Best Practices for Effective DEI Training

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training is not new. However, in recent years  DEI training has evolved beyond a compliance focus to the broader employee and leadership development topics. These may include DEI awareness, unconscious bias, inclusive leadership, diverse talent hiring, and cultural competence, to name a few. With over $8 billion dollars spent in the US alone on DEI training, it is important to select the right training and ensure that it is effective in meeting the intended goals of the organization. In this piece we share valuable best practices derived from years of experience with DEI training delivered to our customers across many industries.

Start with the Data

Many organizations rush to do DEI training without identifying their key gaps and root causes. Start with collecting data to help identify the specific DEI issues your organization needs to address. Training is a wonderful tool. However, collecting data will help narrow the field of choices to those that will address specific gaps for the different segments of your workforce. Here are a few sample questions to ask:

  • Has the organization conducted an assessment of its current state of DEI awareness? 
  • How is DEI training expected to help with specific gaps? 
  • Is the training objective to assist employees with developing a culture of inclusion to better work together? 
  • Is the goal to equip leaders with the tools they need to foster an inclusive work environment? 
  • Do we need to help all team members recognize and understand how to address unconscious bias?


We recommend collecting both quantitative and qualitative data to identify specific  root causes. A mixed-methods tactic depicts both “what” is happening and provides further perspective around “why” it is happening. With this understanding, the organization will be in a better position to start identifying the right training.

Some organizations already have quantitative data on their hiring pipeline. You may want to consider expanding the scope of available data to include a DEI survey and workforce demographics across all levels of the organization. Collecting data from listening sessions can provide qualitative data to get further insights into behaviors and employee sentiments and better understand what is happening in the organization. 

Address the Gaps

Based on the findings in the data collection phase, you can identify specific gaps and their root causes and decide if they can be addressed by training. 

For example, you may find that there is a significant gap in representation of women and people of color. If the root cause is employee retention, training in “Inclusive Leadership” may help the hiring managers. On the other hand, if the issue is primarily in your hiring pipeline, the “Diversity Talent Hiring” training will be more effective. Another example is if you uncover an issue with insensitive language in the workplace. The root cause for this may be lack of “Cultural Awareness” that can be addressed with experiential training.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Once you have decided on the areas of focus for your DE training, you need to consider the other key elements for your environment and workplace culture. You may need to segment the workforce to deliver the right training to different groups such as hourly workers, professional employees, managers and executives. 

  • Experiential Learning. This is the process of learning by doing. By engaging attendees in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are better able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the training session to real-world situations.
  • Use a Variety of Touchpoints. A successful DEI training initiative begins with careful planning and delivery through a variety of touchpoints. For example, you may prepare the workforce with a webinar during one of the special emphasis months, like the Black History Month or International Women’s Month. At OurOffice, executive women of color shared their unique journeys at a recent 60 minute webinar. These leaders openly discussed challenges they faced, how they rose above them, and how the workplace could be more inclusive. You may follow such a webinar with interesting reading materials distributed to the intended trainees ahead of the actual training sessions that they will be invited to attend.
  • Diverse Trainers. We have found that trainers with real life skills and experience are most effective in ensuring great learning outcomes. Furthermore, matching the trainer’s background and experiences with the intended audience is often important in their ability to connect, thus enhancing the effectiveness of the training.


Be Inclusive 

It is important to remember to be inclusive throughout the organization's DEI journey. So we recommend that key stakeholders within the organization be included in the process of selecting the right training. For example, Employee Resource Group (ERG) representatives can be included to directly address the concerns of employees represented by them. 

You can also take a cross-functional team approach to discuss the direction and topics of the training. When ideas are solicited from colleagues in other departments, they feel included and organization-wide support is built. 

Measure and Evaluate Outcomes

Any DEI initiative requires regular assessment of results. Administering a post-training survey is a good start. Additionally, continue to administer periodic DEI surveys and collect Analytics. By analyzing the data and recognizing trends, the organization will be able to track progress and assess any tweaks in the training program or follow-ups that may be needed. 

How Often Do You Need to Train?

There is no right answer regarding the recommended frequency of DEI training.  The key is mapping the training curriculum to specific learning needs and objectives. Accordingly, some training sessions may be provided just once in response to an acute need, while other training sessions may be continuous. Moreover, different types of training can be administered to specific populations/groups, as needed and also on a refresher basis.

Virtual or In-Person

With the move towards hybrid work in recent years, much of the in-person training has also moved in this direction. We have found virtual training to be quite effective. In specific situations, the workplace culture or profile of the workforce may require training to be delivered in person to be effective. We have also seen this to be worth the additional time and resources, when warranted.

A Word about Training-based DEI Certifications

While certifications can be helpful in determining eligibility for certain roles and responsibilities, it is important to understand the requirements a certified individual has fulfilled to better prepare them to meet certain objectives. For example, many DEI certifications offered today are based on completion of a certain number of training sessions or hours, without any requirement for practical experience, validation of behaviors or actions in real-life environments. We have seen such certifications to be of limited benefit. 

On the other hand, an organizational certification based on specific conditions, systematic approaches, or verified actions towards certain goals can be meaningful and useful in terms of risk assessment.

Have a Growth Mindset

Consider that your DEI training program must be sustained over the long-term for real change. This is important in fostering an environment of continuous learning and growth. It also ensures the program’s effectiveness as various people will have different experiences and move towards more awareness and inclusive behaviors at their own pace.

It is also important to keep in mind that training alone is not enough. When selecting and implementing a DEI Program, leaders need to define how the training goals will be reinforced, put into practice and measured to ensure effectiveness.

Please let us know if you are considering DEI training and would like to have a brief conversation to help you select and implement the right training. We look forward to hearing from you at