How to develop an inclusion and diversity training program

Updated 30 September 2022

Respected research shows that diversity and inclusion in the workplace positively affects a company's growth and bottom line. It gives them a competitive advantage to attract and retain highly proficient employees and increase participation and productivity in the workplace. To attain these benefits requires ongoing and concerted efforts like an efficient diversity and inclusion training programme. In this article, we present a step-by-step guide to creating an inclusion and diversity training programme and explore its amazing benefits.

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What is an inclusion and diversity training programme?

An inclusion and diversity training programme involves learning activities that build better understanding and skills among employees and managers to foster a more inclusive and diverse workplace. Inclusion and diversity are not entirely the same thing. Diversity is the presence of individual and group differences, while inclusion is a work environment that allows diversity. So, the training programme enables an organisation to be both diverse and inclusive so as to enjoy the benefits of having employees from a wide range of backgrounds.

Related: The difference between diversity and inclusion

What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Below are the noticeable benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace confirmed with research data.

Diversity positively affects the profit margin

Diversity in the workplace can positively affect your company's financial output. Companies with a diverse workforce appear to perform significantly better than their counterparts in any industry. According to Mckinsey's estimation, companies with ethnic and gender diversity can financially perform more than 25% better than national industry medians.

Diversity promotes innovation

Having employees from various social and economic backgrounds can give a company the lead in innovation and reaching diverse clients. A 2018 study by Harvard Business Review discovered that the most diverse companies tend to be the most innovative, with the capacity to market to a wide range of customers. Diversity helps employees understand different perspectives and enables them to be more efficient as a team.

Diversity makes the workplace more desirable for top talents

Jobseekers and employees consider a workplace with a high level of diversity and inclusion to be a more viable employment option. These companies stand a greater chance of hiring top talents in their industry. According to Glassdoor, 67% of active and passive jobseekers consider diversity in the workplace a key factor when assessing employment opportunities. Also, over 50% of employees want their workplace to be more diverse and inclusive.

Related: Job search guide: finding companies that value diversity & inclusion

Steps to developing a diversity and inclusion training programme

In creating a diversity and inclusion training programme, you can follow the seven steps below.

Step 1: Compile the necessary data

Begin by finding out about the current condition of your workforce, and compiling data that shows the level of equality based on demographics. Having adequate data about employee demographics helps you to understand how diverse your workplace is and to identify any trends or aspects requiring improvement. You can generate a list of demographic features you may want to survey, including information about protected groups in your area of operation, such as in the list below:

  • age

  • race

  • gender

  • gender identity or expression

  • ethnicity/national origin

  • family status

  • generation

  • disability

  • language

  • religion, belief and spirituality

  • sexual orientation

  • veteran status

To get this information, you can refer to existing company data and conduct an anonymous employee survey. You can use the services of a third party or survey technology in order to reduce employees' uneasiness about divulging certain personal information. The survey can also capture data that reflects the current company culture regarding inclusivity and diversity.

Related: 9 sample diversity interview questions and answers

Step 2: Identify areas of concern

When you have gathered the necessary information about your employee demographic, you can use the information to identify areas of under-representation. You can begin with reviewing the age, sex and race representation and equality, then proceed to check each demographic feature's distribution among departments and positions. Below are common areas of concern:

  • a particular race and sex dominating the managerial positions

  • lack of minority representation in key leadership positions

  • promotions limited to a specific ethnic group

  • more of a specific demographic getting hired for certain positions

  • reluctance to adapt to changes that promote diversity

Investigating employee attitudes towards company culture can help confirm emerging demographic gaps or expose areas for further research. If employee attitude is the same as the results of your review, you can be sure that you're on the right path to what changes could be made. If their attitude doesn't match your review, you can conduct employee focus groups to better understand the disconnect.

Step 3: Develop an outline for your training programme

Now that you have identified the areas with issues regarding inclusion and diversity, you can begin to develop the outline of your diversity and inclusion programme. A comprehensive diversity and inclusion training programme offers practical methods to engage in polite and positive conversation in the workplace to decrease bias and prejudice based on individual and group background. Below is the list of issues the training programme can address:

  • unconscious bias in the recruitment process

  • microaggressions and cross-cultural communications

  • non-inclusive company events and celebration

  • intolerance of different social and political views

  • discrimination through employee referral programmes

The training programme can update your company policy and practices involving employee onboarding, equipping recruiters and the human resource team to implement diversity recruitment. It can explain the benefits and principles of diversity and inclusion to various departments. It also goes beyond encouraging employees to tolerate differences to showing them how to work efficiently together while recognising diverse individual viewpoints.

Step 4: Identify the objectives of the training

Here, you can set specific goals relating to developing inclusion and diversity that align with your company's strategic objectives. This can include goals like creating innovative products that reach diverse customers. To achieve such targets, the production and marketing team requires diverse members, and the need for inclusion and diversity becomes apparent.

You can also identify your key performance indicators. These indicators help you measure the success of your training programme to ensure it's reaching the desired objectives. Here are possible indicators you can consider:

  • the percentage increase of employees in underrepresented demographics over time

  • continuous employee survey results around diversity and inclusion

  • improved employee retention over time

  • engagement metrics related to diversity

  • productivity metrics that show team alignment and output

Step 5: Get the support and assistance of senior management

To ensure the success of your training programme, you may want to identify senior-level managers who you can task with the responsibility of keeping the programme active and efficient. Senior management's understanding and support for developing diversity and inclusion are essential. They can enforce proper training and accountability for team members, as it relates to promoting a diverse, equal and inclusive workplace.

You can also set up a committee of employees from all levels, which has the task of implementing the goals and objectives of your company as they relate to inclusivity and diversity. Provide them with clear objectives, and established budget and performance indicators. They can hold meetings regularly and perform the following tasks:

  • promote training and events to bring awareness to diversity and inclusion in the workplace

  • engage co-workers in discussions and training related to diversity and inclusion

  • review and create policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace

  • ensure constant diversity and inclusion training over time

  • promote targeted diversity and inclusion awareness events

Related: What is inclusive leadership and why is it important?

Step 6: Develop an integrated training approach

As people understand messages through different means, diversity in training is a more efficient means to pass your message across to all your employees. You can adopt an integrated approach that blends various training methods to deliver your diversity and inclusion training programme. Here are some training techniques you can consider:

  • lectures

  • simulation employee training

  • group discussion and activities

  • coaching or mentoring

  • e-learning

  • instructor-led training

  • role-playing

  • hands-on training

  • management-specific activities

  • case studies or other required reading

Regardless of your training techniques, focus on engaging your employees in the training process as much as possible. Curate different learning modules that include material best fitted for your company values and goals. Also, develop an action plan to implement these techniques by setting realistic learning outcomes and achieving them.

Related: Types of employee training programmes (with benefits)

Step 7: Measure and communicate training outcomes

It's crucial to measure the results of the diversity and inclusion training techniques you have implemented. Use the key performance indicators you outlined in step four to constantly monitor the results of your training programme. This gives you information about the degree of success your training programme has achieved in its current form and can help you review and adjust your techniques.

You can communicate the results to all levels of employees in your company to demonstrate the outcome and value it has added to the workplace. Having conversations with leaders and employees can expose how their experience matches the results you have. Communication methods can include infographics for senior leadership meetings and public affairs, memos to employees and company website videos for potential candidates.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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