Diversity & Inclusion: 5 Reasons D&I Leaders Should Focus on Staff Education

Companies that do well at implementing diversity and inclusion know that training forms an important part of the mosaic, ready to meet the strategic imperative head on.

When coupled with an organisational commitment to diversity values, hiring from a breadth of sources, and ensuring a fair promotion system, training initiatives complement change at scale.

Nurturing a diverse workforce strongly benefits employees and organisations. Companies with a high index of gender diversity are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability, and a high ethnic diversity index boosts this likelihood to 36%.

Whilst the economic case is strong, in the past few years, progress towards equity has slowed, and there is a widening gap between organisations that have embraced diversity and those left behind. These laggards are missing out on a key lever of competitive advantage, as well as falling behind on the ethical barometer.

Even amongst organisations that have succeeded at fostering diversity, inclusion is not guaranteed. Issues of favoritism, bias, entrenched traditionalist cultures, and a perception that certain industries overlook the recruitment of women and minorities, may be hampering attainment of the rich benefits of diversity.

Driving diversity and inclusion in an organisation requires many initiatives to establish and nurture cultures that naturally tend towards equality. Here are five reasons D&I leaders should focus on incorporating staff training.

Learning strengthens awareness of microaggressions

Microaggressions tend to be hard to identify in our own behaviour, but they’re often even harder to call out. Because they are a subtle form of oppressive behaviour, they can be difficult for culture watchdogs to prevent with policies and instruction.

Instead, by taking a grass roots approach and educating all staff, identifying and refraining from this behaviour becomes the personal responsibility of all members of an organisation.

Targeted training tackles bias

Recruitment and promotion are two areas where diversity KPIs are often measured. If managers are hiring from the same pool of talent without casting a wider net to attract a range of candidates, or making promotion decisions based on implicit or explicit favouritism, diversity doesn’t stand a chance.

In these cases, avoid implementing sheep-dip training for everyone and introduce programmes that narrow the focus to tackle specific issues. For instance, promoting conscious inclusion for recruiters, or targeting unconscious bias for managers can effectively facilitate equality of opportunity.

Education reduces marginalisation

Maginalisation can occur when people feel their voice is not heard, when they don’t receive recognition for their ideas, or when they are devalued because they are part of a demographic they can’t change.

Investing in personal development training for diverse talent achieves several important benefits. It fosters a sense of belonging, builds confidence to contribute a unique perspective, enables authentic connection to company priorities, and develops security so that people feel safe in bringing their whole selves to work.

Training builds better conversations about difficult topics

Did you know that if your organisation employs more than 10,000 people, 78% of them are avoiding tough conversations? They may fear retribution, exclusion, or have concluded that their voice simply won’t be heard.

We don’t need to tell you that this is a big problem for inclusion that requires top-down attention on values as much as bottom-up skill building.

Taking a smart approach to training can help alleviate conversation impasse and broker methods to address it. For example, creating company-relevant scenarios that allow under-represented groups to practice confronting difficult topics builds skills in speaking up and contributes to an equitable company culture.

Campaigns drive longer-lasting results

Applying a one-and-done approach to diversity training is likely to be insufficient to enact meaningful change. Inclusion needs to be embraced every day, by everyone, and as such must be kept fresh, provocative, and on the radar.

Blended learning campaigns extend over a period of time, are backed by science, and have been shown to boost long-term results. Best of all, campaigns are a great way to involve your employees as contributors, helping to scale the inclusion conversation across geographical borders in an authentic way.

The bottom line

If you’re a D&I leader looking to bring your organisation’s diversity and inclusion mission to life, consider how training accelerates your goals with on-the-ground implementation.

From tackling microaggressions, minimising biased decision making and marginalisation, to building communication capabilities, good training has an indispensable role to play.

Sponge is a leader is diversity and inclusion training. We’ve helped some of the world’s largest companies in pharmaceutical, tech, engineering, and professional services gain the benefits of their diverse workforce with award winning digital solutions.