How To Develop Diversity Training That Is Actually EffectiveHow To Develop Diversity Training That Is Actually Effective

How To Develop Diversity Training That Is Actually Effective

Corey Bleich

🍿 5 min. read

So you decide to revamp (or create) diversity training for your modern workplace, but don't know where to start. You have been inclusive in your hiring practices but never intentionally thought about what types of diversity training to use or how to actually make it effective. Although research on diversity training’s effectiveness has been mixed, a forty-year examination of diversity training has found that it does work – if it’s done right. Here’s how.

What is diversity training?

Diversity training in the workplace addresses all of the unique things about employees - race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, socio-economic status, age, and physical and mental ability – and the manner in which we work together. This goes beyond being “politically correct” and moves into the realm of learning how to embrace differences among employees and including the valuable inputs and perspectives all employees bring to your company.

Indeed, diversity training also addresses how different people are represented in everything from the literature and marketing materials of a company to the diversity training materials themselves.

Diversity training is effective when it:

  • Lays out a company culture that is inclusive, not divisive
  • Respects, seek outs, and embraces different approaches that are a result of diverse employees instead of merely “tolerating” them
  • Goes beyond a list of dos and don’ts to try to build true understanding

Simply put, diversity trainings that just ask employees to “tolerate differences” are not good enough, as we'll discuss later in this post. That blanket statement does not fit into today’s workplace with its lightning fast communication and global scope. #MeToo moments need never happen again with effective diversity trainings.

Why is diversity training important?

When it works, diversity trainings make employees feel included and part of a common effort. This leads to happier employees who stick around longer, which increases the overall expertise of the company (hello, senior level experts!) and reduces hiring costs.

Plus, happy employees are more productive, and happy salespeople sell more – 37% more, according to one study.

Maybe for your company it boils down to one question: Do I want a healthier bottom line?

A recent McKinsey study shows that:

“Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above industry median

This translates to more success overall, but the benefits are clear on an individual level as well.

Diverse companies had nearly two and a half times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than non-diverse companies did in a 2015 study from Bersin by Deloitte.

It may seem cold to talk about the importance of diversity by breaking down the numbers, but the truth is clear. The importance of diversity training in the workplace is expressed both in the benefit of working together with people of different backgrounds and in building a successful business. Turns out, you can have it all, and diversity training may be the key.

How to create effective diversity training

It is not enough to lay out a list of prohibitive rules and expect people to follow them. This is, in fact, the exact opposite of what makes for a successful diversity training.

Diversity training that presents diversity acceptance as a choice that benefits everyone in the workplace results in positive returns that last longer. Diversity training should:

  • Create common goals: Common goals create common bonds. Think about soldiers charging a hill – if everyone doesn’t move forward at the same time, the initiative will fail.
  • Confront unconscious bias: Everyone has unconscious biases that originates in the brain – the amygdala, to be precise. This part of the brain reacts strongly when it sees pictures of races different from its owner. Recognizing the tribal nature of people and working with it (see above: create common goals) can help remove this “other-ness” response.
  • Focus on inclusion: Inclusion goes beyond just hiring for diversity. Inclusion actively seeks out, embraces, and encourages different ways of approaching and solving problems.
  • Be chosen wisely: Diversity training topics can be overwhelming. Conducting a training needs assessment before you begin can help you to prioritize for your company.
  • Move away from prohibitive language: Introduce the idea of choosing to lean in to a diverse workplace instead of demanding or requiring that all employees accept each other. Adults don’t like to be told what to do – so don’t do that in your training.

What are the different types of diversity training?

Successful diversity training deals with both the what and the how. What do you need employees to know, understand, and be able to do after diversity training, and how will you make that happen?

Your training methods – how you deliver the message – is just as important as the message itself.

It doesn’t matter how great the idea if it cannot be heard. E-learning offers a variety of tools to convey the idea that you are all in this together.


Gamification in workplace diversity training immediately brings different groups together as they work to solve a problem or reach a goal. In the best-case scenario, employees can interact on the platform as they learn and apply a new skill together.

Think of all of the online gamers across the globe, playing the same game and communicating via headsets with strangers of all backgrounds. Imagine your employees working together in a similar way without regard to differences. Gamification can make that magic happen.


Traditional diversity trainings feature reluctant (and sometimes angry and actively resistant) employees stuffed into a boardroom for hours at a time.

Microlearning breaks trainings into small bites and delivers them just as employees need them. No more, no less. This can be a good way to introduce definitions and set common goals in workplace diversity training.

Mobile learning

Because so many workplaces offer telecommuting options with global workplaces, mobile learning (mLearning) is always available.

Any time of the day, on every device, employees can access your workplace diversity training when they have the time and space to give it the attention it deserves.

Learn more about diversity training

These three diversity training examples are just the beginning. EdgePoint Learning can help you design diversity training that fits your company's needs.

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