There’s been a huge shift in the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in recent years — you’ve noticed it, and your employees have too. Now people expect the organizations they work for to do more to promote inclusion and make the day-to-day work experience better for marginalized employees. But many companies struggle to find the right approach to DE&I training for their audience.

In June, we hosted a webinar called “Getting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training Right: A Case Study." In the webinar, Kirsten Liston of Rethink Compliance and Renée Wardlaw of Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) shared BBNC’s approach to DE&I training and why it worked.

Renée and her team recently engaged Rethink Compliance to roll out a cultural awareness initiative that included both in-person and online training. Here are three takeaways Renée shared in the webinar that you can apply to your own DE&I training program.

  1. Recognize that culture is constantly evolving.

As Renée says, “What we thought was OK five years ago is not necessarily OK today, and that’s OK.”

Workplace culture evolves just as the larger cultural narrative evolves. Rather than dealing in absolutes, Renée wanted to open up a conversation. So she worked with Rethink to develop a course that set a tone of: “Let’s have an open discussion about this stuff. It is not clear cut.”

She then used these conversations to reinforce BBNC’s cultural values and emphasize the importance of having an inclusive work environment.

2. Use realistic scenarios — and don’t shy away from the gray areas.

One thing we loved about working with Renée and her team was their willingness to dive into the gray areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion — the uncomfortable moments at work when someone steps over the line without intending to, or when the right thing to do isn’t clear.

By taking out the extremes on both sides, Renée and her team were able to have much more lively discussions and encourage employees to really sit with the material. Employees noticed, too: They provided feedback that the scenarios felt realistic and relevant to their work lives.

3. Acknowledge differences in perspective, and find common ground.

BBNC has a diverse employee population of 4,500 people across the United States. These employees span a wide range of age groups, races, and political affiliations, and Renée knew they’d bring many different perspectives to the training.

So Renée used BBNC’s Code of Ethics as a framework to guide the conversation toward the big principles everyone could agree on, like treating people fairly, being considerate of others, fixing your wrongs if you know they’re wrong, and also letting someone know when they’ve hurt you.

As Renée says, “People operate a little bit differently if you can meet them slightly in the middle. I don’t think we have the same steps to get there, but I saw that that changed the workplace dramatically if more people could have a conversation.”

A huge thank you to Renée for sharing her perspective with us!

Wondering where to start with your diversity, equity, and inclusion training? We can help. Contact us for a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts. We’ll help you find the right approach for your company and culture.