With weeks of protests still going strong across the nation, these pockets of action have rekindled feelings for some while reminding others of deep-seated issues around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Throughout this time, businesses have sent rapid-fire public messages of support for diversity, only to be called out by their employees for not living up to the values they portray in the media.
Diversity and inclusion may seem like a distant idea from training, but it’s not. The intersection of diversity and training is the supporting backbone of how employees relate to and excel in their work environments. Culture makes a significant impact on whether employees feel that they can grow in an organization and that their personal values align with the moral design of their employer.
L&D leaders facilitate tough discussions about racial inequity in the workplace, unconscious bias and microaggressions to support inclusion efforts and partner with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and human resources (HR) officers to capitalize on the moment and ensure companies land on the right side of history. Potential employees are increasingly motivated to look deeper into organizational culture before signing on to bring their talent to the company. Are people of color in leadership roles? Do they have access to training and development to succeed? There is a collective effort to support an organizational culture that is inclusive and represents stakeholders at every level of an organization.
While training managers may find themselves walking a fine line between plugging skills gaps created by inequitable cultures of the past and pushing diversity efforts of the future, there are key areas where they should invest:
1. Build More Than Training Content
Too often, organizations scramble to stop the bleeding that occurs when acting impulsively without researching data or even listening to their workforce regularly. In this case, it’s time to sit down with leaders and define their approach to training and uplifting diverse staff.
2. Racism, Bigotry and Bias Cannot Be Trained Away
Bias does not have a one-time fix. Instead, it requires a change management program that is cemented in a strategic plan to remind, recenter and reinvigorate the organization’s message around inclusiveness.
3. Start From “Go”
The moment employees enter the ranks, they should receive onboarding that adjusts them not only to their new role but to the inclusive company culture. Cultivate a culture of inclusion by encouraging employees to participate in employee resource groups (ERGs), suggestion boxes, onboarding and stay surveys as well as less formal events and groups like golf leagues or baseball game tickets.
4. Weave It in
When employees are promoted to a supervisor or manager position, they should have additional training on the proper use of influence, leading diverse teams and bias. Chief learning officers and training managers should be in the conversations about succession planning with HR partners to ensure that leadership opportunities are fair and equitable and that selections use bias-free criteria.
When women and people of color are not promoted to positions of influence, power or decision-making ability, the message to employees is that board members or executive leaders only want diversity in supporting roles. What can learning leaders do for these executives who still have not acted toward diversifying their organization? It is important for the EEO and HR departments to lead and monitor this process, but by collaborating with L&D leaders, they can provide a robust and persuasive call for change and accountability. Training should not be taking on diversity as a monolith but, rather, as a distinct part of a montage of influential stakeholders.
Employees are any organization’s greatest asset, and research shows that diverse workforces are more productive, innovative and successful. With recent news of social injustices occurring across the country and in the workplace, it’s been a long time coming for many who have been personally and professionally affected in their promotions, their homes, their supermarkets and even their public parks.
Lending support as a learning leader means taking action, ensuring the organizational strategic goals are met, and championing for diversity and inclusion as more than a single training. Diversity and inclusion is a critical factor for talent retention, employee satisfaction and process innovation.