Redwood Performance Group

One of the most powerful highlights I experienced at ATD22 was a growing emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. My overriding impression was that this critical learning area was becoming a priority in the US and that learning providers were stepping up with the tools and strategies required to accelerate the acceptance and growth of DEI initiatives among all kinds of organizations.

If you needed a little DEI inspiration, you’d have found plenty at this year’s event. Thought leaders like Zoe Moore, Erika White, Patti P. Phillips, and Jennifer Brown presented a compelling case of why DEI isn’t an option if you want to build a strong, competitive team.

The business case for DEI is equally compelling: Study upon study has shown that organizations that embrace DEI consistently outperform those that don’t. Again, the facts speak for themselves: The more gender and ethnic diversity within a company, the greater the likelihood of that company outperforming its peers.

Of course, being from Canada, that’s not exactly breaking news: Canada is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, and over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about why DEI is such a big win for everyone involved. You can wrap as much complexity around it as you want, but from my perspective, it all comes down to simply being fair. When you work to create a culture where people are treated fairly, measured on their merit and achievements, and given unfettered opportunities to develop and thrive, magic happens. Magic that can be transformative and touch every part of an organization.

We know a thing or two about what we speak. We’ve worked with organizations of all stripes for several years to provide the DEI spark that inspires change. It’s not an easy road, far from it. We are all hard-wired to resist cultural change. And has anyone ever found it easy to examine and challenge their biases honestly and openly? And then take action to grow and change? It isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort, like most things of true value.

Our team has created a wide variety of DEI programs, ranging from custom-produced, multi-year efforts spanning the country and touching thousands of employees to off-the-shelf modules that guide you through diversity from A to Z. It can be challenging, but for me, and I know for many members of my team, developing DEI learning programs has been among my most rewarding experiences.
Looking to launch your own DEI initiative? Here are just a few observations I’ve made that will help make your organization’s DEI journey a little smoother:

1. Get commitment from the top:

Team leaders need to know and understand why DEI should be at the top of a company's priority list. The case for DEI couldn't be stronger, so ensure those required to inspire and guide change fully know DEI's merits and benefits.

2. Develop policies, procedures, and practices

DEI doesn't just happen. It requires structures to nurture its acceptance and growth. Change doesn't happen overnight, so make sure you have the policies, procedures, and practices in place to keep your organization on track.

3. Use a well-rounded approach

As L&D professionals, we know better than anybody that different people respond to different learning modalities. So, don't put all your DEI eggs in one learning basket. Some subjects are best suited for simulations. Others work best as interactive learning modules. The important thing is that people learn in a way they're comfortable with and won't push back against.

4. Make it interesting and compelling

Hey, isn't making learning effective and engaging what we do? Like any other learning audience, your team wants an experience that will leave them inspired and energized. DEI often entails a major cultural shift so give people the intellectual and emotional fuel they need to shift into overdrive!

5. Get creative

Nobody wants DEI shoved down their throats. If that's the perception you've lost before you've begun. Make it fun, exciting, personal, emotional – whatever it takes to make it stick.

There you have it! My five-step guide for making your team DEI champs. As I said, it’s not always easy, but if you follow these five steps, my bet is you’ll experience rewards that dwarf the time and resources expended.

Lydia Sani