The summer can be quiet for many organizations, as school is out, and many go away for vacations. Still, business continues, and the shift in pace and seasons can be a great time to evaluate your approach to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA). This month, we bring you three articles related to D&I training, highlighting what to look for in DEI training and how to maximize your IDEA efforts.
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8 Adult Learning Principles for DEI Training
Effective program design and training materials aimed at an adult audience should reflect that adults learn differently than younger people. Research by Malcolm Knowles(1) in the 1960s made a clear distinction between instruction aimed at children versus instruction aimed at adults and delved into the art and science of how adults learn.
Here is a look at eight fundamental principles to incorporate when developing training for adults:
Self-Direction and Motivation
Adults are more motivated to learn if they perceive a direct benefit. Programs should communicate their benefits to promote engagement, and the early stages should be intentionally simple to help students get going. Adults will engage in self-directed learning at higher rates than younger learners if the value is well expressed.
Previous Life Experience
Adults use their life experiences to help engage with new ideas. While this can accelerate understanding, there is a risk that an adult learner will bring biases into the process, which can affect their information gathering. Including bias training and basic research methods in programs can ease any impediments to learning.
Goal setting is essential, and the students’ motivation is key to success. Supportive information and tools stimulate learner engagement with program content. Clarity about how the program connects to adult learners’ work is essential.
Relevance and Value
Information that is relevant to adult learners promotes sustained engagement, particularly in the case of longer-term training programs. Reminders of the big picture value of the program to the company or institution and how it will benefit individuals also serve to maintain learner interest.
Application and Practicality
Adults are attracted to practical solutions and problem-solving. Information readily applied to real-world situations encourages experiential learning, allowing adult learners to draw on their life experiences and integrate new information with their existing body of knowledge.
Role models and Mentorship
Learning by example is an effective method for adult learners, both informally from company leaders and instructors and more formally in mentor/mentee relationships. In larger companies and institutions, encouraging Mentorship within training programs provides valuable opportunities for interdepartmental and cross-team connections. One note: traditionally, mentors have picked mentees who are similar to themselves; the maximum potential of the mentor/mentee model is if the mentors and mentees have diverse experiences. A company’s work culture will benefit from knowledge sharing by senior employees and more recent hires. At its best, mentoring has mutual benefits.
Variety of Learning Modalities
Generally, adults are aware that knowledge may be acquired in various ways, including from new formats. Learner engagement increases with the available options, so that an effective training program will provide a variety of learning formats. Blended (in-person and online) program delivery, plus delivery in other forms, including focused micro-learning clips, YouTube videos, webinars, blogs, etc., allow learners to choose the manner, timing, and pace of accessing program content.
Adult learners like to feel that they can contribute to training program content and have some control over how they engage with the training from day to day. As noted above, self-directed learning increases with learners’ understanding of program goals and their relevance to the company and themselves. Opportunities to give anonymous feedback increase participants’ feeling of involvement in the program and help shift any perception that the training program has been imposed on them from above.
Our team of experts at CCDI Consulting understands and implements these adult learning principles when designing our D&I training. Whether you are looking for large-scale DEI training or to deepen your understanding of a specific inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) issue in the workplace, we have a solution that can help you elevate your knowledge and approach to DEI.
Discover more about our Learning Solutions.
Senior management must be seen to support IDEA training
Ensure that senior management takes an active part in the training program to demonstrate that company’s commitment is not limited to the Human Resources department. Successful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training programs must be aligned with the organization’s core values.
With executive representation, integrating IDEA values with the company’s culture will be seen as company policy and not another project from HR. It is harder for skeptics to think or say, “This IDEA stuff is just a temporary thing, and I don’t have to pay attention to it.” if, for example, the Vice-President of Research and Innovation is the face of the program.
Address the “elephant in the room”; diversity training has often been ineffective
Diversity seminars have been delivered for decades, and many employees have endured several one-off lectures over the years; they need to know that IDEA training is different.
Inclusion and diversity (D&I) training is less threatening and more appealing if framed as part of a process toward a better and more effective corporate culture. If the announcement to employees comes from a top executive who stresses that positive goals have guided the decision to launch the IDEA program, increased employee openness will follow. Information about measurable benefits at companies where IDEA principles have been integrated into company operations, such as improved employee morale and increased innovation, isn’t hard to find and should be communicated to the workforce.
It’s a long-term process, and communication is vital
Recognize and communicate that effective integration of IDEA principles into corporate culture is a long-term project; it takes months and years rather than days and weeks. Regular communication about progress and revised goals lets the workforce know that the training is not optional icing on the corporate cake but part of the cake itself. Program activities should occur during paid time if held outside the working hours; expecting employees to be enthusiastic about long-term training on their own time is unrealistic.
Full acceptance of IDEA training by the workforce may take time
Many long-term employees may feel threatened and be resistant to change. Mandating their attendance sends the wrong message and creates a barrier to engagement. Similarly, trust in the process by marginalized employees may not be immediate; actions speak louder than words, and actions happen over time. Invitations that pique curiosity and training content and methods that are genuinely different from old-school one-off seminars create compelling word of mouth. Change requires true employee engagement, which cannot be forced from the executive suite.
Diversity among the trainers is essential
Whether the IDEA program is delivered by an in-house team or an outside consultant, the composition of the training team must be consistent with the values the program seeks to encourage in the workforce and the executive suite. This is not to suggest the composition of training teams be governed by diversity alone, but trainers with lived experience are more credible than those who tell other people’s stories. A trainer can be an expert in theory and practice but may still fail to connect with the trainees.
These five ideas are only a few of the matters that influence IDEA training outcomes, and others will be explored in future posts. That said, including these factors when planning a comprehensive training program will lead to tremendous success.
Corporate D&I Training - Failure & Opportunity
Training & Development are essential pieces of concrete inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) strategies. Here is how are can avoid the some of the pitfalls.
Traditional diversity and anti-bias training have had disappointing results
Research has yielded evidence that most IDEA training does not achieve significant change within the culture of organizations, and may even be detrimental. As sociologists, Alexandra Kalev and Frank Dobbin write “…the typical diversity training program doesn’t just fail to promote diversity, it actually leads to declines in management diversity.”
Many companies have spent considerable time and money on short-term diversity education, engaging consultants who come in, deliver seminars, issue reports and move on to the next client. This positive activity may look good in annual reports to stakeholders and shareholders and may help defend against lawsuits, but real opportunities for marginalized members of the workforce are still restricted after decades of various training. Research also suggests that mandatory attendance at training creates resentment and voluntary attendance creates a willingness to listen and learn. It may be harsh to suggest that most training is merely an exercise in optics, but it’s fair to say they have been ineffective.
What type of training is effective?
Effective diversity & inclusion (DEI) training doesn’t end when the consultants’ questionnaires and seminars are complete and the report is filed. Systemic change requires committed and persistent action by managers at all levels. Validation of the process by senior management encourages employee buy-in and creates greater opportunities for real change. Simple changes can support employees’ willingness to examine their own prejudices and biases. For one example, most people are resistant to mandatory training but respond positively to open invitations.
Since every organization’s culture has different elements that affect the delivery of programs, IDEA training should align with the organization’s values and mission. The goal must be to not only change attitudes and perspectives but also create sustained changes in behaviour.
Successful IDEA training may produce substantial benefits. Comprehensive and sustained IDEA training encourages a sense of belonging in the entire workforce, raising morale, and helping to establish effective teams and a more cohesive organizational culture. IDEA training has also been found to increase the financial performance of companies that follow through with systemic changes to increase diversity and inclusion. A 2018 study by staff at the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with “above average” management diversity “…reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity.” Also, a 2015 study by Josh Bersin found that companies that scored highly in diversity and inclusion metrics experienced 2.3 times the cash flow per employee than companies with less diverse and inclusive management. Training does not have a negative effect on the bottom line.
Benefits of effective training
IDEA training produces happier, more engaged employees who stay longer at companies, improving retention rates and lowering recruitment costs. Changes in organizational culture also allow greater contributions by employees from groups who have previously been excluded from promotions, mentorships, and central roles in the organization’s mission.
Marginalized employees represent a lost opportunity; organizations are paying for a detuned version of their people and are losing the potential for innovation that can be liberated by integrating IDEA principles with their culture.
 Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility
 Kalev, A., & Dobbin, F. (2020, October 20). Companies Need to Think Bigger Than Diversity Training. www.hbr.org. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2020/10/companies-need-to-think-bigger-than-diversity-training
 Lorenzo, Rocío et al. 2018 January 23. How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation. Boston Consulting Group. https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/how-diverse-leader-teams-boost-innovation
 Bersin, J. (2015, December 7). Why Diversity and Inclusion Has Become a Business Priority. www.joshbersin.com. Retrieved February 8, 2021, from https://joshbersin.com/2015/12/why-diversity-and-inclusion-will-be-a-top-priority-for-2016/