Over the past few years, organizational leaders have been incorporating the principles, policies and programs of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and cultural competency to impact their employees and communities. When referring to DEI training, we’re referring to those programs and initiatives that seek to diversify or expand an organization’s employees, customers, practices and policies (among many other components) for any number of business, industry or community reasons. Cultural competency training specifically focuses on skills and knowledge that value diversity, that understand and respond to cultural differences, and that increase the awareness of both individuals’ and organizations’ cultural norms.

Often, this training is designed around any number of philosophical underpinnings as outlined by DEI and leadership facilitator and author Maria Morukian:

  • Social justice.
  • Business results.
  • Compliance.
  • Advocacy and allyship.
  • Valuing differences.
  • Oneness and unity.

Many of us have responsibility for DEI and cultural competency training (among many other topic areas). We employ sound instructional design models like ADDIE and rapid instructional design (RID) for all these topics. We also know that training works best when we start with the end product: who is the audience, what do they need to know, what/how/when will they need to put this knowledge to work and how will we measure the results and effectiveness of the training?

Collaborating With Connectors

Collaborating with connectors throughout the organization is key to ensuring this effectiveness. When dealing with the sensitive nature of DEI and cultural competence training, these connectors can help translate these topics into palpable, operational, user-friendly content.

We need connectors in our organization who:

  • Know who are the various influencers throughout the business units, facilities/locations and know of any “power centers.”
  • Can connect cross-functional stakeholders.
  • Can articulate the messages of “what’s in it for me?” for all potential training participants.

For those of us working in health care, connectors can:

  • Connect the corporate function (i.e., human resources, operations, administration) with the care teams​.
  • Connect the care teams with patients​ (in those instances where the training may need to be shared with or available to patients).
  • Connect public health mandates and requirements with clinical practice.
  • Speak different languages within the health care context.

ISD Considerations

While these connectors can help us ensure the proper context around our DEI and cultural competency training as well as get the right people to participate in the training, there are some key instructional design (ISD) strategies that we can implement to ensure maximum effectiveness of the training itself — whether the training is focused on DEI and cultural competence topics or on other business matters. Some of these strategies can be found in Maria Morukian’s book, “Diversity Equity & Inclusion for Trainers: Fostering DEI in the Workplace,” and are summarized below:

  1. If you are relatively new to DEI or haven’t designed many programs focusing on DEI, find colleagues who can serve as your DEI subject matter experts (SMEs), collaborating with you on the initial analysis and design stages as well as on the finessing of the final product/deliverables. If you’re not sure where to find those SMEs, start with your employee resource groups (ERGs).
  2. When analyzing your training audience, be sure to address their “DEI IQ.” How well-versed are they in DEI fundamental concepts and in applying those concepts throughout their interactions and performance? Will you want to provide a brief overview of how DEI’s integration into the company culture impacts training and development, and specifically how that’s reflected in this specific training program? Or, will a simple reminder of DEI goals suffice?
  3. Incorporate diversity in the visuals used throughout your materials. This includes using images of people of various ages, ethnicities and skin tones, cultures and countries, genders and styles of dress.
  4. Be mindful of your own implicit biases as a facilitator and work to combat those throughout the training program. For instance, do you tend to call on people who are most like you? Do you say things like “good question” to some attendees, while being silent for others? Do you encourage all to participate and restrain from calling on the same people more than once? Do you allow silence at times, to encourage those who may need a few more seconds than others to gather their thoughts before responding?

Remember that learners bring their own learning preferences to all training programs—whether those are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or a combination. So, as much as possible, as training designers and facilitators, we should incorporate a variety of delivery methods throughout the training. This can be as simple as interspersing images with text or including action-oriented tasks via small groups or Zoom break-out rooms.


These considerations can help us use a DEI and cultural competency lens when developing and designing training content covering a variety of topics. Collaborating with connectors and analyzing the specific philosophies of our DEI and cultural competence-focused training can facilitate more effective training that sticks with our participants after they leave the training room or close out of the LMS.

Register for the June 2023 Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to hear Greg Rider’s session, “Designing Cultural Competency Training To Improve Employee Performance.