Does Diversity & Inclusion Training Help?

There are many types of diversity and inclusion trainings, including trainings around inclusive language, compliance laws, how to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace, and how to hire a more diverse team… You can also learn how to be a better ally and how to detect and address unconscious bias and microaggressions in the workplace. There is a breadth of options.

So does diversity and inclusion training work? Is it worth implementing at your organization? That’s the million-dollar question, and the answer is not always as obvious as you’d think.

The Benefits and Limits of Diversity & Inclusion Training

On the one hand, there’s an obvious need for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training in schools and in workplaces. Research has shown that babies can show signs of racial bias as early as six to nine months of age. We’re taught bias very young, and prejudices can get reinforced through books, TV, movies, and the other media we consume. By the time we get to our working lives, these ideas may be so deeply rooted that we may not be aware of them. Training can ask us to examine what we think we know and can start unraveling some prejudices.

DEI training can also address some of the challenges of a rapidly changing world and address some of the resistance people may feel about creating a more inclusive workplace. Let’s look at an example. In 2020, the new term BIPOC came into widespread usage, used to refer to people who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. As an essay by Meera E. Deo in the Virginia Law Review argues, the change in language happened without “a wider conversation about usage of the term—why it may be necessary to update language, how it can be a tool in anti-subordination efforts, and whether this particular term is the most effective at this particular time.”

When changes happen or when teams are expected to take part in a DEI strategy, employees can end up feeling like they don’t know what to say or do. Some may feel they “can’t” say what has always been natural language to them. Workers may feel shamed or called out if their non-inclusive actions or language is corrected.

Diversity and inclusion training addresses this by explaining the what, why, and how of DEI efforts. Teams can take part in practice and role-playing exercises to explore how they can create inclusive environments with their words and actions. They learn the background of systemic inequality and can get inspired in how they can change workplaces in the future. They can ask questions and have frank discussions that can make them more confident about what’s expected.

That said, diversity and inclusion training isn’t magic. It doesn’t address every issue and in some cases, it can fail. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for example, examined the effects of online DEI training on 10,000 employees. The results were mixed. On the one hand, white men did show more awareness of gender bias specifically. However, when asked to nominate employees for a new initiative, there was no measurable change after the training. White men did not nominate more women and white women did not nominate more junior female workers for the program. After the training, junior women at the organization did seek out more mentorship opportunities themselves. Other studies have suggested that diversity training rarely has long-term effects and mandatory training can in fact reduce diversity at organizations.

The Real Question: Does Diversity & Inclusion Training Work at Your Organization?

The big question isn’t whether diversity and inclusion training works in theory or in research. The question is whether it can work for you. Let’s look at a few ways you can increase the odds of success.

  • Make it voluntary. According to Frank Dobbin & Alexandra Kalev, writing for the Harvard Business Review, mandatory training is linked to poor outcomes. When you offer training but don’t force workers to take part, employees can engage when they’re ready.
  • Lean on data. You will have an easier time evaluating whether diversity & inclusion training is working if you measure it. Test levels of diversity before & after your training to see the impact of learning. Keep gathering metrics. Gather, analyze, & benchmark diversity & inclusion data at your company to see where you stand & where you may have hidden pain points. This data can help drive your training, leading you to the type of activities & education you need.
  • Create a culture of learning. It’s not enough to take one class together or to read one book about bias together as a company. For a DEI training program to work, it has to be an ongoing discussion. Encourage teams to ask tough questions & queries that might not be well-received. Create a “no judgment” environment to explore ideas & continue to offer training. Together, explore a range of topics, from language to the interplay between diversity and inclusion.
  • Use diversity in your training. Not everyone learns the same way. Offering video training, written resources, roundtable discussions, role-playing exercises, & other types of learning allows everyone to learn the way that’s best for them.
  • Make it personal. Engage your team through storytelling. When teams hear from workers about what it feels like to be excluded, for example, they’re asked to step into someone else’s shoes. Their sympathy is activated & they may be more likely to commit to change if they understand, viscerally, what bias can do to others.

How Diversio Can Help With Diversity & Inclusion Training

Creating compelling, engaging training from scratch can feel overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t have to develop your own training programs to succeed. Diversio is a people-first company. Diversio Academy offers virtual courses for teams and professionals. Covering allyship, unconscious bias, inclusive hiring and recruiting, DEI data collection, and workplace flexibility, these courses can be a cornerstone for creating a learning culture at your workplace.

Diversio recognizes that learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our AI-powered DEI Platform can gather, analyze, and benchmark DEI data at your company. With Metrics in hand, you can see where your training efforts might go and how effective your training and other DEI efforts are.

Find out how Diversio can help you with diversity and inclusion training and your DEI strategy. Request a demo to experience Diversio for yourself.

Diversio DEI Expert
Diversio DEI Expert
Diversio's DEI expert shares everything about diversity that you need to know.
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Head of EDI, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

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