By Corporate English Solutions

06 March 2023 - 13:40

How L&D can champion a positive DEI culture

Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are no longer ‘nice-to-have’. They’re business-critical. Proven to boost financial performance, innovation and productivity. 

But many DEI training initiatives fail to deliver lasting change. To make a real impact, initiatives need to go beyond training and be more strategic. Find out how you and your L&D teams can play a key part in this and become strategic drivers of DEI initiatives in your organisation.


Reading time: 6 minutes

The evidence is clear. Diversity in the workplace is good for business. Organisations with a strong diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) culture outperform those that don’t. 

A McKinsey report shows us that the more gender diversity in executive teams, the greater the organisation’s financial performance. And a Boston Consulting Group study similarly found that diverse leadership teams not only lead to higher profits, but also boost innovation. Diverse teams tend to examine problems from multiple perspectives. And this gives them the advantage of finding creative ways to solve them.

Many organisations and leaders today understand the importance of diverse teams. But traditional diversity and inclusion training doesn’t often result in lasting behavioural change. Some types of DEI efforts can even have the opposite effect, increasing discrimination. And a failure to promote diversity and inclusion is the leading cause for a toxic corporate culture. Which is one of the primary reasons driving the Great Resignation. 

So how can organisations create a positive DEI culture? 

To really make an impact, DEI efforts need to be part of systemic, organisation-wide initiatives that involves all functions. L&D teams are in a unique position to drive and support these initiatives. Why? Because they possess the understanding, competencies and attitudes required to influence strategy, develop capabilities and engage employees in self-development. 

Read on and discover how you and your L&D teams can champion diversity and inclusion in your workplace. 

L&D has more influence than ever on organisational strategy

In the past few years, L&D has taken centre stage like never before. L&D leaders now have a well-earned seat at the executive table. With this newfound influence comes the ability to positively influence organisational strategy. And diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are no exception.

By leveraging your influence, you can integrate DEI into learning and development strategies. Which will allow you to gather evidence of how greater diversity in the workplace and more inclusive teams lead to better business outcomes. 

But first, you need to work closely with senior leadership to build a long-term and sustainable DEI strategy that is aligned with the organisation’s needs and goals. 

To get the discussion started, here are some critical questions to ask:

  • Which business areas could benefit from greater DEI representation?
  • What is the current makeup of leadership teams?
  • How can strategies for hiring, growing, retaining and optimising talent improve to include stronger DEI factors?
  • In what ways can DEI be embedded into formal and informal learning and development and career growth strategies?

By working closely with senior leaders, you can help them understand that short-term diversity and inclusion training doesn’t lead to real change. Real change requires sustainable solutions built into the flow of work.

L&D is connected to the needs of the entire workforce 

We all know how crucial L&D is to ensure employees have the necessary skills and capabilities to perform their jobs effectively. And how to engage regional and global teams to implement learning initiatives

Follow these practical steps to leverage your unique understanding of your organisation and drive DEI initiatives: 

  1. Identify how current and future learning initiatives are aligned with diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.
  2. Leverage conversations with stakeholders (at all levels) to gain buy-in for inclusion and diversity. 
  3. Engage with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and have focus group conversations to determine specific needs.
  4. Bring feedback and key learnings from these conversations back to the business and advocate for the different perspectives expressed across the organisation. 

L&D skills can enable effective implementation of change initiatives  

What else do you bring to the table as an L&D professional? Your expertise in needs analysis, competency framing & assessment, and planning outcomes-based learning initiatives

It’s no secret that you have a passion for learning and possess a growth mindset. And are skilled in facilitating learning design, programme development and delivery. You can channel these skills into planning and implementing long-term inclusion and diversity solutions aligned with the organisation’s vision and goals. 

Here’s how you can make the most of your competencies to support DEI efforts:

  1. Translate DEI goals into competency frameworks and measurable behavioural outcomes. 
  2. Work with the DEI experts in the organisation to develop engaging learning initiatives that motivate learners to be inclusive and teach them to be allies
  3. Include practical tools and techniques that enable learners to empathise with perspectives divergent from their own and identify how to adopt inclusive behaviours. 
  4. Ensure these are embedded into the design of career and leadership development programmes.
  5. Evaluate employee engagement in DEI programmes, encourage participation and track progress. This will help to identify areas for improvement and ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives remain a priority.

L&D can work with the organisation on knowledge management

Another powerful tool L&D can use to facilitate diversity and inclusion in the workplace is knowledge management: creating, sharing and managing knowledge across the organisation. You can use the strategies you’re familiar with to enable both formal and informal methods of knowledge management for DEI. Here are some practical ways:

  1. Bring together Communities of Practice (CoPs) that address DEI challenges and share best practices around inclusion and allyship. This will foster changes in attitude and behaviour long after the training sessions are done.
  2. Curate user-generated content that can be channelled into formal and informal inclusion and diversity learning pathways.
  3. Work with ERGs to understand and manage the flow of DEI information and knowledge across the organisation. 
  4. Gather and share feedback with key stakeholders on what works and doesn’t work and what could be changed.

L&D is well-positioned to engage in continuous learning and performance management 

What’s another L&D superpower? Championing continuous learning and career development opportunities. And when inclusion and diversity efforts are integrated into continuous learning, there is a greater chance of lasting change. 

While integrating DEI into continuous learning, you can also leverage your position to ensure equitable access to professional development opportunities and career progression by taking these steps:

  1. Ensure that coaching targets inclusive leadership, helping employees identify, implement and track the benefits of workplace diversity.
  2. Help employees apply learning by examining how DEI nudges can be incorporated into daily practice within the flow of work.
  3. Focus efforts for continued learning, coaching and mentoring around underrepresented and marginalised groups. 

Making the most of L&D’s influence

L&D teams are uniquely qualified to bring about positive change in an organisation. After all, they play a key role in shaping the learning and career journeys of every employee. Using their experience and expertise to build and champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace can increase its effectiveness. 

By integrating DEI and L&D, your organisation can create a culture where all employees are valued, respected and well-represented.

Our 80 years’ experience of consultancy, training and coaching managers across 6 continents means we understand your context and learning needs. Partner with us to create a programme to upskill your teams in leadership, interpersonal and intercultural skills, and drive a more inclusive culture in your organisation.


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