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Wondering Where to Start with Your DE&I Training? There's More Than One Right Approach.

by Phoebe Larson

· DEI,training,culture

These days most companies realize the importance of having robust diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) training in the workplace, but they often don’t know where to start, or they may struggle to find an approach that fits their company culture and employee base.

If that sounds familiar, we have some good news: There’s more than one right approach to DE&I training. 

Rethink Compliance recently designed two distinct — and equally compelling — DE&I courses for two different companies, aligned with their workplace cultures and DE&I goals. The first training focused on the nuances of everyday workplace situations, while the second course defined common DE&I vocabulary words and taught key concepts. 

We wanted to share a bit about both courses, and why they worked, for others planning their own approach to DE&I training.

Approach #1: Navigating the Gray Area

The first client wanted to provoke critical thinking and questioning.

Like many organizations, the company recognized that people can act in ways that feel offensive or harmful to others without even realizing it. They may think they’re being friendly, genuinely believe their actions or comments are welcome, or simply be unaware of the impact — like mixing up the names of two Black coworkers or making assumptions about someone’s personal life based on their sexuality. 

The client wanted employees to start to distinguish mistakes from true mal-intent — while building a culture where well-meaning mistakes can be openly discussed and addressed.

With versions for both live and online audiences, the course asked learners to consider the intent and impact of words or behaviors. Did the person intend to be harmful, or did they mean well? What was the impact of their words or behaviors on the recipient?  

The goal was to foster private and personal reflection on a range of nuanced situations. The client wanted employees to start to distinguish mistakes from true mal-intent — while building a culture where well-meaning mistakes can be openly discussed and addressed.

Following each scenario, the course presented DE&I best practices and the company’s guiding principles and values for building an inclusive culture. By focusing on the gray areas, the client was able to spark a deeper conversation about diversity and equity while reiterating the company’s standards for workplace conduct.

Approach #2: No Sugar

The second client required a more direct approach. In their words — “no sugar.” 

They wanted learners to come away knowing definitions to essential vocabulary words and with an understanding of critical DE&I concepts. Scenarios were explicit, presenting learners with the right course of action. Knowledge checks followed every chapter to ensure learners retained the information. 

Each section of the course opened with definitions, including diversity, equity, inclusion, unconscious bias, microinequities, allyship, and upstanding. The training then went deeper into the concept. For example, following the definition of diversity, an explainer video presented the four dimensions of diversity — those that one can see, like race and gender, and those unseen, such as religious views and languages spoken.  

Each section included a scenario or example of the concept. Again, for the concept of diversity, an audio scenario featured a conversation between a woman and her husband as she travels home from work. She says she’ll be home soon and mentions that she’s skipping a team celebration at a popular restaurant. She doesn’t mind, because she hates crowds. However, she does worry that she will be passed over for significant projects because she frequently can’t attend after-work events. This reality means she gets less time with her manager than other team members. 

The course then unpacked the scenario, explaining how diversity impacted the experience. People have different needs and preferences for celebrating milestones. Many people have family obligations or other activities that prohibit them from meeting after work. 

The training ends with an optional ask for employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and experience with DE&I. The client intends to use the information to inform further company-wide learning.

Start from Where You Are

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to DE&I training. Companies with successful DE&I training start from where they are. DE&I is rooted in a company’s values and workplace culture. If you’re wondering where to start, take the pulse of your leadership and workforce to determine your right approach. 

Ready to get started? We can help. Contact us for a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts. We’re happy to help you brainstorm ideas to better reach your audience and make the most of your DE&I training.

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