Creating a Diversity and Inclusion Training Program

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Written By Obaid Ur Rehman

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Despite the fact that companies of all kinds have made great advances toward being more diverse and inclusive over the last several decades, many still find it difficult to get beyond the prejudices that prevent certain workers from seeing individuals who are different from them.

Implementing corporate diversity and inclusion training programmes is one method to foster more inclusive workplaces that recognise differences and offer a voice to those who are often underrepresented.

According to Katerina Bezrukova, associate professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Management and co-author of a study that examined 40 years of research on diversity training, diversity and inclusion training has the potential to positively address biases and prejudice within organisations.

According to studies by McKinsey & Co., these advantages may also result in some significant financial gains for businesses. According to the research, businesses with varied workforces are 35% more likely to have profit margins that are above average than those with more homogeneous labour bases.

Also Read: 5 Great Corporate Training and Development Certifications

According to Pamela Pujo, a diversity thought leader at Affirmity and member of the Greater Dallas Advisory Board to the Texas Diversity Council, “A well-designed [diversity and inclusion] training programme can elevate employee morale, boost customer satisfaction, and drive bottom-line business success.” Increasing cooperation, improving interpersonal skills, and enabling underrepresented groups to feel more appreciated and respected at work are all facilitated by a diversity and inclusion training programme, according to the speaker.

However, you must do the training appropriately if you want to get these fruitful results.

In a statement, Bezrukova said, “At best, it may engage and retain women and people of colour in the workplace, but at worst, it can backfire and perpetuate stereotypes.”

As Pujo said, “[diversity and inclusion] training often emphasizes individual distinctions rather than offering the necessary understanding and guidance on how to collaborate successfully.”

How to make your diversity training successful

Take into account the following advice to get the most of your diversity training and avoid some of these pitfalls:

1. Develop an understanding of diversity and inclusion training.

Creating a precise, comprehensive outline of what the programme should include is the first step in establishing a diversity and inclusion training programme for your company. While reducing prejudice and discrimination based on things like gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, physical and mental ability, and socioeconomic status, a thorough diversity and inclusion training programme offers practical ways to interact in a respectful and positive way in the workplace.

All staff should be included in diversity and inclusion training programmes, which should include a variety of topics including unconscious prejudice, microaggressions, and cross-cultural dialogue. Effective training teaches workers how to collaborate effectively while valuing other viewpoints, going beyond just urging them to accept differences.

According to Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, diversity and inclusion training programmes “should tie diversity and inclusion to the vision, mission, values, and goals of the organisation, and then move into how to value all aspects of diversity with coworkers, clients, customers, and the community at large.”

Weldon Latham, a principal with Jackson Lewis and head of the firm’s corporate diversity counselling practise group, added that “appropriate and effective diversity and inclusion training can mitigate legal risks and bolster affirmative defences, support ongoing recruitment and retention efforts, and contribute to a more productive workplace.

2. Extend and maintain diversity and inclusion training over time.

Diversity training must be given over a long period of time if it is to be as effective as feasible. In Bezrukova’s research, diversity training improved workers’ knowledge about, attitudes toward, and actions toward various groups, but with time, these benefits wore off and sentiments returned to their pre-training levels.

We discovered no evidence that long-term changes to the attitudes this training aims to modify are lasting, according to Bezrukova. These views are often powerful, emotion-driven, and connected to our personal identities. However, “people are able to recall or expand on the knowledge they received when their colleagues or even the media remind them of instances addressed in training.”

Bias-and-diversity training must be a once-a-year activity that only ticks the box for corporate compliance in order to be most effective.

“A company’s culture must include diversity awareness and attention in all areas. According to Shane Green, an organisational and corporate culture coach and author of Culture Hacker, for training to be successful, the message must be repeated often and managers must teach their staff when they see behaviours and attitudes that contradict an inclusive atmosphere (Wiley, 2017).

Develop a succession of initiatives, celebrations, events, mentorship opportunities, and other learning opportunities instead of yearly training days or one-time seminars. Integrate diversity and inclusion into your company’s culture so that it becomes the standard. By doing this, it shifts from being a yearly lecture on all the laws and regulations to more of a reward of good conduct.

According to Jonathan Coffin, senior vice president of VOX Global and co-leader of its diversity and inclusion practise group, “the most successful firms don’t perceive workshops as a one-and-done event but rather a chance to reaffirm and build on a bigger cultural commitment.” The message and the messenger are just as important as the programme.

3. Tailor diversity and inclusion training to your company.

Training on diversity and inclusion should be customised for the company delivering it.

Corporate diversity training initiatives must be built on a fundamental comprehension of each organization’s particular diversity and inclusion goals and problems, according to Latham.

Businesses can’t design their training programme in a one-size-fits-all manner in order to achieve this. Every organisation has to take the time to reflect on itself, carry out some fact-finding projects, evaluate the present business culture, and pinpoint any unsolved disputes and problems that workers may be experiencing. Information may be gathered via surveys, focus groups, and employee audits, among other methods.

Latham advised enlisting some impartial outside assistance to direct you through the data gathering and analysis.

“The organisation should do a comprehensive self-assessment before effective training can be devised and delivered,” he stated. “External experts who provide a new viewpoint, impartiality, and a determination to identify critical diversity and inclusion hurdles, without regard to’sacred cows’ or ‘but that’s the way we have always done it'” conduct the most beneficial such evaluations.

You may construct a programme for the particular requirements, history, and culture of your firm after you’ve completed your research, examined the data, and set your objectives and goals. According to Coffin, the programme material should make use of information and examples unique to your company.

Putting the effects of prejudice into a context that all of your workers can comprehend is part of building a place of understanding, he added. “For instance, rather of discussing prejudice or microaggression in the abstract, you may utilise real-life examples that your workers can connect to by using statistics or extracts from your own employee survey. The effect over time will be considerably greater if these problems turn into ones involving their friends, loved ones, or coworkers.

4. Plan an integrated approach.

Bezrukova and her colleagues found that using a variety of teaching techniques, such as lectures, debates, and exercises, made workers more receptive to diversity training. In other words, businesses should use a mixed or hybrid strategy and change how they provide the training.

Bezrukova said that diversity efforts function best when implemented in tandem with other initiatives, such as mentorship or networking clubs for minority professionals.

“Employees are more encouraged to learn about and grasp these social concerns and use it in their everyday encounters when firms show a commitment to diversity,” she added.

According to Avenue Group CEO Jeremy Greenberg, you may include diversity and inclusion training into sessions that cover business culture, employee retention and happiness, or career development. Additionally, the onboarding process for new workers should include this training into the business culture.

Both more modern delivery techniques, including gamification and mobile learning, as well as several older means, like in-person delivery, webinars, and video, are available for reaching your target audience. The objective should always be to include people as much as possible, regardless of your strategy.

According to Pujo, “quality, engaging material may benefit workers in understanding the problems.” “Reality-based scenarios and role-playing exercises (when conducted in person) should be included in the sessions to help participants grasp the ideas being discussed. During the course, interactive activities also aid in keeping participants interested.

E-learning or micro-learning courses are another way to give training on diversity and inclusion.

According to Pujo, “These are shorter courses that may be offered all year round and act as reinforcement to a longer form of training.”

5. Include workers of all levels.

Only lower-level employees should be required to attend training. Regardless of their position within the organisation, all workers may and ought to gain something from the meetings.

Senior executives must participate, too, according to Greenberg. The leadership level is when workplace diversity is least strong. For their own benefit and to demonstrate the organization’s commitment, leaders of various racial backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations must take part in any training programme.

Even if you are the CEO of your company, you must attend the diversity training just like the rest of the group. By doing this, you demonstrate to others how seriously you take this matter and that everyone can get better via training.

In order to start, Green advised individuals to acknowledge their own prejudices, some of which were straightforward and others which were more contentious. “The aim of diversity training is less about embracing another person’s viewpoint or orientation [than] about recognising that we are all different, and that differences should not stop us from minimising that person’s strengths, opportunities, or being a member of the team.”

6. Hire an expert.

Look for a professional to handle the programme if you want to provide your employees high-quality, competent training.

Although it might be tempting, Greenberg added that it is often not the best course of action to assign a team member, such as the HRO or CFO, to conduct the session. Instead, hire a person who is independent, experienced in running these particular sessions, acts as a subject-matter authority and has no institutional “baggage” since they are not an employee.

Does diversity training really work

Although diversity training has been promoted as a potent remedy for many racial and diversity-related workplace problems, others have questioned whether diversity training genuinely achieves its goals. There is evidence that diversity training might backfire by making individuals defensive, and the majority of businesses having diversity training programmes have not formally assessed their effectiveness. A programme for diversity training might fail for the following reasons:

  • Participants are expected to remove their prejudices, which is often neither feasible nor practical.
  • Businesses employ derogatory language, such as implied threats, or derogatory repercussions, such as legal action taken against the firm.
  • Making the trainings required might foster anger and hostility.
  • Trainings are used as corrective measures or as sanctions for performing below expectations.

The Harvard Business Review’s authors did their own research to look into the efficacy of diversity training. They developed a curriculum and evaluated the outcomes. These are a few of their conclusions:

  1. Because of the training, workers who previously did not support women in the workplace are now more likely to recognise gender discrimination, support policies that promote women, and admit their own prejudices.
  2. Employees who were already in favour of women did not object.
  3. Training on diversity has minimal impact on men’s or white workers’ behaviour in general.
  4. Women were encouraged to seek out mentorships as a result of the training to be more proactive in their personal career.
  5. Participants in the programme were more inclined to admit their own racial prejudices and recognize the contributions of their racial minority colleagues.

The study’s findings imply that there is no one-size-fits-all diversity training and that creating a successful programme requires a great deal of effort and planning. Concentrate on addressing the difficulties specific to your business in order to customize the training, and consider how your staff could react to the various training elements (such as making it mandatory versus voluntary, or online versus in person). Making the training specifically for each participant might greatly increase the program’s effectiveness.

How to become a diversity trainer

Make sure the applicant has the knowledge and skill set, as well as the enthusiasm and comfort level, to deal with the often complex dynamics that develop with these challenges if you are committed to investing in an inside employee to implement the diversity and inclusion programme.

A person should get expertise in multicultural and varied programmes, become knowledgeable about diversity and inclusion terms and terminologies, and learn about different instructional design and delivery techniques, according to Pujo.

You may look for mentoring programmes via organisations and networking possibilities for yourself or your possible in-house trainer. You might think about taking professional credential training to get a diversity certification to expand your toolkit and boost your knowledge. You may get numerous certifications, such as certified diversity trainer (CDT), certified diversity professional (CDP), and certified diversity executive, as well as a variety of diversity professional training programmes (CDE).

However, as Latham said, there aren’t any ideal credentials that make someone eligible to do diversity training. Sometimes, it has to do with abilities that are harder to quantify.

According to Latham, “a competent diversity trainer must have both a wide and deep understanding of the diversity challenges affecting organisations, must have a determination to address the elephants in the room, and must be an effective communicator.” A successful diversity trainer must also provide trainees useful tips they can apply to improve diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces.

Best diversity training programs

Employees and managers may learn about diversity, effective diverse recruiting and promotion processes, and how to create a genuinely inclusive workforce via a variety of training programmes. Here are a few well-liked diversity training courses that will be offered in 2020:


The “Diversity Works” training package from HRDQ comprises of a three-hour class and an interactive game. The programme, which can accommodate up to 25 participants, aims to promote meaningful dialogue among workers by assisting in their understanding of one another.

If 25 workers participate, “Diversity Works” will cost you $999, or around $40 per employee. For $500, you may purchase training refills, which are new workshop and activity materials.

Compliance Training Group

The Compliance Training Group provides staff training on a variety of subjects, including as ethics, workplace violence, and sexual harassment. Additionally, the business provides diversity and sensitivity training that is intended exclusively for managers and staff. The classes cost $30 per employee and are accessible and conducted around-the-clock.


A workplace diversity and inclusion curriculum is available via Cornell University’s online learning platform, eCornell, which is intended for managers, company owners, and HR specialists. The whole curriculum may be completed in roughly two months and is entirely online. The cost of the course is $3,600 in whole, or $950 per month for four months.

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