Why mandating diversity & inclusion training isn’t enough to make a difference in your organisation
There is no doubt that 2020 will go down in history.
There is no doubt that 2020 will go down in history. We are living through a global pandemic, we’ve experienced local and national lockdowns, and undergone great uncertainty. This year has also been made different by the murder of George Flloyd, and the global Black Lives Matter protests that followed. This has caused a large domino effect through society and many organisations have taken note and focused much more on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their company.
As a result, organisations have mandated D&I training for all employees, in order to upskill and educate individuals on core themes and topics. I believe mandatory training for employees is a step in the right direction. However training is, unfortunately, only a one-time activity and its effects are often only felt for a limited amount of time. It tends to go something like this;
Training is completed and you feel good. You agree with everything in the training modules
The next month comes and it feels like a distant memory
Three months later and much of the content has been forgotten, as day to day work gets in the way
A 2016 meta-analysis of nearly 500 studies on implicit bias interventions similarly found that while such sessions sometimes briefly, and slightly, diminished participants’ implicit biases, they had no significant long-term effects on people’s behaviour or attitudes. (here)
Therefore, it is safe to say that training alone will not create diversity and will not encourage a more inclusive workplace. Training can be used to compliment other initiatives and policies but cannot be the only tool used. If it was that straightforward to implement mandatory training and get effective change, many organisations would be D&I experts. To create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace, the concepts of D&I don’t just need to be learned but also embedded into an organisation to create effective change. This is not a one time thing or even a quick fix, it requires consistency, time, senior buy-in and a long term holistic and strategic approach. You cannot solve structural societal problems in a one time training session, or in a year long D&I training programme, it requires tangible action and long lasting changes.
At Clarasys, we are on a journey to implement the above in our approach to D&I to ensure that it’s embedded into the organisation, across all departments. Here is how we are continuing to make sure D&I is woven into all aspects of our organisation, and steps which we recommend you take to embed D&I into all functions across your business:
Embed D&I into your processes and decision making
Review your processes and decision making processes with a D&I lens. Consider whether the current policies and processes take into account the diversity of your employees and critically assess if there are any inherent biases. This can be achieved through assessing the promotion & pay rise process and parental leave.
Create and support a dedicated D&I team
This can be a challenge especially for smaller organisations and requires a level of investment, whether this is a monetary or time-based investment. It also needs a significant amount of commitment from its members. I can tell you from my experience as D&I lead; thar building a team from scratch takes time.
Therefore focus on creating a small team which has a strong vision and strategy. Once this has been created, the ambitions and size of the team can increase and grow. Try not to run before you can walk.
Build a D&I community
By building a community and holding monthly ‘Lunch and Learns’ at Clarasys, we’ve been able to create a group of allies who advocate for D&I initiatives and thinking throughout the company. This helps to embed D&I and ensures our employees are empowered to speak and confidently engage on topics and themes.
Help the company understand the importance of D&I
This is spoken about a lot on online D&I communities, particularly the subject of getting buy in from management. This is vital and necessary, however it’s also important to help the wider company understand the significance of D&I. At Clarasys, we’ve engaged with our employees on this topic through company updates and sharing information on our internal social platform, Chatter. We've also asked employees who have felt personally affected by a lack of diversity or inclusion in their personal or professional lives to speak out and share, in 'safe space' community discussions. Specifically sharing employee experiences of coming out in the workplace through Chatter. By sharing stories of marginalisation and feeling 'other' amongst our colleagues, this helps to build empathy and understanding which also contributes to employees understanding why D&I in the workplace is important.
It will take time
As D&I lead at Clarasys, I often want to see results quickly and it can be easy to become impatient when your efforts amount to what appears to be slow progress. My key takeaway for anyone in a similar role is to remember that making and embedding long lasting change will take time and a lot of patience. Your organisation is moving in the right direction and although it may seem like progress is not being made; it is.
As a quick reminder…mandating training is not the only solution for creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, there is no quick fix and time is needed to ensure diversity and inclusion is embedded into an organisation. This will ensure that any changes made are not done in isolation and are sustainable throughout the organisation.