10 Tips to Produce Effective Diversity Training Programs


By Wim Dodson

Throughout my career as a management consultant I did a great deal of corporate training, both as a participant and as a trainer. I had a feeling of dread as a participant in the classes hosted in the large organizations for which I worked. Consistently, the training experiences felt like vacuous staff check-offs, something I was required to do that was basically a waste of my time.

Soon after I lugged the heavy notebooks out of the training rooms and returned to my desk I found I’d forget whatever the trainer had spouted. Typically, it was because the information and practice sessions had no direct bearing on how I would get my job done and how I would be rewarded. After all, much of corporate life is Pavlovian (ring the bell, salivate, hope it meant a promotion).

Diversity training is no different, unless the powers that be in an organization put certain fundamentals in place that make the training relevant to the work and even lives of its staff.

  • Standard organizational change management practice advises that companies need an overall corporate objective that integrates and prioritizes the desired change. Diversity is no different. Training programs must be seen and felt as directly contributing to helping the organization achieve its financial, community and ethical objectives.


  • Start at the top. The CEO and other people in the executive team have to actively communicate the importance of the change within the organization. They set the tone at the top for the rest of the organization. Ensure executives create a cohesive vision and strategy that the leadership team agrees upon. Clearly illustrate where the training sessions fit in the organization’s purpose.


  • In some change management initiatives, Leadership physically signs a contract that expresses their commitment to the change. The same can certainly be done when it comes to pushing diversity within the organization.


  • The plan C-level settles on needs to enumerate the skills and behaviors that managers should have to make the initiative/culture change a success.


  • Develop communication and information sharing channels and processes to share successful diversity tactics uncovered in training sessions. Conversations, discussions, newsletters and e-mail announcements from the C-level should also be sure to include topics about diversity. Communications should reinforce Management’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as updates about progress within the organization to reach goals.


  • Create teams whose job is to develop and roll out diversity surveys, interviews and focus groups within the organization. The results provide a way to identify the strengths of the organization vis a vis diversity, its challenges and areas for improvement. Feedback from staff also provide a baseline against which to gauge the success of training sessions, and to revise the content and approach of the classes to make them more effective.


  • Work with executives and HR to create a reward system that develops middle manager and employee buy-in. Help them understand how the diversity and inclusion/culture change process will benefit them personally, professionally and as an organization, That will involve internal marketing at all levels.


  • Conduct training for all levels of your organization in areas related to diversity and inclusion, starting with the C-level.


  • Set up a process for accountability at all levels, relating progress to compensation and evaluations.


  • Put a marketing campaign around the diversity training sessions that creates buzz and a sense of excitement for participation in the classes.

Without an overall framework and commitment to diversity and inclusion, diversity training not only seems like a waste of time and money, it actually is.