Throughout my over a decade of working in some version of corporate America, I attended many of the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) training sessions; you know, the once a year refresher of the one hour course as part of the onboarding process. Much of it was quite repetitive, and much of it focused on the "value of diversity" and not teaching how to build a strategy. I cannot say that I gained the knowledge and expertise I possess at any of those corporate training sessions. Instead, I have spent the last seven years studying neuroscience and practical learning engagement principles so that I could solve this very problem with my team at Step Up: Equity Matters.
Here are some suggestions for creating a higher base level of understanding around equity, diversity, and inclusion:
1. Diversity isn't a strategy; it's an outcome.
We need to move away from the once a year training on D&I to keeping equity, diversity, and inclusion front and center. For far too long, D&I training has relied on meeting quotas and "checking the box" learning rather than growing employees' skill, knowledge, and understanding of how Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) is part of their role in the company. Many employees are unaware of their impact, and as such, unprepared to create change.
2. D&I focuses outward, while EDI finds a common center.
D&I training focuses on othering vs. understanding our human condition and our inability to live up to our beliefs and values of fairness consciously. It is less about understanding our differences or finding our commonalities and more about knowingly accepting that creating belonging is a daily choice to turn off autopilot and hold space for genuine connections.
3. D&I is a step in the right direction; EDI brings change full circle.
EDI must be recognized as a behavioral change effort and introduced and reinforced through education. D&I initiatives often fall short of the long term goal of fostering equity across an entire organization. Until every workplace member's baseline competency improves, we will see less than desirable results on EDI goals.
4. One size will not fit all.
A one size fits all D&I training often doesn't address employee needs. Multi-level and multi demographical training is necessary. However, the base level of understanding across all employees must rise and remain upheld.
EDI training is as much unlearning as it is learning. We can address all these challenges head-on and achieve the transformation we seek. And we can commit to unlearning patterns that yield inequitable outcomes and reprogram our organizations. The strategy for rich diversity is EDI!