Training is usually a staple in an organization’s diversity and inclusiveness diet. However, many fill their plates with generous servings of training that are nutrient-poor and high in empty calories. Ensure your organization feasts upon high-nutrient, lean training programs that provide an excellent return on investment by following these critical steps.

  1. Be results-oriented: be clear about what problem the training is intended to solve, or what goals the training is intended to meet.   Training is only a solution when a lack of knowledge or skills is the problem.  Ensure you or an external expert take adequate time assessing what your root problems really are.  If employees or leaders possess needed knowledge or skills, but are not using them, training will not solve the problem.  Training is a waste of time and money when it is not part of a broader, more comprehensive strategy to obtain a certain result.
  2. Be data-oriented: gather evidence of training effectiveness. Identify good quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (words) measures of where you are now.   Determine where you want to be, why you want to be there, and by when.  Gather new data continuously (not just training session pre-and post-tests) to assess whether you are solving your identified root problems or meeting the intended goals.  If you are, you’re building credibility and a case for further investment.  If you’re not, change your strategy or tactics to increase the organization’s ROI.
  3. Be comprehensive and focused on sustainability: ensure that the climate outside the training room matches the climate inside the training room. Even when training is needed, new knowledge and skills can’t be sustained when the organization’s culture, systems, processes, and policies remain the same, or are contradictory or toxic to what is developed in the training room.  As Peter Drucker famously quipped, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Ensure you have a comprehensive approach to change that includes key stakeholder buy-in, ongoing learning and support, and consistent accountability.
  4. Identify a training partner that is a good fit for your organization’s culture, values, and goals. Outsourcing training can be an advantage because this eliminates the pressure to tow the party line or maintain the status quo that internal training staff experience.  If what you need is culture change and solutions to problems, a fresh perspective is often the best bet.  Don’t rule out smaller training companies: some may be a better fit for you, or give better service, than the giant firms. Regardless, ensure your training partner:
    • Understands, or spends adequate time getting to know your organization — its leaders, history, values and culture
    • Spends adequate time assessing the root causes of the problem you want solved, or identifying your training goals
    • Is committed to step #2 and not only has suggestions about how to gather and analyze data on effectiveness, is committed to being held accountable for results
    • Uses their expertise to advise you on training content, design, timing, and even its appropriateness
    • Creates a program that is tailored to your organization’s culture, values, and training goals
  5. BONUS OPTIONAL STEP: Ensure some training is focused on (a) unconscious biases and (b) power inequities. Few training programs incorporate these two elements, a glaring omission that hampers the effectiveness of D&I-focused training programs and culture change.  Despite our good intentions, unconscious biases and power inequities interfere with effective communication, effective leadership and decision-making, and creating truly inclusive environments where brilliance and excellence flourish.

2 Comments

  • I have been engaged in diversophy advocacy and training for close to 50 years now. This has given me plenty time to notice that every few years a new buzzword comes along, which will hopefully sell more services to corporate clients. We have moved from social justice, “doing the right thing,” to compliance to ROI and now to talent management and inclusion as the language of branding in the consulting and training industry.

    Awareness and attitudinal change are rarely affected to any great degree by information and policy-setting. The skills and tools we need as trainers and coaches to reach the hearts as well as the minds of our clients and participants are often denied us, either as intrusions into personal space, or, simply excluded by the diminishing hours and resources allowed for interventions to be effective. Powerful simulations have been replaced by mini-exercises, and successful programs often evaluated as such by the fact that they have successfully “preached to the choir.”

    We continue to rearrange the deck chairs on this Titanic exercise known as diversity instead of examining the course of the ship being steered from the pilot house. Let’s face it, bias and disadvantage are essential elements for keeping capitalism on its own course. To have us blaming each other, all immigrants, and ourselves rather than the economic structures maintained for the profit of the few is an essential element in plotting the course. Differences are okay if they contribute to profit, or if they can be used to obfuscate the real sources of our social and political ills. It is essential that people label and dislike each other, for example, to make sure that the arms industry remains robust and obscenely profitable.

    Excuse the rant, but surface ethics and inclusion banter guarantee more of the same old, same old. We must be committed to more.

    • Susana Rinderle Susana Rinderle says:

      Hi George! Thanks for reading, and for your eloquent and insightful comment. I agree with you. This is why I included an attention to power in my 5 steps. I believe that’s what’s sorely missing, and what can shift things because this seriously challenges the status quo. The unconscious bias work is also — in my experience — an effective way to de-escalate folks’ defenses to open up REAL conversations and insights. Also, I don’t believe that justice and “doing the right thing” are necessarily mutually exclusive with profit — I don’t buy into that binary. I agree that the existence of the “Titanic” itself usually goes unquestioned, and that many (most?) of us doing this work collude in its operation. Indeed commitment (or clarity of commitment) may be what many of us lack. While I doubt the Titanic is going under in my lifetime, every day I try to do something to nudge its course in a better direction and make sure the folks in the boiler room and the below-deck cabins find a place in those deck chairs.

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