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Why Diversity and Inclusion Training Cannot be Successful in Isolation

Updated: May 12, 2023

Diversity and inclusion training is one of the main approaches adopted by management to increase awareness and inclusion. It plays a crucial role in building staff engagement and knowledge, but must be accompanied by other activities.

Whilst training has increased in corporate organisations, there are questions about its effectiveness in achieving long term goals of attracting talent, creating supported workplaces, and adding value to business outcomes.

If training is delivered in isolation, it will not achieve the development and organisational culture change necessary to embed diversity and inclusion. It will not achieve the behavioural change necessary to stop inequality and discrimination and poor decision making within an organisation.

D&I training cannot be effective in the absence of a whole organisation approach to diversity and inclusion

Understanding, appreciating, and embedding diversity is the key to developing engaged workplace environments. The ability to change attitudes and develop the behaviours necessary to embed inclusion takes time.

The process also involves a genuine commitment from leaders and management to see the process through to conclusion.

Whilst integrating a D&I training aspect to the change process is important, it should be predicated by an assessment of the business as a whole. This is where an assessment of organisational values, culture, and behaviours becomes necessary.

Often, there is a temptation to implement a ‘quick fix’ solution to diversity through a rapid training process.

These isolated, short term solutions will not embed diversity or change behaviours in the long term. They will serve only to achieve short term, generic outcomes.

Aligning Focus for Diversity and Inclusion Training - Focused Results

The impact of diversity and inclusion training is closely related to other, key organisational activities. As such for training to be successful, it must be aligned to specific organisational goals and activities.

By aligning training to key elements of organisational and people planning, the personal skills and knowledge required will be achieved.

This will make the process embedding diversity and inclusion across functions, projects and people strategies more coherent.

Diversity training is best aligned to organisational frameworks and operational structures.

It is best practice to align D&I training to frameworks and operational structures to achieve optimum results.

Training agendas are also highly dependent on the structures in place to support, both the organisation and staff, towards achieving long term, functional and behavioural change.

Support For Training Interventions

Any training delivered must be supported by structures to effectively transfer knowledge and practice back into the workplace environment.

These structures could be planning boards, policy frameworks, diversity networks, inclusive recruitment structures, etc.

By ensuring that effective support networks are in place, staff will be enabled to learn and continuously engage with diversity. Support structures will underpin and assist the process of transferring knowledge and understanding. They help maintain the continuous development of policy and practice.

D&I training should be supported by structures to promote enhanced practice and engagement

Embedding D&I learning is supported by having structures in place to support the development of practice and enable engagement.

By enabling and empowering staff via a robust framework of support mechanisms, learning from training will be enabled across the organisation. This is where results will be achieved and diversity and inclusive processes are embedded.

Within this space, learning from training becomes value-added. It encourages concrete actions within people, processes, and learning agendas.

But what of these frameworks and mechanisms?

In and of themselves, they are useful to any organisation. However, in relation to D&I training and continuous learning programs, they are of extreme relevance to embedding diversity and inclusive behaviours and supporting actions.

Frameworks and structures should be developed with an acknowledgment, of diversity and inclusion training or D&I assessment outcomes. This can be from support networks, such as staff diversity, diversity champions, or as a result of an external diversity review.

Diversity networks are effective for supporting inclusion and diversity training.

Diversity networks are a useful way to support training and strategic planning activities.

Diversity affinity groups or networks are important. These will have experiential information that can be effectively applied to the governance and maintenance of a wide range of organisational mechanisms.

Networks can be a real enabler for organisational development of D&I practice. They support further learning and development around the application of D&I training and are useful for engagement both, both pre and post-delivery.

The reciprocal nature of diversity networks, serves as a conduit for learning and the development of practice and continued learning around diversity and inclusion.

Read more about the organisational benefits of diversity networks.

Evaluation and Innovation

By innovating and constantly evaluating D&I training, understanding and learning will begin to bear fruit within the organisation. In isolation, training will be of little value.

Evaluating training will help to understand the impact of diversity training.

Proper evaluation of D&I training will help to embed diversity and strengthen business outcomes.

It will enable diversity training to deliver benefits that have a sustainable impact on the achievement of organisational goals. One of the strategic benefits of D&I training evaluation is the development of innovative working practices, products, and services.

In the isolation of a coherent evaluation process, results will be negligible. A corporate commitment to evaluating training and will embed diversity. After all, where leaders lead, the rest will follow.

Delivering Focused Diversity and Inclusion Training

Whilst there is some merit to training for individual outcomes, it should be restricted to a one to one coaching solutions, rather than group or team training, unless absolutely relevant.

It will do little to support organisational change as the focus is too narrow. It is preferable to align training to well designed organisational and evaluation processes.

D&I training should be designed with strategic outcomes in mind. Putting too much emphasis on the individual outcomes of training will do little to enable the integration of diversity and inclusion into the organisational framework.

Always align diversity training to strategic business objectives.

Always align D&I training to strategic objectives to achieve the best outcomes and engagement with diversity.

Outcomes that focus on embedding diversity and inclusion into organisational practices and functions are better placed to develop thinking around behavioural change. This type of training design also ensures that actions are more applicable to the workplace.

D&I training should be just one component of an overall strategy to increase diversity, knowledge, and inclusion within the organisation.

D&I training should deliver best practice outcomes in a wide range of operational areas.

This will focus the aims of training, which is more likely to have a sustainable impact on the achievement of D&I goals, whilst adding value to a range of organisational functions.

Generic training applications do have a place. However, training which is specifically designed to affect change within an industry setting will generate more impact on both behavioural and organisational / industry development. This is often more relevant than focusing on training which is general in nature.

Establishing Accountability

An important element of success should be accountability for the process. This includes the development of the aims of training, management of its impact, and further development strategies.

Many training initiatives are one-off activities, which are void of any clear measures of success. This leads to an inability to understand the value generated.

Without defined and shared responsibility, across all areas of the organisation, there is little or no alignment to strategic business goals and no accountability for the measurement of outcomes.

This lack of accountability will negate any potential value that would have been derived from training. By simply providing training, without leadership accountability, the organisation will be unable to leverage training outcomes.

Leadership responsibility is the most important aspect of diversity and inclusion

Leadership and middle managers must take ultimate responsibility for D&I in areas under their control, to ensure development of practice and behaviours.

D&I training should be designed and delivered according to staff team needs, with clear accountability and outcomes that are measured against organisational goals. To do otherwise is just a tick box exercise, and a waste of resources.

Diversity and inclusion is complex in nature and should be approached with this complexity in mind. A one size fits all approach will do little to affect positive cultural change, and truly develop inclusion.

It is critical to engage staff, within their role remits, with a clearly defined understanding of the intended outcomes of any training delivered.

D&I Training as a learning cycle process.

D&I training is about providing an extended cycle of learning for staff. It is essential, not only to educate and advise on diversity and inclusion, but also to align mindsets with expected behaviours.

This is the most effective way to develop diversity and inclusion and requires supporting activity. It is critical to design and deliver training as part of a wider organisational remit, to enable effective embedding of D&I. Leaders and managers play an important role.

Think of diversity as not integral to effective leadership, but also a complimentary theme to all strategic components of your business.

Diversity training is integral to leadership and effective management development

Diversity training is an effective part of leadership success and people management.

Building diversity into all aspects of your organisational functions and practices is strategically important. It helps to embed inclusive behaviours and actions that will develop enhanced practice and engagement.

Focusing on outcomes related to performance enhancement, attracting talent or developing an inclusive environment, for example, will help to structure training that delivers concrete outcomes.

These outcomes can then be supported by frameworks, structures, and other developmental activities.

By acknowledging current or potential challenges, D&I training is more likely to be designed to address current concerns and pre-empt any negative and unwanted organisational events.

In summary, an D&I training must be aligned to strategic corporate planning. Rather than being a ‘quick fix’ or isolated activity, it should be embedded into the planning and strategic growth strategy of the business.

It takes planning, with the focus of training being on outcomes aligned to developmental strategy. Without this understanding, D&I training as a one-off, isolated activity will not deliver successful outcomes.

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Learn more:

Diversity and inclusion is increasingly becoming a part of the agenda within many corporate boardrooms.

More and more businesses are beginning to understand the business case for diversity and are implementing steps to engage with D&I to build more effective workplaces.

Kenroi Consulting is a bespoke diversity consultancy providing tailor-made solutions across the UK.

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