Editor's Note: This piece was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated.

Keys to success include starting with a needs assessment and customizing training based on your needs and goals. 

Key Takeaways

  • Workplace diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) provide many business benefits.
  • But training is essential to achieve those benefits.
  • Taytiana Welch-McClure, Indeed’s DEIB+ education manager, shares five keys to a successful DEIB training program.

A dedication to workplace diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) is not only the right thing, it also offers many business benefits that include enhanced creativity and productivity and increased employee retention. And it can improve your employer brand by welcoming diverse candidates. 

Like any organization-wide initiative, training is essential to success. So how do you create an effective DEIB training program? To learn more, we spoke with Taytiana Welch-McClure, Indeed’s DEIB+ education manager. 

1. Conduct a needs assessment.

Start by conducting a needs assessment to establish your organization’s specific diversity and inclusion training challenges and opportunities.

Welch-McClure says it’s important to reflect on the reasons you’re creating the program in the first place: What organizational changes do you want to see? Are you creating this training program because of a specific incident that occurred? Or are there broader systemic barriers that need to be addressed?

To answer these questions, you’ll need to collect feedback from your staff and examine your diversity data. Provide a variety of options for employees to share candid input — such as group discussions and confidential surveys — to better understand how diversity, inclusion and belonging manifest within your organization.

This data and feedback will also be invaluable in identifying and setting measurable goals that your organization should use to align its DEIB strategy and programs.  

2. Include workers of all levels in a comprehensive DEIB strategy.

Any training program should be part of a larger strategic effort to create real change throughout the whole organization. Simply offering an online course about bias without actionable follow-up won’t change the culture. 

If your needs assessment uncovers a lack of racial diversity in your engineering department, for example, address the root of the issue. Consider broadening your source of engineering talent, implementing a rubric-based scoring system to mitigate bias in interviews and providing unconscious-bias training.

As you develop your DEIB strategy, remember that your organization, workers and applicants also exist within a context of broader systemic inequities. 

“Human rights are being eroded through anti-LGBTQ+ and gender-based policies reducing individual choice,” Welch-McClure notes. “Unfortunately, we continue to see those who are most marginalized with the least access … and safety, which includes continued race and ethnicity-based discrimination.”

While no single entity can rectify inequities at a societal level, your organization can help combat these injustices with more inclusive workplace policies. For example, direct outreach in marginalized communities can lead to recruiting more diverse talent, in addition to policies that explicitly protect workers from discrimination. 

Offering training, speaker panels and workshops on a regular basis can help to cultivate a culture of continuous learning. Employees who adopt a learning mindset can continue to deepen their understanding of the challenges marginalized communities face, while employers can demonstrate their ongoing commitment to supporting employee development while breaking down systemic barriers. 

3. Customize diversity and inclusion training based on your goals.

Once you’ve established a strategy, it’s time to align a training program with your stated goals. DEIB training should focus on interpersonal practices — like how to have difficult conversations and practice allyship — or more systemic issues like racial equity and social justice. 

Incorporate teaching methods such as interactive exercises and group discussions to engage participants and supplement in-person workshops with online courses to reinforce learning.

Welch-McClure highlights the importance of focusing on skills-based learning: “Training that’s action-based is going to yield better outcomes because people leave with concrete actions they can practice immediately.”

Increasing awareness of unconscious bias alone won’t necessarily change outcomes. But arming participants with actionable steps to mitigate bias — like scripts to initiate conversations with a coworker who shows bias in a meeting — can yield more positive, lasting effects.

4. Identify and train facilitators.

Once you know what type of training you’ll need to support your goals, how do you put it into practice? Some companies may have the resources needed to bring on and employ a full team of subject matter experts, educators and trainers in-house. 

Others will need to outsource or use a combination of internal and external education providers. In either scenario, Welch-McClure highlights the importance of first upskilling a smaller group of internal employees who may be more closely involved with your DEIB efforts (such as HR) before rolling out a training program more widely to your entire organization.

“It’s important to provide supplemental training to HR staff,” she says. “When a company begins to value DEIB, inevitably topics will surface that need to be looked at through a DEIB lens, so it's best to equip HR in advance. Employee relations issues may be more nuanced than they previously acknowledged.”

5. Communicate the importance and benefits of your training program.

After you’ve selected your facilitators and upskilled key internal employees, you’re now ready to launch your DEIB training program to your greater organization. Communicate the full value of DEIB programs in terms of the social benefits that can be realized in a more inclusive workplace and the boosts to revenue and innovation that are characteristic of a diverse workforce. When the program’s benefits are clear to everyone, you can engage a wider, larger population in the workplace. 

Consider your workplace dynamics and how you can motivate employees to participate in the training instead of simply creating a mandate to complete it. You might ask if employees would prefer recognition for completing the program or opportunities to help facilitate future DEIB training efforts.       

Additionally, measuring the program’s impact by collecting participant feedback and conducting a retrospective can better position you for sustainable, long-term success. These training programs are something you can adapt and grow over time to meet your organization’s evolving DEIB needs. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of DEIB Training

Here are some high-level considerations when setting up your workplace DEIB training.

Do:

  • Include training as part of a holistic, well-funded DEIB program that aims to change the culture. 
  • Provide training for all employees, including top- and executive-level leadership. 
  • Use a variety of teaching methods to engage participants, including lectures, group discussions, interactive exercises and individual self-reflection.
  • Think strategically about DEIB like you would any other important business goal. Establish action plans and accountability throughout the year.
  • Make a plan to measure the success of your DEIB program. Share and promote those results to demonstrate its value.

Don't:

  • Assume the issues can be fixed by education and awareness alone. Instead, provide usable, actionable insights to drive change. 
  • Place the burden of DEIB education on marginalized employees. Instead, be proactive and empower all employees to learn on their own with quality resources.
  • Use diversity and inclusion training to “check the box” for compliance or PR purposes. Instead, offer meaningful training, resources and protections for underrepresented workers.
  • Provide one-time solutions that only address the existing issues. Instead, plan for DEIB efforts to be ongoing and iterable. 
  • Take a “set it and forget it” approach. Instead, plan to analyze and show the return on investment and learnings from your DEIB efforts.

What Makes a Successful DEIB Program?

Prioritizing business efforts around diversity and inclusion training is always a worthwhile endeavor, whether you’re getting started or considering changes to your organization’s DEIB strategy. Offering a well-designed DEIB training program isn’t just a social responsibility for organizations — it’s a smart strategy for diversifying talent pools and creating sustainable impact and positive outcomes for the business. 

Remember that DEIB education is a journey, not a destination. Once you can begin to ingrain diversity, inclusion and belonging into your company culture, you can create an environment where all employees — and your business — thrive.