As we march into 2021, diversity, equity, and inclusion have been at the forefront of our daily dialogue.
At the same time, millions of people have taken to the streets in cities across the globe to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s, George Floyd’s, and Breonna Taylor’s deaths.
As activists call for change, many call for change in the workplace as well.
According to a recent survey conducted by Clutch, 76% of workers in the US believe that racism and discrimination are a major issue in theworkplace, but contradictorily, 44% of respondents claim that it’s not an issue at their own workplace.
It’s our duty to do right by our employees, our teammates, our customers, and our communities.
On top of that, diverse workforces are more likely to have above-average profit margins than their less-diverse counterparts.
We need policy change and conversations in the workplace regarding race, gender, ethnicity, religion, persons with disabilities and cross-cultural diversity.
Even though many companies continue to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training can’t wait until we’re all back in the office.
Rather, companies need to adjust their training program so that it’s effective in a remote working environment.
To lead a successful virtual DEI session, you need to:
- Establish guidelines
- Focus on alignment
- Make it interactive
- Use blended learning techniques
- Bring in an expert
- Plan for the future by creating action items & collecting feedback
These ideas can help you get the conversation about diversity started in your workplace.
When having virtual discussions about DEI, the same rules apply online as if you were in person.
An effective way to ensure a positive and productive conversation is to set ground rules.
Here are some guidelines that can help create a safe environment to discuss difficult and controversial issues:
- Listen actively
- Respect others when they are talking and don’t interrupt
- Speak from your own experience
- Don’t take things personally
- Do not be afraid to ask questions
- Participate to the fullest of your ability
- Ask everyone to keep video active to stay connected, and be conscious of body language and nonverbal responses
You can also ask your team to propose additional guidelines and ask other participants if they agree with the new rule.
Focus on Alignment
To create effective change moving forward, you want your team to buy into the process. If your team is invested, they will be more likely to bring what they learn in the workshop into their day-to-day life.
Make sure your team is aligned on why you’re working on DEI, and what your short- and long-term goals are.
Before each session begins, outline what you plan to address in each session. Gauging how your team feels and what they think ahead of time can help you determine what you need to focus on.
You can host a forum or use a survey to gather insight into what your team thinks needs to be addressed.
A blanket solution is unlikely to work, so you need to tailor the solution to fit your team’s needs. Topics for discussion can include unconscious bias, microaggressions and cross-cultural communication.
Make it Interactive
Presentations need to be engaging, which can difficult online . . . but not impossible.
There are several ways to keep your team focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, so the training sticks.
Conference platforms like Zoom have several features to increase engagement and make workshops more interactive. If you determine an ideal group size, you can start with a larger group presentation, and then break into smaller breakout rooms to facilitate conversation.
To change up the structure of the workshop, you can plan activities, use polls, host panels, and plan lunch-and-learn conversations.
Other ways to keep people on their toes is to ask participants to answer questions and present ideas in a group chat. This way, everyone’s voice is heard.
Use Blended Learning Techniques
Providing your team with pre-workshop readings, courses, and surveys gives your team the vocabulary and background information that can help facilitate discussion.
Sites like Culture Amp and LifeLabs Learning offer webinars, online workshops, and self-assessments for free. With an understanding of key ideas and context, your team will be able to grow professionally in ways that support your business.
Send links to each participating team member with readings and self-assessments. Combined with self-guided online course material, your team will be prepared and excited about the upcoming workshop.
You can also assign a book that addresses diversity in the workplace. Following a book club format, the group can talk about ideas presented in the text and how you can implement them into your day to day.
For example, Erasing Institutional Bias by Tiffany Jana, DM and Ashley Diaz Mejias covers systemic change and how to improve organizational inclusion.
After reading the book, host a book club where participants can discuss the ideas in the book, how they can be implemented into your office culture, what you’ve already implemented, and how effective your existing policies are
Bring in an Expert
While social distancing means face-to-face meetings are a no-go, technology means we have unlimited resources at our fingertips. With virtual conferencing, you can bring an expert directly to your team.
While it’s easy to have a HR officer or higher-up executive go through DEI training, external resources can bring valuable expertise without the bias that comes with being a part of your institution.
On top of that, guest speakers can have unique experiences and can serve as an authority figure that internal team members don’t have.
While there many motivational speakers are available for hire, it’s important that you find the right professional for your team.
If you’re reading a book with your team, consider reaching out to the author to see if you can book them as a keynote speaker or consultant. For example, your company can contact Dr. Tiffany Jana, DM to discuss DEI here.
Create Action Plan for the Future by Creating Action Items & Collecting Feedback
The purpose of the training is to create change, so your team needs to come up with action items to help move forward. Throughout the training session, take note of ideas your team comes up with. You should also highlight existing issues so you can research possible solutions.
DEI training is most effective when it’s delivered and maintained over an extended period of time. That’s why we recommend creating a series of regular training sessions.
After each event, collect feedback on the session to see how your team reacted to the training so you can improve future sessions, whether that’s by making them more engaging, or diving deeper into specific topics.
Share the results of the survey with the rest of the team and be transparent about how you plan to address your findings moving forward.
The more involved your team is, the more likely they will be to feel responsible for practicing your new policies.
Don’t Wait to Be Back in the Office for DEI Training
As more people call for change in the workplace, offices around the country need to up their game when it comes to DEI training, even if that means virtual workshops.
While we continue to work remotely, it’s important that you establish ground rules like you would in person. Your team needs to be on the same page, so outline why DEI training is important and what your team goals are moving forward.
Even while meeting virtually, you can keep your team engaged by creating an interactive program. Polls, surveys, and small group discussions can make training more attention-grabbing.
Additional resources like self-assessments and readings can provide your team with the vocabulary and context to come into the workshop ready for a discussion. At the same time, outside experts can provide valuable information without the bias internal team members bring to the discussion.
Finally, DEI training isn’t a one-time thing. Your team needs consistent follow-up conversations and workshops in order for it to be effective. As you plan for future sessions, create action items and collect feedback.
With proper implementation, training can help your team become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive going forward.