Diversity and Inclusion - Dr. Kristal Walker, CPTM, SHRM-CP

Imagine attending a train-the-trainer session as a participant. The session is facilitated by a seasoned training professional — let’s call her “Kristal.” Kristal has designed a new diversity and inclusion workshop for you and the other participants because of your desire to be more inclusive in your training design. Excited in her approach and confident in the many years of experience she has in the subject, Kristal quickly impresses the crowd with her relevant experience as she facilitates an impactful ice-breaker. As the session progresses, however, she notices that some of the attendees seem disengaged and uncomfortable. Her instinct leads her to believe it is time for a stretch break. She uses this time to elicit feedback from a colleague and learns that she had overlooked key perspectives and experiences, which inadvertently caused some attendees to feel alienated.  

This experience not only exposed Kristal’s missteps, but also revealed a truth often overlooked by seasoned trainers: The subtle impact of unconscious and explicit bias. Training professionals must learn how to interrupt their personal biases, particularly when designing, developing, delivering and dissecting their training initiatives. 

Bias — unchecked — can seep into every aspect of training from design to evaluation. It can shape content, interactions and outcomes, ultimately influencing and impacting the learning experience. This article aims to equip readers with practical strategies to uphold the integrity and impact of their training initiatives.  

“Before the Training” Strategy

One of the most effective ways to mind your bias in training is to consciously diversify the content, tools and examples used in your training. Most training professionals miss the mark here because they rely too heavily on routine training processes. In all fairness, certain process designs are routine for consistency and even mandated by the structure of our training organizations. However, we must be careful not to let the status quo cause us to become stagnant.  

As you design your next training, consider using a range of experiences and perspectives that might resonate with the anticipated audience. This might include incorporating different case studies or scenarios. It might require additional prep time as you familiarize yourself with the content in a way that maintains its integrity while making it your own. Diversifying your content can challenge you and your participants to leverage skills like critical thinking, empathy and emotional intelligence. 

“During the Training” Strategy

Minding your training bias requires more than just diverse content — it also requires open dialogue amidst the training experience. The dialogue does not always have to center on “safe” topics. Sometimes, interrupting biases means inviting them into your discussions head-on.  

For example, if we were to revisit the fictitious story shared at the beginning of this article, Kristal might have regained the confidence of the audience by inviting the attendees to reflect on what made them uncomfortable and disengaged. This requires a level of confidence and mastery in facilitation skills, but when done correctly, it can actively engage participants and lead to impactful learning outcomes.  

“After the Training” Strategy

The best way to mitigate bias in a training experience is to employ objective feedback mechanisms. These feedback mechanisms might include tools like peer-review observations, self-assessments or surveys.  

When analyzing feedback data, carefully identify patterns of bias or disparities. This insight should help you make specific revisions that result in a more inclusive experience for everyone involved.  

As learning leaders, it is our responsibility to champion equitable learning opportunities from inception to evaluation. We can only do this if we are consciously engaged in our efforts and the expectations of our training participants. When we are intentional about minding our biases, we not only enhance the quality and impact of our training but also contribute to a more diverse, inclusive and respectful work culture.