June 28, 2022

Use Training to Help Achieve Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices

Use Training to Help Achieve Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices featured image

Workplaces today are making efforts to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive — at least, the best workplaces are. Businesses are realizing these efforts don’t just represent a morally sound way to operate, but also help retention, hiring and morale.

In today’s employee-driven market, applicants hold more power in light of the Great Resignation and high turnover. Leaders can make their businesses stand out as top draws by showing they are truly committed to building a welcoming company culture. Even as workforces take on new remote and hybrid forms, workplace culture should still be a major consideration.

Yet companies aren’t automatically diverse, equal and inclusive. It takes effort to create a better workplace, including support from all levels of management and training programs.

The State of Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Creating more diverse workplaces is often an incomplete, piecemeal effort. Some businesses have become leading lights in recent years and been rewarded with enhanced performance, whereas others have continually lagged behind.

Forbes contributor Janice Gassam Asare states despite a verbal commitment to inclusiveness, many companies have not improved their ability to connect with employee groups who have been historically underrepresented in their fields. These businesses haven’t made major structural changes around the ways they hire and retain staff, which is holding them back from greater gains.

As Financial Management notes, educated employees under 35 are expected to use their personal values to determine whether to work for a business. This means organizations failing to establish welcoming, inclusive work environments may find they don’t appeal to top candidates.

McKinsey & Company breaks down businesses into categories based on what level of progress they’ve made with diversity, equity and inclusion, specifically when it comes to executives. The study found a range of results, both in terms of how seriously companies take diversity and how they’re performing.

At companies in McKinsey’s “laggard” survey category, executive leadership teams became less diverse between 2014 and 2019. With just 8% of executive roles held by women and no leaders from minority ethnic groups, these lagging organizations tended to be less profitable than their industry norms, by an average of 40%.

As for what could help companies break out of neutral or lagging categories and take their place among higher-performing, more inclusive organizations, McKinsey reveals leading organizations tend to be bold about implementing changes. This means providing advancement opportunities for underrepresented group employees, building accountability, stating clear support for diversity and becoming highly transparent, among other practices.

Diversity Initiatives and Their Impact on Workplace Culture

Once organizational leaders have acknowledged the value of creating a more inclusive workplace and stated their intent to do so, it’s time for action. Implementing diversity initiatives can take several forms depending on businesses’ industries, sizes and current levels of representation and inclusion.

Sometimes, the most consequential step a company can take to improve its diversity, equity and inclusion is to become more serious about practices and policies it already has, at least in name. Fast Company points out businesses have spent recent years pledging to be more socially conscious and using this to bolster their brand. Solidifying pledges into real, actionable policies with full management support is a good start.

As for the substance of those diversity policies, improvement flows from hiring and talent evaluation. Fast Company adds leaders should rethink the way they value traits such as lived employee experience and creative thinking. If using a traditional talent-assessment mindset based on a limited set of criteria is keeping organizations homogenous, it can be time to make a change, bring in employees from diverse backgrounds and let a new workplace culture take shape.

When considering what separates a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization from a lagging business, opportunity is the key word. Is a business ready to give workers from diverse backgrounds the chance to start a career and, nearly as importantly, advance up the corporate ladder? Will leaders welcome input from different voices? Will they adjust long-standing policies if those norms are holding the business back? Will they create an organization representative of the audience they intend to serve? These questions determine the path towards a wider and more balanced spread of ideas and experiences.

Putting Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices into Action

Making sure an inclusion initiative catches on is a process that requires buy-in from every level of the company. An organization’s promises may fall flat if there is resistance within its ranks stopping a new set of values from taking root. Responsibilities span the whole corporate structure:

  • Executives have to support diversity, equity and inclusion through their public stances and their direct actions.
  • Departmental managers must support all team members and run their sections in an inclusive, fair and supportive way.
  • Human resources directors need to rethink their approaches to hiring and take feedback seriously.
  • Rank-and-file employees have to provide a welcoming, collaborative environment.

To get everyone on the same page about a new and more inclusive culture, businesses should do more than simply announce it. Specific training and employee education programs that go deep into running a more diverse workforce can help new practices take hold on a more substantive level.

Training can and should do more than simply tell employees to embrace diversity — it should give them tools to counteract the issues limiting their organization, or in some cases provide the framework to introduce and maintain inclusive measures. This may mean encouraging greater cultural awareness, teaching trainees to respect their peers, making workers aware of unconscious biases and more.

Training to Increase Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Thanks to the proliferation of digital, video-based training materials online, it’s never been easier to give consistent, affordable training sessions to existing workers and new hires. Businesses can then revamp their employee education programs with a new focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The specific courses available on these subjects span a wide range of subtopics, broken down by types of diversity, levels of management, varying workplaces and more. Some examples include:

  • Rethinking the Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion: This course is designed to help senior leaders realize that by building workplace diversity, they are materially increasing their companies’ chances of success.
  • Building a Culture of Respect: This training unit is for employees of all levels, especially managers, to incorporate concepts for a positive work environment, such as behaving ethically and championing diversity.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: This course breaks down the three terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, and gives companies actionable strategies to implement them all.

Even as businesses increasingly embrace remote and hybrid work models, such digital training courses can still reach all members of the workforce. It’s never too soon to commit to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace; with training as a major contributor to ensuring these values take hold.

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