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Five tips to avoid the destructive reality of poor DEIB activity

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI) has emerged as a key element of business and HR strategies as companies focus on building inclusive workplaces that drive sustainable growth and innovation.

But, for DEI training to succeed, it is vital that it embraces adult learning theory and couples it with the human story. Instead of tickbox training with sterile, clinical definitions, the emphasis needs to be on experiences that provoke curiosity and inspire practical efforts.

In the wake of social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, #MeToo and the fight for trans rights, getting it right when it comes to corporate DEI training isn't about ticking the box – it's about redefining it.

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Here are five top tips for HR professionals keen to embrace the new era of DEIB activity.

To begin with, challenge your organisation's motives. Inclusion training is often applied as a knee-jerk reaction to DEI challenges. But inclusive cultures require much more than isolated training. Think about how to turn insight into action.

Focused and practical inclusion training, tied to a change agenda, will help your workforce to consciously adopt new practices.

But if your organisation is not committed to DEI as a strategic priority, you may find the training inspires your staff in a different direction – out the door.

It's also important to change your thinking to define compliance as the commitment to continue. Gaining 'compliance' in DEI, suggests your work is done when, actually, it should be the first step. True success needs to be measured in marked change not mere attendance.

Consider compliance not as a sign-off, but as a collection of check-in efforts throughout the year – a learning pathway of practical application, monitored and measured through the commitment of employees and the results of their invested time.

Historically, DEI training has been presented in a rational way, with emotional issues overlooked for cognitive practice. But it's time now to break the mould and allow for emotional preparedness.

Successful DEI events often hinge on emotional discomfort. But people of colour are exhausted by conversations of anti-racism, women and non-binary employees are triggered from gender bias upskills, and those of perceived privilege are paralysed by feelings of guilt.

Corporate training must break with tradition and unpack the realities within the room. We know it’s natural to rebel against being told how to act or how to think. We also know that emotions impact the effectiveness of learning.

It's time to acknowledge the emotional health required for DEI change and understand that motivation must be intrinsically inspired.

Another tip is to flip the classroom and unlock your experts – have training professionals acting as facilitators rather than instructors. With a flipped classroom, the learning content is shared via digital resources prior to the training event.

This transforms the classroom event from a two-hour knowledge download to an interactive opportunity to test new-found knowledge, learning from both facilitator and peers in practical application.

One final tip is to offer point-of-need learning opportunities. We live in an age of instant gratification, where we expect to get answers within minutes, and our readiness to learn is based on perceived relevancy.

Scheduled training events risk being overshadowed by the demands of busy workloads. Instead, layer training events with digital resources that can be accessed when the employee needs them.

DEI curiosity occurs from an interaction or event that causes an individual to question what they know. So, provide employees with easy-to-use nuggets of knowledge that can be accessed when they need them – acknowledge that learners don't want to wade through heaps of irrelevant information.

A carefully curated content library of micro-learning and behavioural nudge resources is invaluable when it comes to successful DEI transformation.

Nic Girvan is director of learning and delivery at PDT Global, part of Affirmity