training does not have to be limited to workshops held at regular intervals. Rather an inclusive culture can also be promoted through mentoring opportunities, events, celebrations, and other experiences to reinforce and build on an inclusive environment.

3. Customize Your Diversity And Inclusion Training

There is no one size fit all approach to an inclusion and diversity training program. Each organization has to look inwards, introspect, conduct some fact-finding initiatives and identify any unresolved conflicts and issues that their employees face.

Customize your diversity and inclusion training program based on your unique objectives and challenges. For a detached assessment, you may also consider external help to guide you with data collection and analysis. Outside experts can give you a fresh perspective in helping you identify prejudices and biases specific to your work environment. Once you have this data in hand, you can set the goals and objectives of your diversity and inclusion training. With tailored data in hand, you can leverage real-life examples that your employees can relate to. So if the training is personalized, chances of long-term impact become stronger.

4. Follow An Integrated Approach

Like any other form of learning, diversity and inclusion training evokes greater response when it includes several methods of instruction such as discussions, reality-based scenarios and role-playing exercises, mentoring, networking and lectures. Besides, such programs should also be integrated with sessions on company culture, employee satisfaction and retention, and career development. The training should also be included in employee onboarding. Another effective method to deliver diversity and inclusion training is through eLearning or microlearning courses since they are shorter and can serve as reinforcement to longer versions of the training. Regardless of your method of instruction or any other program you wish to integrate with, the training should be engaging, be infused into the company culture and find reflection in how employees interact with each other on a daily basis.

5. Include Employees of All Levels

Diversity and inclusion should not just be limited to lower-level employees but encompass all staff regardless of their status in the company. When senior-level employees participate in such training, it reflects the commitment of the company to the issue and also acknowledges that everyone can better themselves with training. It is important to keep in mind that all humans are vulnerable to prejudices and bias whether intentional or unintentional. The goal of training is not to agree with another’s perspective but also accept that we are different and these differences should not stand in the way of any person’s ability to be part of the team and command the same respect as any other person working within or out of the organization.

In Conclusion

Diversity and inclusion training is all about promoting human values – it is about understanding that we are all vulnerable and that we all seek acceptance. The differences are not limited to our backgrounds, beliefs, or color. People may seem the same on the surface but scratch a little and the differences will appear. What we also seek is understanding, empathy and respect. Diversity and inclusion training programs help to remove bias and prejudices and bridge the gaps between people – gaps such as gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, age, and socioeconomic status. Organizations have much to benefit from such programs – for instance, a more harmonious work environment and better teamwork.  

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