Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are far from buzzwords. A majority of U.S. organizations are striving to cultivate those traits within their culture, and there’s a growing number of DE&I professionals who are ready and willing to help.
DE&I professionals can also provide a welcome boost to learning and development (L&D) teams, which companies have historically enlisted to create diversity training. With an expanding appreciation for the sensitive, multi-faceted, and complex nature of DE&I, having some experts in the fold can be incredibly helpful.
In this article, we’ll explore what DE&I professionals do, and we’ll examine how they can work with L&D to enhance your diversity training.
What is Diversity Training?
First things first: what is diversity training? This area of corporate training can take many names. You might know it as diversity and inclusion training, cultural sensitivity training, or implicit bias training.
Regardless of what you call it, you should intend for your diversity training initiatives to do one thing: address the differences that we face as humans so we can work together to understand, accept, and value the differences between people in the workplace. These differences can include:
- Sexual Orientation
- Socio-economic Status
- Physical and Mental Ability
Diversity and inclusion training shouldn’t be limited to a one-day training session. It should be a cultural practice within your organization supported through your employees, policies, and culture.
Organizations use diversity training as a tool to provide an authentic environment of belonging and opportunity for every employee.
Why is Diversity Training Important?
If you want to be a successful business now and in the future, diversity training and other efforts to advance DE&I are critical.
Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
Many have heard about the business-positive effects that diverse and inclusive organizations experience. According to McKinsey & Company, the more diverse your executive team, the better your odds of above-average financial performance. Organizations with executive teams in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to earn more than the national industry median. For ethnic diversity, that figure rises to 33%.
Diversity throughout the organization — not just among leadership — also positively affects business. 83% of millennials report feeling more engaged in their work when their company dedicates itself to DE&I.
Impact of Non-Inclusive and Inequitable Workplaces
On the other hand, organizations that don’t prioritize DE&I in the workplace are sure to see negative ramifications. Aside from lower profits, organizations that turn a blind eye to DE&I risk severe and costly employee attrition. One study projected that the tech industry incurs $16 billion in annual employee replacement costs solely because of unfair treatment.
The good news is that such a loss is preventable. That same study revealed 57% of tech workers who left a company would have remained had their previous organization developed “a more fair and inclusive culture.” The bad news is that DE&I deficiencies aren’t confined only to the tech industry.
In a 2019 survey of 1,100 U.S. employees, Glassdoor found that 61% “witnessed or experienced discrimination based on age, race, gender or LGBTQ identity in the workplace.”
- 45% said they experienced or witnessed ageism
- 42% said the same of racism
- 42% acknowledged gender discrimination
- 33% noted LGBTQ discrimination
Employers across all industries need robust and effective DE&I initiatives. A key takeaway from such data is that sheer diversity — and what often passes as diversity training — isn’t enough. Fortunately, DE&I professionals can assist.
What Do DE&I Professionals Do?
Like diversity training, DE&I professionals can take many names. You might hear chief diversity officers, diversity and inclusion consultants, directors of inclusion and belonging, or diversity, equity, and inclusion directors.
Though they can operate at varying levels of seniority within organizations, all DE&I professionals seek to create a workplace that provides authentic belonging and opportunity for everyone.
On the opportunity side of the spectrum, DE&I professionals have their hand in:
- Erasing bias from companies’ hiring practices
- Eliminating any differences in pay across identity lines
- Establishing equal opportunities for career advancement
On the belonging end of things, DE&I professionals spend time:
- Implementing standards for accessibility
- Creating inclusion events, training, and coaching programs
- Developing policies that set up each worker for success
Forward-thinking organizations know that inclusion isn’t possible without equity, which is the principle of ensuring each employee has what they need to succeed.
For example, a single working parent might find a flexible work schedule more essential than other employees. Having that option available to such employees promotes inclusion.
A commitment to equity requires that organizations take a granular approach to workplace policies, enabling them to accommodate an employee’s unique disadvantages. DE&I professionals are often the architects behind equitable workplace policies.
READ MORE: Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference?
How Can DE&I Professionals Enhance Diversity Training?
Now that you have a sense of what DE&I Professionals do, let’s consider how they can improve your diversity training.
They Are Subject Matter Experts
To begin with, DE&I professionals are subject matter experts (SMEs). Developing training programs — or at least contributing to them — is an expected part of their job. They’re responsible for staying up-to-date on DE&I trends and laws, and they often perform top-to-bottom audits of organizations to see how the company can improve.
Because of those duties, they can help you set realistic and meaningful goals for your DE&I programs, and they can help measure your success. By working with DE&I experts, you follow diversity best practices and produce relevant diversity training.
They Support Non-Traditional Training
Many organizations find that traditional training methods aren’t effective when it comes to bolstering their DE&I efforts. The “introduce, explain, and practice” pattern only does so much. To achieve genuine DE&I, organizations must have authentic peer-to-peer conversations at every level. One approach to implementing such an initiative is the cascade method, which calls on senior leadership to develop the strategy and relies on everyone to execute — from the CEO down to entry-level employees. DE&I professionals can install such training and coach people in having honest and productive conversations.
They Provide Accountability
Accountability is critical to succeeding in any area of business. That’s even more true in DE&I, a complex and sensitive realm correlated with financial performance. DE&I professionals, many of whom have backgrounds in HR, often function as enforcers of initiatives and policies. They provide an additional layer of accountability that companies need for real positive change.
They Modernize Your Communications Training
DE&I professionals can modernize your communications training, turning your communications team into inclusive-language experts. They can help standardize the use of non-binary, gender-neutral pronouns like “they.” Additionally, they can determine if you need to translate materials to accommodate English as a Second Language (ESL) employees.
The purpose of an inclusive-minded communications team is to make everyone feel welcome and alienate no one. DE&I professionals can help your team reach that level, be it through using employees’ preferred pronouns or including sign language interpreters at company gatherings.
They Develop Inclusive Programming
DE&I professionals also are responsible for designing and implementing company events intended to promote diversity and inclusion. Those events include:
- Talks and panels
- Lunch and learns
Such programming can serve as dynamic support to diversity training, primarily if DE&I professionals conduct it in collaboration with L&D. Events that allow for open communication and interaction reinforce the basics and expand on them in ways that traditional diversity training struggles to do on its own.
How to Find the Best DE&I Professionals
If you’re looking to hire a chief diversity officer or are interested in partnering with a DE&I consultant, you’re on-trend. A majority of U.S. workers think their employer should do more to boost DE&I efforts, and investing in some experts is a logical first step toward doing so. The challenge becomes finding the best DE&I professionals for your organization. Here are two things to keep in mind.
Tailor Your Search to Your Most Pressing Needs
DE&I professionals can have degrees and backgrounds in a variety of fields. They may have been entrenched in DE&I from the start or have specialized in any of the following areas:
- Business operations
If you want someone to focus on compliance with diversity laws and regulations, opt for a DE&I professional with legal experience. If you’re going to retool your communications strategy to be more inclusive, seek someone who has done precisely that. If you desire a holistic transformation to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization, look for people with a breadth of experience working across departments to achieve DE&I goals.
Don’t Know Your Needs? Do an Audit
If you’re not sure what your most pressing diversity needs are, hire a DE&I consultant to conduct a thorough audit. Doing so will provide the clarity you need to take the next steps, which could entail a continued partnership with the consultant, a move toward in-house DE&I professionals, or a blend of both.
How Will You Include DE&I in Your Business?
When done strategically, diversity training and overall DE&I efforts can have a massively positive impact on business. Organizations must be proactive in addressing blind spots and cultivating an authentic environment of belonging and opportunity for all employees. We hope this article establishes those facts, and we hope it helps you understand how DE&I professionals can navigate your organization through such delicate and demanding work.
Want to learn more about DE&I professionals and successful diversity training? We’re here to answer your call and help optimize your training projects.