The Top Three Reasons Why Standard DEI Training Doesn’t Work

DEI is one of the fastest-growing industries today. And as with everything in the age of instant entertainment, instant food, and instant results, the trend has led to almost instant DEI training. 

Many companies have adopted the tactic of virtual slideshows or a series of videos to “teach” their employees DEI techniques and strategies. In more proactive environments, companies may bring in a specialist to speak for an hour or workshop for a day. 

Employees may walk out of the room more aware. Teams may feel like they have learned to look out for others. Companies may feel like they can tick off the inclusivity box. 

As engaging as a speaker may be, as educational as the program is, and as well-intentioned as the plan was, these one-stop-shop DEI pieces of training don’t seem to stick. 

So if these educational programs feel like a good fit at the time, then why don’t they make the ideal changes? 

We’ve narrowed it down to the top three reasons why the standard DEI training doesn’t work:

Implicit Biases don’t change after an hour

Just like any long-term habit or belief, there is no quick cure for implicit biases. Most individuals who have never had the education or experience to understand how to spot inequitable gaps in groups and communities don’t fully understand implicit bias or how to break it.

It takes long-term commitment and an openness to understanding. 

At best, the standard DEI training lasts an afternoon. A DEI firm will walk into the office building, set up its stage, and discuss what standard initiatives look like. They may give examples, pair team members up to talk, and give a few prompts to engage thinking beyond the surface level.

However, when those consultants pack up and leave, it leaves employees in the wake of the idea of change without fully understanding how to make that change happen. This leads to the second reason:

There is no implementation plan

The end of these one-stop-shop trainings gives the same call to action as a single training session at the gym. If done well, employees feel invigorated. They understand the importance of equity and inclusion. They want to make a difference in the organization they’re working for. They may even have gone so far as to self-reflect and pinpoint an area they can personally work on.

But just because a person knows they need a workout plan doesn’t mean they know how to create one for themselves. The how is just as important as the what, and traditional DEI leaves before the how is ever explained.

A plan of action calls for implementation, and requires practice over time.

This brings us to the final reason as to why the standard isn’t working:

It’s one side of a multi-faceted problem

Let’s go back to the gym analogy. If you’ve had the session and understand you need a plan, you should be on your way to six-pack abs, right? 

Just like the concept of a gym plan doesn’t give you the physique you’re after, the concept of a DEI plan isn’t going to create the change you’re after. It takes a customized, all-encompassing approach across all areas of an organization’s team, leadership, and culture. 

When organizations hire out for the standard education, what they’re really looking for is a change that makes everyone feel welcome within their doors. But that doesn’t happen in DEI alone. It happens when the group culture reflects the respect and honor of equity in each individual.

Change Happens when Culture is Cultivated 

At the heart of every DEI initiative is this: We want our organizations to feel welcoming for every person who enters them. We want every team member and employee to feel like they belong as themselves. We want people to feel free to be 100% authentically themselves, without the need to mirror others or mask how they show up.

That kind of change doesn’t happen with a single one-hour training session, not even with the best of intentions.

It happens when you assess the policies and procedures that are currently in place and determine what gaps are either intentionally or unintentionally present. It happens when you take the very valid education from those workshops and decide how to implement it in a specific organization. It happens when you adjust the habits at the life core of the organization: in the culture it thrives off of.

At Culture Refinery, this is what we do. We differentiate ourselves from standardized practices because we look at the organization as a whole. We go past the tradition and go straight into what works: a blend of DEI strategy & training and customized coaching to create a culture that respects the experiences of all.

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