Ensuring DEI in the Workplace Through Education & Training

by John Calderon on September 08, 2021

Now more than ever, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion has become a hot topic in organizations across the country. Oftentimes when we think of DEI, however, thoughts of Equal Opportunity Employer statements or a Diversity page on the organization website are evoked, at best. 

While DEI in the recruitment process is indeed a critical element to ensuring an equitable and representative workforce, there are many other factors that play into whether or not your organization is truly meeting appropriate standards of DEI in the workplace. Below, we’ll explore ways that HR can help employees and managers alike address common challenges to improve the organization’s DEI efforts.

Using data to illustrate problems

Most organizations would like to believe that they don’t have a problem with bias or discrimination, but even organizations with the best intentions may be falling short of providing a truly equitable workplace. The best way to begin tackling this issue involves getting buy-in from stakeholders in HR and the larger leadership team. Nothing achieves this goal better than having data to back up the underlying problem. Using an applicant tracking system that can determine where diverse employees are being sourced from, how they are faring through the eligible and referred stages, and ultimately how many interviews and offers are granted can demonstrate problems with implicit bias that may be unfavorably impacting underrepresented groups.

Developing a DEI program

Whether you’ve identified a deficit in your recruitment and hiring funnel or not, it’s important to develop a DEI program if you haven’t already, or refine your existing one if it’s been some time since the last time it was reviewed. Standard EEO statements on your career site no longer cut it for demonstrating your commitment to equity; you’ll have to show it in other ways, such as highlighting employee stories from employees of varying backgrounds on your About Us and Careers pages. 

Additionally, it’s important that you collect feedback from BIPOC or other underrepresented employees on where the organization is succeeding (or failing) in terms of DEI. Don’t expect them to do all the work, though – it’s not their job to educate everyone on what is or isn’t appropriate, unless they specifically signed up to be part of a DEI group. If necessary, hiring an outside firm or specialist with experience in DEI may be a good approach. A concerted outreach effort to underrepresented groups should also be part of this program (e.g., focusing recruitment efforts on job sites or sources that produce diverse candidates). Also remember that education and learning opportunities surrounding DEI should be provided to all employees long after they are hired.

How to spot unconscious or implicit bias

The conversation around bias is often uncomfortable, but the sooner we educate ourselves on how the brain is conditioned to make snap judgments that may unintentionally create bias, the sooner we can eliminate bias blindspots. Implicit bias is defined as the thoughts – both positive and negative – that we assign to people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. without realizing it. These unconscious assumptions can frequently stand in contrast to our values. Many times, these biases are formed by outside forces, though they can come from personal experience, as well. Providing implicit bias training to employees and managers alike can minimize its likelihood in the future. This will not only provide hiring managers with the ability to hire more equitably, but can give managers and employees a better understanding of how implicit bias may be informing how they interact with colleagues.

Understanding and preventing microaggressions

Microaggressions – defined by Merriam-Webster as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously expresses a prejudiced attitude toward an underrepresented group – are rampant in our society, and the workplace is no exception. It’s important to address this issue as a continued effort to provide an equitable place to work, well beyond the recruitment stage. Employees who may have had to overcome certain obstacles in the recruitment phase may join a workforce and be dismayed to find that a plethora of microaggressions awaits them. Training employees on phrases or behaviors that are inappropriate and may distress BIPOC and other underrepresented groups will engender a greater sense of understanding among everyone and minimize the possibility of a hostile environment.

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Ensuring DEI in the workplace takes time and real dedication, and it should always be an ongoing process. Taking stock of where your organization is succeeding or falling short in these initiatives will not only make for a happier, more productive workforce, but will also help you attract the best diverse talent in the future.

John Calderon

John Calderon is the Content Strategist at NEOGOV. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Los Angeles and has spent over a decade creating content as a marketing professional and journalist. Contact John: jcalderon@neogov.net