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Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a DEI Training Program

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Ten Thousand Coffees Team
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
October 14, 2021

If you haven’t already, now is the time to have tough conversations to improve diversity in the workplace. If you want to do this well, however, you’ll probably need outside help.

DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) trainings can be key to challenging previously held ideas about what diversity looks like at your organization, with sessions featuring training on unconscious bias, how to be an ally, or introducing new concepts, such as microaggressions.

It’s important for business leaders to understand that DEI training programs are not a cure-all for internal problems and aren’t the only way to promote inclusive work environments. Diversity workshops and trainings can be a helpful jumping off point for your company’s overall diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, but only if the program is high quality and suited to your organization’s specific needs.


Is the program facilitator looking at your diversity, equity, and inclusion data before the training?

Any good DEI training should be tailored to your organization’s needs rather than taking a generic approach. Broad trainings on the importance of diverse workplaces or implicit bias trainings aren’t effective ways at getting to the core of a company’s pitfalls. Whats more, DEI lessons are less likely to make an impact when they’re not tied to hard data.

If your company is looking to make serious changes, the best place to start is by examining your own diversity and inclusion data. Data can tell the story of your organization and the people who work there. For example, you can look to your data to tell you how many people of color get promotions or how many women serve on your executive board. Your goal in the analysis should be to understand how underrepresented groups are hired and supported when working at your organization.

Some of the key metrics successful companies look at include:

  • Hiring and promotions across all Equal Employment Opportunity categories
  • Total workforce composition as compared to leadership composition
  • Current compensation and compensation history by demographic group
  • Tenure and retention risk
  • Leavers by demographic group
  • Internal mobility by demographic group
  • Diversity in hiring vs. diversity in recruiting
  • Access to and usage of benefits (such as health benefits, wellness stipends, phone reimbursements, etc.)

(Source: Data And Diversity: How Numbers Could Ensure There’s A Genuine Change For The Better)

Once you have this data, the facilitator should thoroughly learn it. An informed facilitator will get buy in from your employees, and will be able to point out your organizational weak spots and as well as the areas for improvement.

Does the DEI training program fit the needs of your hybrid or remote workforce?

This is perhaps the most difficult challenge of finding an appropriate DEI training in the post-COVID-19 work environment. You are asking program facilitators to deliver critical, sensitive information and spark discussion over video calls or in person with limitations like social distancing. You will need to examine the facilitators’ curriculum carefully to see what modes of teaching they are using, how they are promoting thoughtful discussion, and if they can offer success stories that validates their approach.

Leaders in the DEI space shared with Forbes how they are approaching virtual inclusion training. Some of the key takeaways include using digital breakout rooms for small group discussion, enabling chat and polling for engagement during sessions, and leveraging blended learning, which includes readings before the session takes place. Self-guided learning can also help facilitate team discussion.

Is the program accessible?

If you’re a company looking to make your workplace more inclusive, you must also consider people with physical and cognitive disabilities in your trainings, in addition to your day-to-day work processes.

Start your push to make seminars more accessible by gathering accommodation requests early, and discussing them well before the event takes place. You should also make arrangements for closed captions to be featured during the live session, and recordings for people to go back and rewatch it. This ensures that employees have the tools necessary to succeed during the training.

Here are other tips to creating inclusive training from FMP Consulting:

  • - Become knowledgeable about the platform’s accessibility features
  • - Communicate with any interpreters or captioners, and participants with disabilities in advance of the training
  • - Have a backup plan
  • - Make training materials available ahead of time

(Source: Six Tips to Create Accessible Virtual Training)

Does the facilitator, along with your organization, create a safe space that enables difficult conversations?

Facilitators need to establish ground rules for participating in the discussion so that people from underrepresented backgrounds feel comfortable and everyone is treated with respect. Taking the time to interview and understand different facilitators’ approaches to how they will run the sessions is key to supporting a successful training. Good facilitation includes goal setting at the start of the session and active moderation of debate.

Generally speaking, people don’t feel comfortable talking about race at work. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management found “that employees’ fear of saying the wrong thing often prevents them from having honest conversations about race relations, especially with people of other backgrounds.” Reversing this trend starts with facilitating open and honest conversations during company training sessions. Then, senior leaders and HR professionals must work to create a culture of trust by valuing the comments and concerns of people from underrepresented groups.

One of the most successful types of diversity training asks people to empathize with others’ lived experiences. Harvard Business Review ran an experiment with college students in which they were asked to write a paragraph about the challenges someone from an underrepresented background might face. They found that this can be effective at changing attitudes and behaviors, even eight months after the training.

Does it make people uncomfortable?

Yes, as we said above, diversity training needs to be a place where people are treated with respect and care. But being uncomfortable, especially for white folks, is a part of learning about the way underrepresented groups have been mistreated in the workplace and throughout history. If your training is meaningful, it will force groups who traditionally find success in corporate workplaces, like white people or men, to confront difficult truths about the privilege they experience.

DEI trainer Lynne Maureen Hurdle notes in an article for Psychology Today, “If It’s Comfortable, It Ain’t Diversity Training,” that we live in a culture that often refuses to reflect on itself and its history. It’s a major part of the work to interrupt and disrupt this culture.



“Systems and institutions designed to discriminate against, exclude and perpetuate stereotypes and hatred cannot be broken and dismantled by being afraid of the discomfort that comes with talking about them and learning their effects,” she writes. “Ultimately, these systems affect and hurt all of us (though not equally) and intentionally blind us to the pain of oppressed groups outside of our own, making the work even more complex and difficult.”


Will employees walk away with actionable goals or just food for thought?

Employees and leaders should walk away from the training with an action plan. After your organization has taken the time to examine its data and think about what needs to change, part of your training should include a path forward with clear goals. Maybe you draft them as a part of the training, or maybe senior leaders huddle with the facilitator afterward to plot an appropriate course of action.

“Without goals, your company could be floating around in the nebulous cloud of ‘needs improvement’ without a real idea of what needs to change,” one DEI expert cautions.

The goals created could include specific, measurable outcomes, such as hiring more LGBTQ+ employees, but they could also be actions, like creating employee resource groups (ERGs) that offer safe spaces for people like minority groups at work. Initiatives like ERGs help your company harness the learnings during DEI training to create meaningful change.


DEI training is where building an equitable workplace begins, not ends

It’s critical to thoroughly vet your DEI training program options and choose the one that best suits your company’s needs. DEI training can be an effective tool to start conversations about the exclusion and the discrimination of underrepresented groups in the workplace, but it’s important to remember that this is just the start of creating a more inclusive environment. Training is meant to be a part of your overall DEI strategy, alongside other initiatives meant to improve the working conditions for underrepresented people.

Get in touch with our team to see how you can continue the conversation.

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