Here are five areas to consider when embarking on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) training programs.
Senior management must be seen to support IDEA training
Ensure that senior management takes an active part in the training program to demonstrate that company’s commitment is not limited to the Human Resources department. Successful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training programs must be aligned with the organization’s core values.
With executive representation, integrating IDEA values with the company’s culture will be seen as company policy and not another project from HR. It is harder for skeptics to think or say, “This IDEA stuff is just a temporary thing, and I don’t have to pay attention to it.” if, for example, the Vice-President of Research and Innovation is the face of the program.
Address the “elephant in the room”; diversity training has often been ineffective
Diversity seminars have been delivered for decades, and many employees have endured several one-off lectures over the years; they need to know that IDEA training is different.
Inclusion and diversity (D&I) training is less threatening and more appealing if framed as part of a process toward a better and more effective corporate culture. If the announcement to employees comes from a top executive who stresses that positive goals have guided the decision to launch the IDEA program, increased employee openness will follow. Information about measurable benefits at companies where IDEA principles have been integrated into company operations, such as improved employee morale and increased innovation, isn’t hard to find and should be communicated to the workforce.
It’s a long-term process, and communication is vital
Recognize and communicate that effective integration of IDEA principles into corporate culture is a long-term project; it takes months and years rather than days and weeks. Regular communication about progress and revised goals lets the workforce know that the training is not optional icing on the corporate cake but part of the cake itself. Program activities should occur during paid time if held outside the working hours; expecting employees to be enthusiastic about long-term training on their own time is unrealistic.
Full acceptance of IDEA training by the workforce may take time
Many long-term employees may feel threatened and be resistant to change. Mandating their attendance sends the wrong message and creates a barrier to engagement. Similarly, trust in the process by marginalized employees may not be immediate; actions speak louder than words, and actions happen over time. Invitations that pique curiosity and training content and methods that are genuinely different from old-school one-off seminars create compelling word of mouth. Change requires true employee engagement, which cannot be forced from the executive suite.
Diversity among the trainers is essential
Whether the IDEA program is delivered by an in-house team or an outside consultant, the composition of the training team must be consistent with the values the program seeks to encourage in the workforce and the executive suite. This is not to suggest the composition of training teams be governed by diversity alone, but trainers with lived experience are more credible than those who tell other people’s stories. A trainer can be an expert in theory and practice but may still fail to connect with the trainees.
These five ideas are only a few of the matters that influence IDEA training outcomes, and others will be explored in future posts. That said, including these factors when planning a comprehensive training program will lead to tremendous success.