Organizations are rapidly ramping up their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) strategies. But, in their haste to keep up with our evolving world, are change initiatives being held back by antiquated training beliefs which are more hindrance than help?

With the mass media coverage of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, #MeToo and the fight for transgender rights, corporate DEIB cannot rest on sterilized slides, dictionary definitions and the ever-present iceberg graphic. Getting it right for 2023 isn’t about ticking the box: It’s about redefining it.

DEIB leaders have an opportunity to loosen their grip on yesteryear’s learning templates and truly embrace a new way of proceeding, using the following insights to ensure an impactful and transformational metamorphosis:

1. Challenge your organizational motives: Rational analytical processes can prompt adult leaders to consciously implement new beliefs.

Inclusion training is often applied as a knee-jerk answer to all DEIB challenges, but inclusive cultures require much more than an isolated training event. Take your latest DEIB effort – what was the organization’s true motive? How did this effort address operational and systematic evolution?

Without an agenda for measurable change, you risk your attempts being labelled as “trivial,” “insensitive” or even “destructive” by the employees you wish to inspire.

Before running headfirst into the rollout, take the time to consider how you will turn insight into action. Focused and practical inclusion training (tied to a change agenda) will help your workforce to consciously adapt new practices — both behavioral and organizational — but, once that conversation starts, all eyes are on your systemic change. If you aren’t committing to DEIB as a strategic priority, you may find that your investment inspires your staff in a whole other movement… running out the door!

2. Define compliance as the commitment to continue: Adult learners need to apply learning in a practical way.

Too often, training comes with the idea of “gained compliance,” a tick-box immunity for the coming year acknowledged through summative assessment. Gaining “compliance” in DEIB, suggests your work is done — when, actually, it should be the first step. True success needs to be measured in marked change, not mere attendance.

Back in the ’90s, Madden, Ellen and Ajzen revealed that behavioral change is the result of the practices and intentions of those around us. The more positive our attitude and the more others model the desired behaviors, the stronger our intention to change will be.

Therefore, consider compliance not as a sign off, but a collection of check-in efforts throughout the year, a learning pathway of practical application monitored and measured through the commitment of your employees and the results of their invested time.

3. Break the mold: Allow for emotional preparedness. Emotions can either impede or motivate adult learning experiences.

DEIB training has historically been presented in an apathetic and rational tone, with emotional issues overlooked for cognitive practice. While logical and practical application is essential in behavioral change, we know more is required than a detached knowledge transference.

We cannot ignore the fact that successful DEIB events hinge on emotional discomfort… but, as a result of the always-on nature of the news and social media, people of color may be exhausted by conversations of anti-racism, women and non-binary employees may be triggered from gender bias training, and those of perceived privilege can become paralyzed by feelings of guilt.

Corporate training must break with tradition and unpack the realities within the room. We know it’s natural to rebel against being told how to act or how to think. We also know that emotions impact the effectiveness of learning. We need to acknowledge the emotional health required for DEIB change and understand that motivation must be intrinsically inspired.

4.Flip the classroom and unlock your experts: Give adult learners a voice through inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration.

Corporate training’s identity has transformed, with remote and hybrid learning, and other shifts, transforming the training function at large. To continue this journey, trainers of 2023 should not consider themselves learning instructors, but rather as learning facilitators.

Flipped classroom principles share the learning content prior to the training event through digital resources. This means, when it comes to the “classroom” event, rather than a two-hour knowledge download, instructor-led time becomes an interactive opportunity to test newfound knowledge, inspiring learning from both facilitators and peers through practical application.

Flipped learning has proven valuable in behavioral change not only because it allows your subject matter experts to share their expertise, but also because learners can experience the topic at their own pace, allowing for digestion, research and personal application. By the time learners arrive at the instructor-led event, they are primed and prepared for practical, real-world discussions.

5. Offer point-of-need learning opportunities: Adult learners learn best when they can diagnose learning needs, identify resources and implement learning.

We live in an age of instant gratification. We are used to getting answers within moments of our curiosity piquing, and our readiness to learn is based on the perceived relevancy. Training behaviors on a timetable risks being muffled by the competing demands of busy workloads. However, layering training events with digital resources that can be accessed when the employee needs them: that’s the true unlocking.

DEIB curiosity occurs from an interaction or event that causes us to question what we know. The key to just-in-time learning resources is to provide learners with easy-to-use knowledge nuggets that are accessed as required, acknowledging that learners don’t want to wade through heaps of irrelevant information.

The best DEIB transformations include a carefully curated content library of microlearning and behavioral nudge resources. Microlearning isn’t a new concept, but it has proven to be an invaluable one.