Today’s businesses should provide company-wide training to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices. In today’s hybrid work environment, however, implementing this training requires additional attention.
Foundationally, DEI is about seeing and honoring another person fully for who they are. At 15Five, for example, our DEI practice begins with the understanding that each person has their own personal history and unique experiences that shape their identity. When we allow ourselves to see the person more holistically, and with more understanding, it can transform how we think about that person’s behaviors.
It’s important to acknowledge that we all have unconscious biases. The difference in how we treat others often comes down to our own awareness level of those biases, so developing awareness of our unconscious biases is an important component of any DEI training program.
DEI initiatives should embrace everyone, including older workers. When one group is systematically excluded from advancement, conversations and work events, it undermines the psychological safety of everyone in the organization.
I mention older workers in particular because our recent survey on generational disparities in the workplace revealed a bias often missing from the DEI conversation: ageism.
A 15Five survey of 1,000 employed adults, conducted by Propeller Insights, demonstrates a systematic lack of managerial support and career guidance for members of the Generation X and Baby boomer generations. The data uncovers an unmistakable pattern: Many businesses don’t offer the same training or professional development opportunities for employees who are 45 years and older compared to those under the age of 45.
As part of DEI training, it’s critical that we are as sensitive to this issue as we are to other forms of bias.
As we have shifted to a hybrid environment, a new issue has emerged: Favoritism for those who show up in-person to an office, versus those who work remotely. Managers may reward those who are physically present with additional projects that lead to advancement, or share coveted information about developments in the company. It’s another form of unconscious bias, which is known as “proximity bias.”
Evolving Your DEI Training
DEI training is an evolving practice, so it’s important to adopt practices that not only reflect the new hybrid style of work, but also different learning preferences. Instead of just using facilitators who conduct in-person workshops, consider offering a blend of online and in-person DEI training. Team members may also be more responsive to different types of content, so along with half-day or two-hour training sessions, offer bite-sized content that employees can consume in the flow of work.
Here are five protocols to consider as you evolve your DEI training:
1. Ensure the content and training style is inclusive of all learning preferences: You might have a learner who prefers learning visually (think emojis) and someone else who learns by reading words and another individual who prefers to learn by listening. Have content available that reflects the different types of learning preferences by providing different types of training sessions and workshops using internal or external facilitators as well as online learning opportunities
2. Make sure the facilitator is engaging both remote and in-person team members. If you have some people on camera and others on-site, the instructor must engage all participants, not just the in-person group, for an equitable hybrid training experience. The instructor might, for example, have the in-person group answer one set of questions and the remote group another.
3. Offer thought-provoking sessions to uncover unconscious bias and privilege. At 15Five, we’ve brought in external facilitators and have had internal team members facilitate training around unconscious bias, privilege and how to be an ally. These interactive sessions are designed to be thought provoking. During one recent session to gauge our team members’ self-awareness of their own privilege, the external facilitator asked the group questions such as, “Have you had history lessons on your own race and lineage in elementary school?” “Did you grow up with clean water?” These questions help team members think about privilege in the context of their own experience and others’ experiences and bring awareness to critical issues.
4. Recognize that your managers are your front-line. It’s essential that your managers have the proper training and tools to enable them to create the kind of team dynamics that ensures every member feels psychologically safe. Team members should feel that they are listened to and can speak up with new ideas or admit their mistakes and learn from them. Ensure that the feedback managers give is constructive and that they aren’t unconsciously more critical toward certain members — during performance reviews, for example.
5. Follow up with measurement and additional learning opportunities. Follow up training sessions with quick surveys to determine the training’s effectiveness. Consider boosting DEI training sessions with interactive decks that are available to employees and provide learning management tools that enable team members to enhance their education at will.
Finally, DEI is not a one-and-done effort. To be most effective, consider implementing an evolving practice that addresses concerns and conversations as they develop. As our awareness grows and changes regarding issues that are important to our team members, so, too, should our DEI training.