Diversity & Inclusion, or as many organizations today label it Inclusion & Diversity, has become a business imperative for growth and success. Much has been written about the benefits of Diversity & Inclusion, in terms of driving innovation, customer empathy, attracting and retaining talent and bringing varied perspectives.
However, we also know that while Diversity is a simple matter of hiring diverse talent, Inclusion is a difficult thing to achieve. Inclusion is not a natural human instinct and it takes a change in mindset to bring about true inclusion. This change in mindset can be achieved through training, building an inclusive culture and ensuring that inclusion is practiced in everyday interactions. Training, however, is the key to initiating the mindset of inclusion.
Let us look at the 4 key outcomes every Diversity & Inclusion training must have.
- Understanding Diversity & Inclusion – Most people use the two terms interchangeably however they are quite different. While Diversity is about having a varied workforce that is diverse in terms of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, education, physical abilities, personality and though-process. However, the definition of Diversity can vary depending on the cultural context as well. For example, in India the various regions and language are important aspects of Diversity, while in the US race is critical. It is important for any training on D&I to bring out this understanding of Diversity. At the same time the training must bring out the fact that Diversity does not automatically lead to Inclusion. Inclusion happens when the diverse groups can bring their true selves to work and their differences are valued and leveraged to gain competitive advantage.
- Workplace Exclusion – Another key aspect that any training on Diversity & Inclusion must bring out is – what workplace exclusion looks like. A lot of times exclusion does not happen in big ways but in small and subtle ways that people may not even recognize as exclusion. For example, the kind of language used in the workplace can result in unconscious exclusion of certain groups like call team members “guys” or talking about leaders as “he/ him” only. D&I training should not only highlight such instances of workplace exclusion but also provide strategies for avoiding it.
- Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion – For organizations that are just starting out in the journey of becoming diverse and inclusive, the people should be able to see the benefits of d&I so that they feel the need to promote it. In many cases, people are just about the “what” and “how” of diversity and inclusion without really talking about the “why”. In such cases we see that like many corporate initiatives, D&I fails to penetrate at the grassroot levels. Any training on Diversity & Inclusion must bring about its benefits in terms of innovation, business growth etc. to get a buy-in from people to actively work on promoting d&i.
- Unconscious Biases – The biggest barrier to practicing inclusion are Unconscious Biases. The problem with overcoming them is the fact that mostly people are not aware of their unconscious biases. Training on Diversity & Inclusion must therefore not just talk about the types of biases but also help people in recognizing their own biases and creating strategies for overcoming them.
However, it is important to remember that a one-off training event is not enough to bring about a change in mindset and make people promote diversity and become inclusive. Changing mindsets is a slow and long-drawn process. Therefore, Diversity & Inclusion training must be conducted regularly to act as a reminder and also create awareness about new perspectives and thoughts in the area. Using innovative methods of training like theater is always a good idea.