Since the summer of 2020, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within corporate organizations are receiving more attention than ever before. Yet there is a sense of DEI fatigue that threatens forward progress. In response to the George Floyd murder and subsequent outcry for racial justice, many organizations took a reactionary approach to DEI, implementing quick fixes without considering the long-term impact.
For context, DEI fatigue is the feeling of exhaustion after continuous efforts to promote DEI in a particular setting, yet not achieving the desired results. This exhaustion is felt by many; however, three specific audiences tend to experience a level of fatigue that others do not. These audiences include: (1) senior leaders and decision-makers with the opportunity to champion DEI within their organizations, (2) DEI practitioners and HR professionals who are charged with leading DEI initiatives and (3) members of underrepresented or marginalized populations who continue to be the target of biases and microaggression.
For some, moving DEI initiatives forward with no evident return on investment can feel like a bad time. Even in times of stagnation and frustration, the training manager can serve as a confidante to those who need fresh momentum to stay engaged in the journey. Here are three ways to do so:
- Active listening: Lend an ear to listen to colleagues’ thoughts, concerns and frustrations about the DEI journey. Active listening will help training managers understand colleagues’ emotional states and what issues they would like to see resolved around DEI.
- Coach, advise and encourage: Provide constructive feedback, advice, motivation and a fresh perspective. Providing guidance will help colleagues stay committed to the journey, even in times of frustration or stagnation.
- Celebrate milestones and successes: Celebrating milestones promotes self-efficacy and is an excellent way to demonstrate that progress is being made, even if it may not be as quick as we would like it to be. The training manager can recognize and celebrate when milestones are reached or when the organization develops a more robust strategy for DEI progress.
Considerations for Designing DEI-related Content
The way forward is to operate from an optimistic perspective, focusing on progress over perfection and creating training initiatives that incorporate empathy and bridge-building. It also requires an intent to understand the pain points of those experiencing DEI fatigue so that the solution — whenever possible — can support various scenarios. In this case, the role of the training manager is to have a keen understanding of the culture, values and experiences of the people within the organization.
Training professionals should consider the following three things when designing DEI-related content:
- Tailor content to your audience: DEI practitioners may require different content than senior leaders or underrepresented or marginalized populations. Tailoring content to the appropriate audience can help ensure that the information presented is relevant, practical and valuable.
- Incorporate empathetic elements: Incorporating empathetic elements can help training managers create a sense of understanding and comfort. These can include providing a safe space for conversation or acknowledging individual and group pain points.
- Focus on progress and motivation: Instead of focusing solely on the challenges or problems connected to the DEI space, training can help participants focus on progress and celebrate milestones. This can create a sense of hope, inspiration and momentum that encourages participants to stay engaged in the DEI journey.
Despite feelings of fatigue from creating inclusion and equity for all, training professionals can leverage the influence of our work and our working relationships to aid in bridging gaps that can only happen through new and creative training initiatives. At the very least, our advocacy for inclusion in the areas that matter is the one compelling action we can take to fight DEI fatigue, propelling individuals from all walks of life toward inclusive excellence.