Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) training has a key role to play as companies focus on building inclusive workplaces that drive sustainable growth and innovation.

But for DEIB training to succeed, it is vital that it embraces adult learning theory and couples it with the human story. Instead of checkbox training with sterile, clinical definitions, the emphasis needs to be on experiences that provoke curiosity and inspire practical efforts.

In the wake of social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, #metoo, and the fight for trans rights, getting it right when it comes to corporate DEIB training isn't about checking the box—it's about redefining it. So how can learning professionals embrace this new era of DEIB activity?

This article offers five actions learning leaders can take to get started.

1. Challenge your organizational motives

Inclusion training alone is not the answer to all DEIB challenges—inclusive workplace cultures require much more than isolated training. So take the time to consider how you will turn insight into action, otherwise your efforts could be doomed to failure. Start by examining your organization's true motive for DEIB training and whether it is committed to DEIB as a strategic priority. Focused and practical inclusion training tied to a change agenda will help employees consciously adopt new practices—both behavioral and organizational. But unless they see evidence of systemic change, their enthusiasm will soon disappear.

2. Define compliance as the commitment to continue

It is also time to change the way you think about compliance. Gaining "compliance" in DEIB suggests that your work is done—when, actually, compliance should be only the first step. True success needs to be measured in marked change, not mere attendance. Behavioral change is often the result of the practices and intentions of those around us. The more positive our attitude and the more others model the desired behaviors, the stronger our intention to change will be. Therefore, consider compliance not as a sign-off but as a collection of check-in efforts throughout the year—a learning pathway of practical application, monitored and measured through the commitment of employees and the results of their invested time.

3. Break the mold—allow for emotional preparedness

Historically, DEIB training has been presented in a rational way, with emotional issues overlooked for cognitive practice. But it is time now to break the mold and factor emotional preparedness into DEIB training. Successful DEIB training hinges on emotional discomfort. But, as a result of the always-on nature of 24-hour news and social media, people of color are exhausted by conversations of anti-racism; women and non-binary employees are triggered from gender bias upskills; and those of perceived privilege are paralyzed by feelings of guilt. Corporate training must break with tradition and unpack the realities within the room. It is natural to rebel against being told how to act or think—and emotions influence the effectiveness of learning. So, acknowledge the emotional health required for DEIB change and understand that motivation must be intrinsically inspired.

4. Flip the classroom and unlock your experts

Flipped learning is another useful technique when it comes to DEIB training, with learning professionals acting as facilitators rather than instructors. With a flipped classroom, the learning content is shared—via digital resources—prior to the training event. This transforms the classroom event from a two-hour knowledge download to an interactive opportunity for learners to test newfound knowledge, learning from both facilitator and peers in practical application. Flipped learning has proven valuable in behavioral change not only because it allows subject matter experts to share their expertise, but also because learners can experience the topic at their own pace, allowing for digestion, research, and personal application. By the time learners arrive at the instructor-led event, they are primed and prepared for practical and tangible discussions—bridging the gap between theory and practice.

5. Offer point-of-need learning opportunities

We live in an age of instant gratification, where we expect to get answers within minutes—and our readiness to learn is based on perceived relevancy. Against this background, scheduled training events risk being overshadowed by the demands of busy workloads. DEIB curiosity occurs from an interaction or event that causes an individual to question what they know. So, it is important to offer point-of-need learning opportunities—layering training events with digital resources that can be accessed when the employee needs them. Provide easy-to-use nuggets of information—acknowledging that learners don't want to wade through heaps of irrelevant information. A carefully curated content library of microlearning and behavioral nudge resources is invaluable when it comes to successful DEIB transformation.

Dive in deeper in the new year

As the new year gets into full swing, DEIB learning professionals have an opportunity to loosen their grip on yesteryear’s learning templates and truly embrace a new way of proceeding, using adult learning insights to ensure an impactful and transformational metamorphosis.

Dive into new paradigms and challenges as the winter Learning Leaders Online Forum. Register today, and learn from the experts, network with learning leadership peers, and explore emerging issues. The Online Forum is free to members of the Learning Leaders Alliance, a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve. Join us to meet fellow leaders and aspiring leaders, build your skill set, and delve into trends and topics affecting your work.