How To Successfully Implement a Diversity and Inclusion Training Function

Recent research indicates that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) training is a core element of running a successful and growing business. Discover how to successfully implement a D&I training function – a powerful tool for maximising your organisation’s and your employees’ potential for maintaining long-term success.

As the dust of entering a new decade begins to settle, it’s worthwhile to explore how your organisation conceives of diversity. Many businesses shout their dedication to diversity from the rooftops but lack the tools, training, and information to make their strategies into a reality.

Diversity, however, is just one part of the puzzle. Inclusive workplace cultures that promote diversity and inclusion boast better employee engagement, employee satisfaction, productivity metrics, and sharper competitive advantages overall.

But how do those businesses get there? Unfortunately, there isn’t a D&I fairy that will come to solve all your organisational challenges. Implementing a strategic D&I training function, however, will put your organisation on track to engage with employees beyond superficiality and arm you with the right tools to maximize your employees’ and your organisation’s potential for long-term success.

According to the 2019 L&D report companies that have seen growth over the past year are 72% more likely to have high diversity in their organisations compared to companies that didn’t see growth. Furthermore, the report also found that 72% of companies currently offering D&I training saw an increase in profits Year-on-Year.

Managing a diverse and inclusive workplace is a reflection of the contemporary labour market. Driving diversity in the workplace is an important strategy to reduce discriminatory practices that pervade organisations across industries. Implementing a D&I training function is fundamentally better for business.

Conversations with practising training professionals indicate innovative ways that organisations are improving their diversity and inclusion practices. Read on to discover how you can implement a successful D&I training function.

Practise radical inclusion

As a business owner or HR professional, engaging with diversity in a meaningful way requires moving away from the traditional mandatory D&I “unit” within employees’ general training. Thinking outside the box will help you integrate a consciousness around D&I into employees’ daily responsibilities at work.

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At the corporate investment and innovation firm BCG Digital Ventures, learning and development specialist Max Avruch has developed a D&I training programme that moves past lip-service training and reminds employees of the importance of D&I on a daily basis. Avruch describes his programme as practising ‘radical inclusion.’

“So many companies hold off on D&I training until they get bigger, but by then, the culture already starts forming,” explains Avruch. More formal development opportunities still form the core of BCG DV’s overall D&I training function – the entirety of the organisation’s upper management team receives unconscious bias training.

Unconscious bias training is of the utmost importance for managers in charge of talent recruitment. By recognising unconscious biases within the recruitment process, talent managers can critically analyse and rectify biased decision making which makes a critical impact on driving diversity from within the organisation.

Blend formal and informal training

To complement their formal training initiatives, BCG DV offers its employees a wide variety of informal training opportunities such as lunch-time learning programmes, and employee resource groups for employees with shared identities to share and compare their experiences in and outside the workplace.

The mix of formal and informal training initiatives form the basis of radical inclusion’s success. Taking their dedication to D&I training even one step further, BCG DV put D&I on the walls of their stalls.

In a recent celebration of Pride Month, the organisation placed Kinsey scales on stall walls of all their company toilets and invited employees to anonymously mark their place on the scale. “It was a way for us to show diversity on our walls and to show people there is a spectrum around orientation,” says Avruch.

Engaging with D&I isn’t as intimidating as many make it out to be. If this is your first foray into D&I, start small and work your way up. Some engagement is better than no engagement, and once you get the ball rolling, employees will naturally engage with the inclusive training material you put forward, no matter how you present it.

Shift your workplace culture to focus on D&I

Having placed D&I front and centre in employees’ minds, what else is required to successfully implement a D&I training function? Evaluate your existing workplace culture, and determine any changes you could implement to make your workplace culture more inclusive.

By shifting towards D&I-focused workplace culture, you’ll ensure that all employees feel engaged and included in training endeavours, and in workplace culture overall.

A whopping 35% of women have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace. Small initiatives like those taken at BCG DV help to normalise the core concepts of D&I into your workplace culture, in order to avoid biased and discriminatory behaviour. Training employees conscientiously will help make your cultural shift towards D&I even more pronounced.

Diversity Inclusiveness D&I training

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But what does conscientious training look like?

At Bonobos, the first digitally native vertical brand acquired by Walmart in 2017, creating a safe space in the training environment proved to have an effective impact on their workplace culture.

By making employees’ ability to voice their opinions an explicit practice in the training environment, they take that same mindset into their day-to-day responsibilities, especially when approaching diversity and inclusion-related issues.

One core aspect of Bonobos’ training strategy is cultivating a training programme that focuses on employees’ individual strengths. According to the Director of Employee Experience at Bonobos Tiffany Poppa, “Focusing on strengths creates trust; it creates a safe space to try something and possibly fail, have a conversation about it, and move forward.”

If you’re brand new to D&I, starting the conversation can be a daunting undertaking. By following Bonobos’ example and designating the training room an explicitly safe space, there is room for employees to engage with potentially difficult conversations, make mistakes and learn from them.

From implementation, to engagement, to organic growth

While D&I is an extremely specific training area, designating the training environment as a safe space will help employees develop their emotional intelligence, and contribute towards making your workplace culture more inclusive overall.

Soft skills development will help employees lead the way and set an example for other employees, creating an organic growth of your burgeoning inclusive workplace culture over time.

Engagement with employees at this level is a task that requires careful planning and strategy. Taking the time to execute correctly, however, can have a major impact on the way employees’ experience corporate culture, and their motivation to make meaningful contributions to your business.

Keeping employees happy and engaged has a proven impact on incoming revenue. Reports have indicated that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees, and sales increase by 37% when employees are happy!

Approach D&I comprehensively & on an organisational level

You’ve learned about strategies to raise conscientiousness surrounding D&I, and how to make changes to your workplace culture in order to make it more inclusive. To ensure your implementation of D&I truly successful, you should conceive of D&I training with a comprehensive strategy in mind.

A quality D&I training function is built in the same way as any other top-tier training programme – it should be multi-pronged, involve more than one method of delivery, and be developed over time.

Employing the aforementioned strategies will help you make informed evaluations and changes to how your organisation approaches diversity over a longer period. Well-informed decisions see better long-term success.

At the Association of Junior Leagues International, analysing their approach to D&I training from an organisational standpoint brought them new perspectives on the effectiveness of comprehensive D&I training, with a more meaningful impact.

“It is true that a single training or resource cannot solve prejudice,” says Janine le Sueur, the VP of Programs. “We are taking an organisational approach rather than individual learning, meaning both our resource and training are designed to help Junior League leaders take intentional, systemic action to make D&I central to all aspects of their Leagues.”

Investing for the long term

While systematic approaches prove to be the most valuable, budget resources are inescapable when it comes to implementing a meaningful D&I training programme. As a cost-based function, training is often up on the chopping block when companies are looking for line items that can be removed without hurting the core of operations. That mindset, however, will only bring you short-term relief.

Director of Learning and Development at the home assistance provider HomeServe explained to that a more long-term approach to training produces the best comprehensive results.

“The more you invest in it [training] upfront, the longer term the benefits will be,” says Edwards. I’ve been in a company where […] we didn’t invest in leadership or people development, and you saw the company unfold in front of your eyes. Even when the going gets tough, if you’re willing to invest in the right types of development, for the right people, you will get your return on investment in many ways.”

In Summary

Successfully implementing a D&I training function requires much more than having the right intentions. As the experiences of training professionals across industries have indicated, well-planned strategy and innovative thinking are key aspects of implementing D&I training and making changes stick over the long-term.

Starting small and thinking outside the box will help you start the potentially difficult journey. Complementing small training initiatives with more formal unconscious bias training can produce changes in the talent recruitment process, helping you drive diversity from the bottom up.

Making changes to your workplace culture by designating training environments as safe spaces will help inclusivity flow naturally from the training room to the office floor. Finally, by approaching your implementation strategy comprehensively, you’ll make fundamental changes on an infrastructural level – ensuring that what employees learn through your D&I training function will create meaningful changes.

It can be difficult to see why a D&I training function is an important aspect of maintaining your business’ success. But by avoiding short-sightedness and investing in D&I training over the long-term, you’ll see the impact of implementing a successful D&I training function unfold before your very eyes.


About the Author

Max Maccarone is a content editor for the professional development search engine A Canadian based in Stockholm, Max is dedicated to creating diverse and engaging content for a wide range of publications.

Team 6Q

Team 6Q