So, your organization has decided to seek out training related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Wanting to ensure that the training is a good investment of time, energy and resources — and wanting to ensure accountability to your employees and other constituents — you’re looking to assess the impact and efficacy of the training itself. If this describes you or your training colleagues, read on for eight steps you can take before, during and after DEI training to ensure its success.
Before Delivering DEI Training…
1. Identify the problem you’re hoping to solve with training.
Delivering a training program just because it’s trendy, popular or because you like the facilitator is like picking a solution first and hoping that it happens to match your problem. Don’t make this common mistake. Instead, before you choose a course to deliver, do everything you can to understand the problem you’re trying to solve with it. How do you know the problem exists? What’s the intent and the severity of it? Who does it impact? If you need help with this step, that might be an indication that training isn’t the place to start.
2. Identify and measure behaviors or outcomes related to the problem that you can assess.
If your problem is related to frequent harmful comments and racist acts of exclusion, you might identify “average number of racially exclusionary comments witnessed per week” as a behavior to track. If your problem is related to ineffective manager feedback, you might identify “manager feedback quality” as an outcome to track. If your problem is related to low psychological safety, you might identify “average number of constructively critical comments shared per week” as a behavior to track. Conduct a brief survey or analyze existing data within the population you want to train to determine the baseline prevalence of these behaviors or outcomes.
3. Pick a training that directly addresses the problem and does so in a way that will change the behaviors and outcomes you identified.
If you’re outsourcing DEI training, approach potential vendors with your understanding of the problem and select the ones that are most able to shift the behaviors or outcomes you’ve identified over the long term. Push vendors to articulate how their training works, the rationale or research behind their methodology, and past success at changing outcomes. Ask for references from past clients and ask them how successful the training was at changing outcomes.
4. Set realistic expectations for training efficacy and situate it in your big picture DEI efforts.
No single training program can entirely solve a DEI challenge, but that doesn’t mean that DEI training is useless. Good DEI training can rapidly upskill workers, provide a valuable source of learning, promote connection and accelerate behavior change efforts already happening in the organization. Be realistic with what you expect DEI training to achieve and ensure that key leaders (and learners) understand those expectations.
5. Make a plan for complementary follow-up action from key leaders to reinforce learning.
Even the best training can struggle to create lasting change without complementary efforts from within the organization to support the new behaviors or outcomes. Make a plan for how to follow up after the training to support the new behaviors or outcomes using the tools or knowledge the training imparted, communicate that plan to key leaders with influence over the problems you’re hoping to solve, and secure their commitment to take follow up action after the training.
During and After DEI Training…
6. Remind all internal leaders to take the follow up actions they committed to.
Immediately after the training (or immediately after individual training sessions, if multiple), draw on the training material to remind leaders of what they committed to, re-contextualize the ideal impact of the training in the larger context of organization-wide DEI efforts, and make sure leaders follow through on their commitments. Offer resources and support to make follow-up as easy and straightforward as possible for leaders and stress the necessity of these efforts in helping the training achieve impact.
7. Communicate to learners that a follow-up assessment will take place several weeks (or months) after the training to gauge the success.
Delivering DEI training itself isn’t the end goal; changed behaviors or outcomes are. Remind those who took the training that they will be expected to utilize the skills or knowledge they learned following the training, and that the organizers of the training will be reaching out for feedback on the effectiveness of the training in several weeks’ (or months’) time. Ensure that participants understand that the assessment will not reflect or have consequences for them, but rather help the organization assess the training and hold itself accountable for effective DEI work.
8. Conduct the follow-up assessment, compare the results to the baseline assessment, and understand why things changed (or didn’t).
Finally, re-measure the prevalence of the behaviors or outcomes you identified earlier among your population of interest (often, your training participants or their teams). Ensure that when you gather this information, you also invite feedback and commentary from respondents on why they answered the way you did. This will allow you to not only understand what’s changed, if anything, but also why things might have changed or not changed the way they did.
Many L&D leaders might be surprised by the number of steps in this guide. This is likely because they assume that the bulk of the effort needed to ensure impactful DEI training lies in the training itself.
This is true for the training facilitator, but for organizations receiving training, it’s the opposite: their actions before and after the training are the most predictive of whether the training succeeds or fails in achieving real impact. The more that rigor, structure and accountability are present both before and after DEI training, the more able you will be to make conclusions about the value of the training, and communicate those findings to your learners, leaders, stakeholders and other key constituents. Use this guide until it becomes a habit and unlock a new — and effective — way to deliver impactful DEI training in your organization.