Diversity, equity, and inclusion (D.E.I.) training has been a hot topic in recent years as companies aim to demonstrate their commitment to racial justice. However, a recent opinion piece in the New York Times – “What if Diversity Training is Doing More Harm Than Good?”— highlights that despite promises of improved intergroup relations, better employee retention, and recruitment, there is little evidence that many of these initiatives work. The article argues that mandatory training without a clear objective may actually have a net negative effect on the outcomes managers care about – and some D.E.I. approaches may even exacerbate biases and elicit negative backlash. 

The truth is, changing the attitudes of employees without setting goals and measuring impact can be certainly detrimental to your DEI goals. So how should your organization tackle the problem?  At Orange Grove, our evidence suggests that the solution is in how the challenge is set up. Rather than look at DEI as a huge “item”; we address the issue by helping organizations focus on diagnosing specific DEI challenges and developing concrete strategies to solve them. Here’s a little bit about our approach when it comes to training, learning environment, and learning model:

Approach To Training

Orange Grove Consulting’s workshops and trainings don’t rely on lectures or awareness building – after all, research suggests adults retain only 60-70% of what is communicated in lecture format. Instead, our trainings utilize active learning, which allows employees to engage with their peers while challenging their own assumptions and analyzing real-world scenarios through breakout activities. For example, we’ll use case studies or simulations to make what employees are learning more applicable to their work or personal lives. Accountability partners are also assigned to help attendees with intercession work and practice is emphasized as a way to become comfortable with the newly learned skills. Our participants leave with clear skills and a plan that are immediately implementable. 

Learning Environment 

The first step in your DEI initiative is creating a learning environment for adult learners that is intellectually intriguing and emotionally safe – after all, adult learning is not just an intellectual endeavor, but also an emotional one. Given the current societal climate where many topics can be difficult, it is important to create a safe and supportive environment where learners feel comfortable expressing themselves.

To create this environment, we put a lot of importance in how the facilitators manage the space. Facilitators are assertive when it comes to the process and will take action if there is a violation of their policies or if someone’s behavior is not acceptable, but are more hands-off when it comes to guiding the content. This helps avoid creating a divide or pushing their perspective on learners.

The goal is to create a space where different ideas can coexist, no matter how difficult they may be to confront. With the appropriate learning environment, learners can have productive conversations and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

Learning Model

Since DEI can be a sensitive topic, it’s essential to build a learning model that doesn’t blame certain demographics and instead focuses on understanding the current state of the learners. We specifically use a taxonomy of learning to determine if the learners are new to the topic or ready to apply their knowledge, which helps us select content and appropriate case studies to use in training.

During trainings, it’s important to avoid political language and not force learners to choose sides since this can shut down learning and collaboration. If learners feel like they have to pretend to behave in a particular way around their colleagues, they won’t be able to learn and grow effectively.

With the right learning model, environment, and training, your organization can avoid missing the mark with DEI training and foster the learning and transformation necessary for learners to change.

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