Diversity training: Leverage this talent retention strategy and build an inclusive workplace

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Stakeholders, employees, and candidates can see your competitors’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts and want to see yours, too.

Today, people expect these efforts: They show that a company is forward-thinking and socially conscious.

Cultivating a positive culture and encouraging a sense of belonging is good for your business, boosting performance and improving your corporate reputation.

Diversity training helps build this equitable culture. 

It boosts awareness of underrepresented groups, such as people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and neurodivergent or disabled people, and encourages the acceptance and inclusion of everyone, regardless of their status.

This understanding fosters inclusivity throughout your workforce, increasing your overall employee retention rate.

In this blog, we discuss how well-built diversity training programs are an excellent talent retention strategy

We also outline how HR professionals can design effective diversity and inclusion training that doesn’t run into the pitfalls of traditional programs, like a lack of clear goals.

What is diversity training?

Diversity training programs are initiatives designed to improve employee understanding and awareness of diverse individuals, such as those of a different ethnicity or sexual orientation, to increase team cohesion and reduce discrimination and bias.

These programs help your workforce understand people who are different from them and how to work together effectively.

Diversity in the workplace improves a company’s innovation, boosts corporate reputation, and has a ripple effect on society by promoting inclusivity and understanding and introducing more perspectives.

Diversity and inclusion training also helps avoid discrimination lawsuits and protects your people from sexual harassment, racial bias, and other forms of discrimination.

These positive impacts create a place where people want to work, improving employee retention and enabling you to take advantage of several talent retention trends.

For example, greater inclusivity and acceptance increase employee wellbeing.

Diversity training examples: 5 different types of training

There are many different types of diversity training in the workplace. Various training programs fall under this umbrella, aiming to foster a more understanding workforce.

Here are a few examples of diversity training in the workplace:

  • Workplace diversity training: This training educates your people on the concept of fair treatment, opportunity, and access for everyone at work

  • Managing unconscious bias: Bias training raises awareness of unconscious bias and aims to help people understand their own biases

  • Microaggressions training: This type of training helps people understand and reduce subtle slights and insults called microaggressions

  • Cultural diversity training: This training helps people understand and accept different cultures and perspectives

  • Religious sensitivity training: Religious training educates employees on different beliefs and faiths

Depending on your workforce’s socio-economic status, you can leverage one or more of these employee training programs, depending on your workforce.

For example, one company may have many employees from different cultures and countries.

This organization would need to implement bias training, cultural and religious competency training, and workplace diversity training to ensure its workforce can collaborate efficiently and respectfully.

Does diversity training work?

Many people question the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion training in the workplace, and these questions aren’t completely unfounded.

Diversity training has a lot of common pitfalls, such as being used as a standalone cure-all to diversity issues.

Here are a few common mistakes when implementing diversity training for employees:

  • Misguided expectations, like employees completely ridding themselves of implicit bias.

  • Using negative motivation, such as insulting people’s innate biases and making them feel guilty. For example, a manager could overreact when a male employee offers to help a female employee because he believes she cannot lift a certain amount of weight. Instead, the manager should calmly remind him that the job description specifies the maximum weight all employees must be able to lift.

  • Threatening team members with legal implications, such as discrimination laws.

  • Making training mandatory or using it as punishment can cause resentment. Instead, make training voluntary but remind workers of the importance of an inclusive environment for everyone.

  • Neglecting certain types of diversity, including different neurotypes and generational diversity.

  • Using diversity training as the only diversity initiative to align mindsets.

Let’s expand on that last point.

To develop diversity training that is actually effective, you need to acknowledge that it’s simply a part of a whole initiative. Many DE&I training programs are flawed because companies believe that they promote inclusivity on their own.

Diversity training should be an addition to an overall DE&I strategy that includes an inclusive company culture and fair hiring practices.

We discuss this in depth later on.

Why is diversity training important?

The demand for diversity and inclusion training is increasing, becoming the norm in many companies.

This demand comes from two main areas: the desire for equity and the desire for employee wellbeing and trust.

Many social issues are making understanding diversity more important than ever, and events like massive skills shortages are making it imperative to prioritize employee wellbeing.

Diversity training in the workplace builds inclusivity, which fosters psychological safety and trust, greatly impacting your workforce.

Employees at high-trust companies have:

  • 74% less stress

  • 106% more energy at work

  • 50% higher productivity

  • 13% fewer sick days

  • 76% more engagement

  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives

  • 40% less burnout[1]

There is a massive business case for increasing inclusivity and psychological safety.

Here are a few more reasons why diversity training is important to employers:

  • Helps build a more effective process for everyone: Your entire workforce benefits from diversity and inclusion training, not just underrepresented groups. It increases the trust of every employee, which also impacts the company.

  • Proactively fights discrimination and protects companies against lawsuits: Avoiding discrimination creates a safer workplace for all employees. Further, it helps companies avoid costly lawsuits from discrimination.

  • An inclusive workforce increases performance: Diverse teams boost financial outcomes. Gender-diverse teams are 25% more likely to financially outperform less diverse teams, and ethnically diverse teams are 36% more likely to do the same.

Diversity training in the workplace builds a successful organization where people want to work. It encourages growth toward inclusivity alongside tactics like inclusive hiring practices.

It’s important to your people, too.

Fostering an inclusive atmosphere boosts teamwork and collaboration, which builds better working relationships between colleagues. This atmosphere creates an environment where employees don’t feel afraid or judged.

It also leads to overall better mental health for your staff. To read more about this, check out our guide on improving mental health in the workplace.

The benefits of diversity training in the workplace

Diversity training is a powerful tool for raising awareness, broadening perspectives, and creating a culture of inclusion. It helps nurture a workplace where co-workers are excited to go to work and do their best.

The benefits of diversity training in the workplace graphic

Let’s look deeper at the benefits of diversity training in the workplace.

Increases employee engagement

Employees must know you accept, hear, and see them to feel connected to their work properly.

Diversity training helps foster an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable and appreciated. It leads to higher levels of employee engagement.

One study found that a sense of belonging is the strongest driver of employee engagement, outranking trust in leadership and ability for career growth.

Diversity training helps underrepresented groups feel more included and enables every employee to feel like their company cares about its people.

This sense of belonging increases an employee’s motivation to do great work and enhances the entire employee experience.

Boosts employee retention

Workplace diversity training educates employees on inclusion and promotes a safer space for everyone, drastically reducing your employee turnover rate.

Employees who feel included stay with their company three times longer than employees who don’t feel the same.

An inclusive culture creates an environment where employees can be authentic, building a feeling of safety and comfort.

One study found that organizations with highly inclusive cultures have:

  • 22% lower turnover rates

  • 22% greater productivity

  • 27% higher profitability

  • 39% higher customer satisfaction

Organizations with highly inclusive cultures graphic

This study also found that employees who feel included are:

  • 43% more committed to their company

  • 51% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work[2]

Unfortunately, a workplace where you can feel accepted and relaxed isn’t common. Inclusive cultures are valuable for employees and not something they’re likely to let go of readily. 

Improves your corporate reputation

Diversity and inclusion are essential in the modern era, so taking the time to properly address them impacts your corporate reputation.

Diversity is a trending topic, and every one of your stakeholders wants to see what you’re doing about it. Further, taking a firm stance on diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do and shows your stakeholders where your priorities are.

One study found that 79% of diversity and inclusion executives in companies with high DE&I alignment believe that DE&I is an essential driver of company reputation.

Further, 30% of chief data officers in companies with low DE&I alignment believe the same.[3]

It also improves your employer branding.

Your employer branding is how potential job candidates perceive your company’s value as an employer, and it’s a deciding factor on whether or not to apply for a job.

For more information on how diversity and inclusion enhance your talent acquisition strategy, read our blog on diverse candidates.

Increases communication, problem-solving, and innovation

A diversity training course helps employees understand how to collaborate.

Many diversity training topics center on how different employees can get along, which improves teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation.

A study found that employees who believe their company supports diversity are 83% more likely to report a better ability to innovate, leading to improved performance.[1]

Further, a separate study found that companies with above-average diversity produced more revenue from innovation (45%) than companies with below-average diversity (26%).[4]

Diverse teams boost innovation, and when you foster and encourage that diversity through training programs, you build a space where that talent can shine.

7 best practices for leveraging diversity training programs to retain your best performers

We’re clear that diversity training is an important DE&I strategy that helps retain employees and create a healthy work culture.

Now, let’s use seven best practices to help you develop diversity training that is actually effective. 

Strategies to design effective diversity training programs: A summary

Strategy

What it accomplishes

1. Conduct a diversity audit to know where you stand

Knowing where your culture stands helps you measure progress and success

2. Determine your goals and be realistic

Aligning your goals to your business objectives ensures diversity training promotes your company’s mission and purpose

3. Provide employees with a variety of diversity training resources

Offering a variety of learning resources promotes better employee learning

4. Prepare yourself and your workforce for difficult conversations

Acknowledging that diversity training isn’t always easy helps you face and overcome difficult moments

5. Measure progress and give your team updates

Monitoring your data helps you steer your training and ensure it’s accomplishing your goals

6. Involve leadership

Getting leaders involved helps lead by example and shows employees that their managers care, too

7. Dedicate your organization to DE&I

Adopting more inclusive strategies spreads diversity efforts across your company and makes a real difference

7 best practices for leveraging diversity training programs graphic

1. Conduct a diversity audit to know where you stand

You must know where your company stands by conducting a diversity audit to build effective diversity training programs and measure their success.

Look inward, gather the facts, and discover where your company can improve.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Assess your current company culture

  2. Identify conflicts and issues that employees face

  3. Determine where your people need support, such as reviewing employee benefits

During this audit, asking your employees for their opinions is important. Implement employee listening practices, such as issuing employee surveys and asking people in focus groups about their thoughts, opinions, and concerns.

This upward feedback is essential to designing successful diversity training programs.

2. Determine your goals and be realistic

Establish your goals and what you hope to accomplish with diversity training. 

Some companies run into issues by setting goals too lofty to achieve with one program, like overhauling your entire company culture or eliminating unconscious bias.

Doing this could end in your disappointment and, worse, stakeholder disappointment.

You must carefully determine your diversity training goals, ensuring they’re realistic and aligned with your organizational goals.

Diversity training should reflect an organization’s mission and ethics.

For example, if one of your company’s goals is to become a recognized leader in diverse hiring, your diversity training should focus on inclusive recruitment practices.

Another example of aligning your training goals is a company wanting to immediately immerse new hires in its inclusive culture by including a short diversity course in its onboarding process.

3. Provide employees with a variety of diversity training resources

Promote employee learning by providing access to employee training programs and resources.

Offer a variety of training types, such as online diversity training, instructor-led courses, or even simple handbooks.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Webinars

  2. Instructor-led courses

  3. Microlearning

  4. Mobile learning

  5. Gamification

  6. Handbooks and whitepapers

These resources should be easily accessible in a centralized location, such as your company intranet or software like Slite, a knowledge tool.

Employees must also be aware of these resources, so be sure to make their presence known and clearly announce the addition of new programs.

4. Prepare yourself and your workforce for difficult conversations

Many diversity and inclusion training topics are sensitive, and training isn’t always easy – it can include uncomfortable conversations and moments. 

Discussing crucial topics, like unfair employee compensation and the gender pay gap, can get uncomfortable, but they’re necessary to discuss.

Committing yourself to difficult conversations ahead of time makes these conversations much easier.

A real-life example comes from Ankit Patel, the chief executive of Classic Vision Care.

Ankit talks about a necessary but uncomfortable conversation with a manager about their behavior.

This manager was being more strict with a Black employee than they were with a White employee, and Ankit suspected there was no malice at play but rather just unconscious bias.

He approached this employee with patient employee coaching, broaching the topic with his own biases.

Diversity training in the workplace also brings the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. To combat this, make it known that everyone makes mistakes and that these mistakes are learning opportunities rather than opportunities for punishment.

5. Measure progress and give your team updates

You determined your goals in advance, so now that your program’s in progress, you need to check the outcomes and how they measure up to your expectations.

Are you achieving what you set out? Are you seeing good results, or do your programs need improvement?

The two main types of progress you must check are:

  1. How your employees digest and retain the information

  2. How training affects your people metrics, such as engagement and retention rate

To discover the first point, send out employee surveys to gauge how employees absorb diversity and inclusion training topics. After you gather the data, report the results to all necessary parties, including your employees.

Give your people valuable employee feedback, both reinforcing and redirecting, to put them on the right course.

Redirect people who have areas of improvement and reinforce workers who are doing great with positive feedback.

To understand how your people metrics change, gather and analyze data from many sources, such as surveys and your HR tech stack.

For our full guide on this subject, read our article on HR analytics.

6. Involve leadership

It’s essential to have leadership support throughout diversity initiatives. 

Bring this up in one-on-one meetings with leaders. Ensure that they know how important their presence and support are throughout training.

Involving leadership shows your workforce that leaders are engaged in diversity training, too. 

To truly lead from the top and be a role model for employees, leaders must show their people that they're taking initiative.

It is part of leadership communication and helps instill strong employee trust.

It’s also important to involve leaders directly in diversity training so they're present for important lessons and ideas. 

This training is crucial for every member of the company, especially people like leaders who play a large part in shaping organizational culture.

7. Dedicate your organization to DE&I

Diversity training is important to inclusivity, but it isn't everything. You must realize that there's more to DE&I than just diversity training.

Your company must commit to making a difference through other efforts.

For example, adopting inclusive hiring practices helps you hire more diverse candidates. Skills-based hiring and evaluating candidates with talent assessments help you recruit the best candidates regardless of their different backgrounds.

Here are a few other strategies to spread diversity across your entire workplace culture:

  • Improve accessibility and offer reasonable accommodations

  • Mentor and coach every employee

  • Encourage empathetic leadership

  • Start employee resource groups

  • Work to achieve gender pay parity

Workplace diversity training is a powerful tool, but it’s essential to remember that it's only one part of a larger whole.

3 examples of companies succeeding with diversity and inclusion training as a talent retention strategy

Designing an effective diversity training program isn’t difficult when you implement the right strategies. As evidence, let’s look at three successful DE&I training programs that are based on proven best practices.

Companies with excellent diversity training: A summary

Company

Why it’s successful

1. Coca-Cola

Provides a centralized hub of diversity training resources

2. ADP

Holds diversity as a core company value

3. SharkNinja

Strives to help every member of the company succeed

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola graphic

Coca-Cola, the beverage giant, leverages a diversity and inclusion platform to spread the awareness and empathy it says are essential “ingredients” of its culture.

Valerie Love, the senior vice president of human resources for the North American operating unit, says diversity training is part of its capability-building efforts.

Valerie adds, “Inclusion is a skill set that requires continuous education, listening, and learning. By providing employees with tools, training, and resources, we hope to empower them to become allies in this work, to support each other, and to stand as one.”

This company supplies employees with the Allyship Guidebook, which includes learning resources, communication tools, video testimonials, and other content designed by employee volunteers to help each other understand unique experiences.

Coca-Cola also provides its workforce with Inclusion Networks – employee-led groups focused on building a more diverse, inclusive workplace. These networks include groups for Asia Pacific, Black, LGBTQ+, disabled, and Hispanic employees.[5]

What impact do these efforts have on retention? What’s Coca-Cola’s employee attrition rate?

This company’s retention is stellar. 

It’s in the top 10% of similar-sized companies in its ability to retain quality employees, and the vast majority of its employees would not leave Coca-Cola for more money.[6]

ADP

ADP graphic

ADP, a human resources management software company, has diversity as a core value, which it tries to embed throughout the entire organization, from policies to products.

Its diverse workforce reflects its customers and community, creating better brand alignment

Bob Lockett, the chief diversity and talent officer for ADP, says that one of the primary guiding beliefs of the company is that each associate has the potential and power to impact the business and shape its products and services.

Here are a few of its diversity training examples:

  • Virtual diversity summits

  • Inclusive language initiatives

  • Business resource groups

  • Unconscious bias awareness training

The results are excellent – 78% of ADP’s employees feel the company is doing what’s necessary to retain them.[7]

SharkNinja

SharkNinja graphic

SharkNinja, a global product design and technology company, encourages employees to bring their authentic selves to work daily.

This company wants to support its entire workforce in making an impact and accelerating their careers.[8]

It has eight affinity groups and two DE&I groups, including women, South Asian, Black, Middle Eastern and North African, LGBTQ+, Hispanic, and Pan Asian groups. 

SharkNinja also uses platforms and channels to communicate, encourage, and discover ideas from its associates worldwide. 

Further, it also offers speaker and workshop events to promote awareness and collaboration. It strives to elevate its people's voices and provide educational content to support cultural growth and professional development. 

Assist diversity training and combat unconscious bias with talent assessments

Diversity programs spread awareness of different cultures, genders, and beliefs and teach people valuable lessons about others, helping create a healthier company culture.

Try leveraging them to boost employee retention at your organization. Get leadership onboard, determine your goals, and monitor your progress.

Just remember that they aren’t the sole fix for greater inclusion.

For more information on this subject, read our blog on building an inclusive culture, which helps build acceptance from your company’s core.

If you’d like to take a closer look at an inclusive hiring method, browse our test library filled with more than 300 talent assessments.

Sources

  1. Zak, Paul J. (January - February 2017). "The Neuroscience of Trust". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved November 24, 2023.  https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust 

  2. "Inclusive Mobility: How Mobilizing a Diverse Workforce Can Drive Business Performance". (2018). Deloitte. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/Tax/us-tax-inclusive-mobility-mobilize-diverse-workforce-drive-business-performance.pdf 

  3. "New Study Finds Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Improve The Reputation and Revenue of a Company". (January 13, 2020). Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://instituteforpr.org/new-study-finds-diversity-and-inclusion-initiatives-improve-the-reputation-and-revenue-of-a-company/ 

  4. Levine, Stuart R. (January 15, 2020). "Diversity Confirmed To Boost Innovation And Financial Results". Forbes. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesinsights/2020/01/15/diversity-confirmed-to-boost-innovation-and-financial-results/

  5. "Employee Groups". The Coca-Cola Company. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://www.coca-colacompany.com/social/diversity-and-inclusion/employee-groups 

  6. "Coca-Cola Enterprises Retention Score". Comparably. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://www.comparably.com/companies/coca-cola-enterprises/retention

  7. "ADP Retention Score". Comparably. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://www.comparably.com/companies/adp/retention 

  8. “Diversity Equity & Inclusion”. SharkNinja. Retrieved November 24, 2023. https://www.sharkninja.com/diversity-equity-inclusion/

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