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Diversity Training: How To Make It Meaningful & Impactful

Diversity and inclusion training has been a staple at organizations for years. Whether it’s an old VHS tape that is shown once a year or a full day of open conversations and privilege exercises, business leaders know that it’s essential to build a culture of inclusion. But do diversity training programs translate into true culture change?

In this article, we will review how to make your diversity initiative actionable, how to cascade your diversity goals throughout your organization, and how to strengthen the drive for behavior change.

What is Diversity Training?

In case you didn’t get the chance to catch the 55th rerun of the diversity training VHS, let’s talk about the basics.

Diversity training addresses the differences that we face as humans and how we can work together to understand, accept, and value the differences between people in the workplace. These differences can include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Ethnicity
  • Language
  • Nationality
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Socio-economic Status
  • Age
  • Physical and Mental Ability

In 2020, diversity and inclusion training shouldn’t just be limited to a one-day training session; it should be a cultural practice within your organization that’s supported through your employees, policies, and culture.

How To Develop an Actionable Diversity Initiative

When approaching a tough subject such as diversity and inclusion, it’s important to assess your organization’s current situation and be honest with yourself and your leadership team on changes that need to be made. Then use your assessment to create actionable diversity goals and metrics.

Read More: What is Cultural Competence & How is it Measured?

Keep in mind all levels of your organization, and ask yourself:

  • What does this mean to my different teams?
  • How can they connect to it?
  • Can they relate to it?
  • How can I hold my leaders accountable for it?

The key to an actionable diversity initiative is accountability at every level. When you participate in leadership training or operations training, you’re expected to walk away and improve your team or your process in a positive, measurable way – why not apply the same expectations with diversity training?

Apply some accountability by tracking metrics within your organization. Different departments of the organization will have different metrics; HR may have metrics around hiring while sales may have something about pay scales.

Success metrics for diversity training can include:

  • Employee morale and turnover
  • Percentage of employees from diverse groups compared with industry benchmarks
  • Compare pay rates and promotions earned by individuals from diverse groups to those who are not members of a diverse group.

What is the Cascade Method for Training?

Traditional training methods include a common practice to introduce the idea, explain the idea, and then practice the idea. This sequence for learning may not be as effective for a culture change when it comes to diversity training.

Meaningful diversity training has to start with sincere conversations and open dialogue. The best results come from setting the stage for authentic conversations by having the discussion peer-to-peer. When you facilitate a discussion, employees have the opportunity to engage with each other and create room for a more honest conversation.

A great way to get to this peer-to-peer interaction is to train your leaders on how to facilitate meaningful conversations and build accountability to ensure that the dialogue happens. This Cascade Training Method to workplace development starts at the top of the organization and engages leaders at every level.

To use this approach, the organization’s senior leadership team develops a broad set of diversity goals. Once the overall diversity goals are developed, each member of the senior leadership team meets with their management teams to develop actionable goals for their department and strategies to achieve them. Those managers then meet with their front line leadership to develop implementation plans for each team.

For the initiative to be successful, there must be engagement and commitment across the organization. One key factor is to make sure that the conversations at each level are a combination of planning an honest dialogue that focuses on constructive discussions about the future, not destructive accusations and retaliations to those accusations.

Cascade Method for Diversity Training

You and your team will need a more thoughtful and measurable approach when using this Cascade Training Method. You’ll need to separate traditional awareness building, with skill development and goal setting. Let’s take a look at an example of cascade diversity training:

  • Tier 1: Top Level Leadership – True change and training need to start at the top. Start with developing a high-level initiative and overall organizational policies and goals through workshops, working with a Diversity and Inclusion Professional, or by conducting an internal census and identifying areas of concern. This can mean normalizing flex time, using technology and behavioral science to reduce bias in performance evaluations, or more.
  • Tier 2: Management Team – Managers with differentiated departments will need to develop strategies that apply to their teams. These strategies will include accountability through action items that support the overall organizational goals. This can mean targeting training to different audiences, re-engineering hiring practices, or more.
  • Tier 3: Frontline Management – When communicating with your associates, focus on ‘what does it mean to me and you?’ This is where you will have open communication among peers, focusing on concrete action rather than prohibitive language.

What Happens After Diversity Training?

You document your diversity initiative, your management develops strategies for their teams, and your associates have had peer-to-peer conversations. Great!

……Wait, you’re not done yet!

If you want the training to stick, if you want to make changes to your organization’s culture, you have to keep diversity at the forefront. Here are a few ideas to keep strengthening your diversity training:

  • Create a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to help guide decisions within your organization.
  • Keep monitoring your metrics and looking for areas to improve.
  • Participate in community outreach and development.
  • Develop and present your goals, metrics, and outcomes regularly (quarterly, or yearly).
  • Hire or work with a Diversity and Inclusion Professional

Is Diversity and Inclusion Part of Your Organization’s Culture?

There are so many ways to facilitate a diversity training program. Whether you purchase a program, hire a facilitator, or build something in-house, we recommend taking a thoughtful approach to setting your goals, disseminating information, and measuring results. At Roundtable Learning, we can work together to build a program that utilizes impactful instructional design and the latest technology to ensure the best results. Contact us today for a virtual demo or consultation.

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