Ensuring DEI in the Workplace Through Education & Training

by John Calderon (NEOGOV) on September 08, 2021

Building diversity, equity, and inclusion is vital for public sector organizations. Learn how to support DEI in the workplace with education and training.

Article Highlights: 

Now more than ever, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic in  both public- and private-sector organizations across the country. When we think of DEI in the workplace, however, we often just think of Equal Opportunity Employer statements or a Diversity page on our organization's website. 

DEI in the recruitment process is indeed a critical element to building a diverse workforce and ensuring an equitable work environment. But there are many other factors that determine whether or not your organization is truly meeting appropriate standards of DEI.

Below, we explore ways that HR professionals can help employees and managers address common challenges to improve your agency's DEI efforts.

Use 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.

A good way to begin tackling this issue is by getting buy-in from stakeholders in Human Resources and the larger leadership team. Nothing helps achieve this better than having data to back up the underlying issue.

Using an applicant tracking system (ATS) makes collecting, analyzing, and reporting data much easier and more efficient. An ATS helps determine if and where your agency has problems with implicit bias that may be unfavorably impacting underrepresented groups by telling you:

  • Where diverse employees are being sourced from
  • How employees are faring through the eligible and referred stages
  • How many interviews and offers are granted

Develop a DEI Program

Whether you’ve identified a deficit in your recruitment and hiring funnel or not, it’s important to have an effective DEI program. This means your agency should develop one if you haven’t already, or refine your existing program if it’s outdated.

A simple, standard EEO statement on your career site no longer cuts it. If you want to demonstrate your commitment to equity, you’ll have to show it in other ways, such as highlighting diverse employee stories from on your About Us page, Careers page, and social media accounts. 

It’s also important that you collect feedback from diverse and underrepresented employees to gain insights on the effectiveness of your organization's DEI efforts. But don’t expect these employees to do all the work – it’s not their job to educate everyone on what is or isn’t appropriate.

If necessary, hire an outside firm or internal specialist with specialized experience to help build your DEI program. You should also include concerted outreach efforts to underrepresented groups as part of the program (e.g., focusing recruitment efforts on job sites or sources that produce diverse candidates).

And don't forget the importance of education and learning opportunities – you should provide focused DEI training to all employees throughout their careers at your agency.

Identify Unconscious or Implicit Biases

The conversation around bias is often uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. The sooner we educate ourselves on how the brain is conditioned to make snap judgments that may unintentionally create unfairness, the sooner we can eliminate bias blindspots.

Implicit bias is defined as the thoughts and assumptions – both positive and negative – that we make about people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or other identifying qualities without realizing it. These biases are often formed by outside forces, although they can also come from personal experience, and they can frequently stand in contrast to our values.

Providing implicit bias training to employees and managers alike can minimize the potential for bias to sneak into your organization in the future. This not only prepares hiring managers to recruit diverse candidates more equitably, but gives managers and employees a better understanding of how their unconscious biases may impact their interactions at work.

Understand and Prevent Microaggressions

Microaggressions are defined by Merriam-Webster as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously expresses a prejudiced attitude toward an underrepresented group. These run rampant in our society, and the workplace is no exception.

It’s important that your agency continues to address this issue well beyond the recruitment stage in to create an equitable workplace for diverse employees. Otherwise, employees who might've overcome greater obstacles in the recruitment process could join your workforce and be dismayed to find a plethora of unfriendly microaggressions awaiting them.

Train your employees on phrases or behaviors that are inappropriate and may distress diverse and underrepresented groups. Doing so engenders a greater sense of understanding among everyone and minimizes the possibility of a hostile environment.

Final Thoughts

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

If you want to keep improving learning opportunities at your agency, find out how you can develop better government employee training and development courses

John Calderon (NEOGOV)

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

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