Written by:

Holly Macdonald


October 7, 2023

Diversity in the workplace training refers to educational programs designed to increase awareness, understanding, and acceptance of differences among individuals.  These differences can be related to race, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, and other personal characteristics.  Diversity training aims to create a more inclusive and harmonious workplace where every individual feels valued, understood, and respected.  Diversity training in the workplace can also drive innovation, enhance creativity, foster a more inclusive environment, and generate improved financial returns.  But how do you instill these principles in your workforce via an online learning platform?  Below, we discuss why diversity is important in the workplace, the advantages of online training, and how to overcome challenges using our top tips based on our extensive experience in creating diversity in the workplace training.

What Is Diversity In The Workplace?

Diversity in the workplace refers to differences among people in an organization.  It can encompass a broad spectrum of individual and group differences.  For example, Diversity in the workplace includes:

  • Race and Ethnicity: Recognizing and appreciating different backgrounds and cultures.
  • Gender and Gender Identity: Ensuring equal opportunities and respect for all genders, including non-binary, transgender, cisgender individuals, big-gender, two-spirit, and pangender.
  • Age: Respecting and valuing the perspectives and experiences of different age groups, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z.
  • Sexual Orientation: Being inclusive of people who identify as LGBTQ+.
  • Disability: Making accommodations and offering support for those with physical, cognitive, behavioural, sensory, or communication impairments.
  • Neurodiversity: Being aware of the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders).
  • Religion: Being aware of and respecting different religious practices and beliefs.
  • Socio-economic Status: Recognizing and valuing employees from all economic and social backgrounds.
  • Education: Respecting those with different educational backgrounds, whether formal education, on-the-job training, or life experiences.
  • National Origin: Including individuals from various countries and regions.
  • Language: Recognizing, accepting and accommodating employees who speak different languages.
  • Cultural Background: Respecting and leveraging different cultural norms, values, and perspectives.
  • Other Characteristics: Parental status, marital status, and more are all important factors when considering diversity in the workplace training.

“Diversity and Inclusion needs to be something that every single employee at the company has a stake in.” — Bo Young Lee, Uber’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Why Is Diversity Important In The Workplace?

First and foremost, Diversity in the workplace is essential for cultivating social justice and equity.  Secondly, organizations have found why diversity is important is also because it enhances business performance.  Below are some of the reasons why workplace diversity matters

  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Beyond the business case, promoting diversity is the right thing to do from a social justice and equity perspective. It demonstrates a commitment to reflecting and respecting the broader community in which a business operates.
  • Enhanced Creativity and Innovation: Diverse teams bring together new perspectives, experiences, and approaches, leading to increased creativity and innovative solutions to problems.
  • Better Decision Making: Many organizations are realizing that one of the reasons why diversity is important is that a diverse team can offer a broader array of solutions and viewpoints. Research has shown that diverse groups make decisions faster and with better outcomes.
  • Representation: A diverse workforce better reflects the diverse nature of global customers and stakeholders. This representation can lead to a better understanding and service of a broad range of markets.
  • Increased Profits: Diverse companies are often more profitable. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, companies with diverse executive teams are more likely to outperform their peers in profitability.
  • Attracting and Retaining Talent: A commitment to diversity training in the workplace can make an organization more attractive to prospective employees. It can lead to a broader talent pool and reduced turnover as employees feel more valued and included.
  • Improved Employee Performance: Employees are likelier to feel comfortable and happy in an environment where inclusivity is a priority. It can lead to increased productivity and performance.
  • Reduced Risks: Companies that promote diversity and inclusion can reduce the risks of discrimination lawsuits. Moreover, a commitment to diversity can enhance a company’s reputation and brand.
  • Cultural Insight and Competence: A diverse workforce can increase an organization’s cultural awareness, helping them understand and cater to a broader range of customers.
  • Competitive Advantage: As global markets become interconnected, companies with a diverse workforce are better positioned to understand and penetrate international markets.
  • Personal and Professional Growth: Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds can challenge traditional viewpoints, leading to personal and professional growth for employees.
  • Enhanced Employer Brand: Companies known for their commitment to diversity are viewed more favorably by the public, which can improve their reputation and brand value.

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It’s important to note that while having a diverse workforce is vital, it’s equally essential to ensure inclusion.  Diversity without inclusion can still lead to marginalized groups feeling undervalued or unheard.  Actual benefits arise when diverse voices are present and actively included and valued in decision-making processes and organizational culture.

“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness.  It is the key to growth.” — Jesse Jackson.

Workplace Diversity Statistics

Nowadays, diversity and inclusion in the workforce is a natural necessity for most of us.  But if you have individuals in your organization you still need to convince that Diversity in the workplace training has a high return on investment, show them some of the statistics below.  It’s one of the reasons that Diversity training in the workplace is now one of the most popular courses organizations offer.  Organizations have realized why diversity training is so important.

  • Corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. (McKinsey)
  • Diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets. (HBR)
  • Diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions. (People Management)
  • Diverse management teams lead to 19% higher revenue. (BCG)
  • Companies employing an equal number of men and women manage to produce up to 41% higher revenue. (Clear Company)
  • Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to notice higher financial returns. (McKinsey)
  • 74% of millennial employees believe their organization is more innovative with a culture of inclusion, and 47% actively look for diversity and inclusion when sizing up potential employers. (Deloitte)
  • 78% of employees who responded to a Harvard Business Review study said they work at organizations that lack diversity in leadership positions. (HBR)
  • Inclusive companies get 2.3 times more cash flow per employee. (Josh Bersin)
  • Millennials are 83% more likely to be engaged at work at inclusive companies. (Deloitte)

“In today’s interconnected and globalized world, it is now commonplace for people of dissimilar world views, faiths, and races to live side by side.  It is a matter of great urgency, therefore, that we find ways to cooperate with one another in a spirit of mutual acceptance and respect.” – Dalai Lama.

Advantages Of Online Diversity Training In The Workplace

Diversity in the workplace training is one, albeit important, component of creating diverse and inclusive workplaces.  To maximize the impact of diversity training in the workplace, it must be part of a larger strategic initiative that has buy-in from leadership and is evaluated regularly and updated to reflect the organization’s evolving needs.

A training component is crucial in fostering an understanding an appreciation that diversity goes beyond merely hiring diverse talent.  To truly create an inclusive environment, there needs to be an active commitment from all organization members to understand, respect, and value individual differences.  Training can play a pivotal role in this process and online diversity training offers a range of advantages:

  • Accessibility: Online diversity in the workforce training is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Employees can access training regardless of location, making it especially useful for companies with multiple locations or remote workers
  • Flexibility: Employees can complete training at their own pace and schedule.  This flexibility can lead to better engagement and comprehension as learners can choose optimal times for their learning.
  • Consistency: Online training ensures that every participant receives the same content, reducing variability in delivery that can occur with in-person sessions.
  • Scalability: Online platforms can accommodate many users, making it easy for organizations to roll out training to everyone simultaneously.
  • Cost-Efficiency: While initial costs might be associated with developing an online training program, it can be more cost-effective than repeatedly organizing in-person sessions in the long run.
  • Interactive Learning: Modern online diversity in the workplace training incorporates interactive elements, such as quizzes, videos, discussion groups, and simulations, which can enhance engagement and retention.
  • Data Tracking and Analysis: Online platforms can provide valuable analytics about employee engagement, areas where employees may struggle, and completion rates.  This data can help to improve the training content and address specific issues.
  • Easy Updating: As ideas and best practices around diversity and inclusion evolve, you can easily update online training materials to reflect the latest research and insights.
  • Customization: Customization enables organizations to tailor the content to their needs, industries, or cultures.
  • Resource Libraries: Online training can offer a resource library for participants, allowing them to revisit content, access additional readings, or delve deeper into specific topics.
  • Immediate Feedback: Many online training modules provide immediate feedback through quizzes or tests, allowing participants to gauge their understanding and revisit areas of confusion.
  • Environmental Benefits: Online training reduces the need for physical materials and travel, contributing to a smaller carbon footprint.

Levels Of Diversity Training

The ultimate goal of diversity training in the workplace is to create a more inclusive and harmonious workplace where every individual feels valued, understood, and respected.  As such, you can develop several levels of diversity in the workplace training depending upon your organization’s existing training and needs.

Awareness Building

Awareness building is often the first step in diversity training in the workplace.  It is where participants are made aware of their own biases and prejudices, both conscious and unconscious.  The idea is to recognize that regardless of background, everyone has biases that can influence their decisions and behavior.

Skill Development

Once participants recognize their biases, the next step is to develop skills to interact more effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.  It might include communication skills, conflict resolution strategies, and techniques for building inclusive teams.

Behavioral Change

The ultimate aim of diversity training in the workplace is to change behavior.  Participants are encouraged to apply their knowledge to create an environment where every employee feels included and valued.  It can involve modifying how people provide feedback, hiring practices, or reshaping team dynamics.

Enhancing Business Results

Embedding the training and enhancing diversity and inclusion is the next level.  Also it’s been demonstrated that when companies have inclusive cultures, they are:

  • Eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes
  • Six times more likely to be innovative and agile
  • Three times as likely to be high-performing
  • Twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets

The Diversity And Inclusion Revolution, Deloitte

Top Tips To Create Online Diversity In The Workplace Training

As we’ve seen, online diversity training in the workplace has many advantages and can cover many levels.  However, pursuing your diversity training goal successfully requires a thoughtful approach and overcoming some challenges.  At Spark + Co., we’ve created many diversity training examples in the workplace for a variety of organizations, including

  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Indigenous Journey for a large educational institution
  • Diversity And A Respectful Workplace for a nationwide property development company
  • Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for a Federally registered charitable organization serving the social sector
  • Sexual Harassment in the Workplace for a large human resources association
  • Inclusive Hiring for a national Canadian real estate corporation
  • Autism Awareness for a Provincial network of integrated health and wellness services for young people ages 12-24.

In developing numerous online training modules on many aspects of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace, we’ve found some top tips to help create successful diversity training in the workplace, including how to overcome challenges and deal with difficult topics in this sensitive area.

1.  Use Authentic Narratives To Show, Not Tell

Using authentic narratives in your Diversity in the workplace training courses is critical. Rather than telling people what they should or shouldn’t do, approaches such as reciting stories, showing authentic examples, and sharing personal experiences is much more impactful.  The participant can then listen/watch and draw their own conclusions, which is much more effective.  Also, a first-person narrative mode of storytelling is highly effective.  The storyteller should recount events from their point of view using first person grammar such as ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘my’…  Below are screenshots of diversity training examples from a course on Sexual Harassment.  This particular aspect of diversity training in the workplace focuses on gender discrimination and using pronouns.

images from an online course on diversity in the workplace training

image from online diversity in the workplace training

2.  Understand The Why Before The How

Before creating any training program, it’s essential to understand its purpose. Why is diversity important for your organization?  Ensure that the training is rooted in real business goals, recruitment strategies, and societal benefits, such as improved performance, better decision-making, and representing the diverse customer base.  When participants understand the “why,” they’re more likely to embrace the “how,” and the impact of your diversity training in the workplace will be more significant.

3.  Be Courageous, Use Examples That Make People Uncomfortable

Playing it too safe with all your diversity training examples usually doesn’t achieve the behavioral changes that you may desire. And may not be authentic to the specific issues you are dealing with.  So, without offending anyone, be courageous with the examples you use.  Include diversity training examples or stories that make you squirm slightly, as these will evoke a reaction.  You want your examples to be as authentic and human as possible.  Learners will recognize that you are developing an unsanitized solution for a corporate audience by creating diversity in the workplace training that pushes the boundaries a little.

4.  Walk The Talk

When working with our clients on designing online learning, we often collaborate and work with a stakeholder group or project team. The client team we work with must be diverse.  Suppose the immediate team doesn’t have the required diversity.  In that case, we’ll advise clients to recruit people from diverse backgrounds to review the content early in the development process.

For example, having an Indigenous perspective was critical for one client.  But they also did not want to add to the workload of their Indigenous experts.  So, the client hired an Indigenous person for the project to ensure that the language and perspective were culturally sensitive and appropriate.

5.  Establish Writing Standards

Diversity and inclusion can be an emotionally sensitive topic. Many people are still learning and understanding the intricacies and nuances and how to apply them to their daily lives.  So, to help the process and prevent offending anyone unintentionally, it’s a good idea to establish writing standards.

6.  Encourage Self-Reflection

The journey to understanding diversity starts within.  So, in your diversity in the workplace training, encourage participants to examine their biases, beliefs, and behaviors.  You can achieve this through quizzes, reflective exercises, and open-ended questions.  Individuals are better positioned to recognize, address, and challenge their unconscious biases.

Questions such as “What would you do in their shoes?” can provide reflective activity, a form of repetition and practice.  And practice is a necessary part of learning.  The diversity training examples below that you can click on and review, illustrate this type of approach.

image from an online diversity training course

Click the image to answer the questions in this activity of a Diversity in the workplace training course

7.  Tailor To Your Organization

Tailor your Diversity in the workplace course to your organizational context – what does it mean to your business outcomes? Why should the learner pay attention to diversity and inclusion at your organization?  Learners often want to understand the specific context and impact on their workplace.  So, address the unique diversity challenges that your organization or industry faces.  And use customized content as it makes the course more relevant to them and will enhance your audience’s engagement.  You should tailor the content to align with your organizational culture’s values and goals.

Different people and workplaces require different types of training and materials.  So avoid adapting training materials created for a purpose different from yours.

As part of their workplace diversity training, a college asked the question “What does indigenization mean to me in my role at Douglas?”  They recorded the answers of employees to show a way for individual to reflect on what it meant for them in their work.

image of videos on peoples views on diversity in the workplace

8.  Represent All Forms Of Diversity

While you should tailor your course to the specific circumstances within your organization, ensure you consider all forms of diversity. While race and gender are often the primary focus, diversity is multifaceted.  Ensure your training includes age, sexual orientation, physical abilities, mental health, religious beliefs, neurodiversity, and socio-economic status.  A comprehensive approach ensures that all employees can resonate with the content, even if you focus more detail on the most relevant aspects of your organization.  People with “invisible” disabilities experience discrimination, so keep your definition of diversity as broad as possible.

9.  Promote Peer-To-Peer Learning

Each individual brings a unique perspective based on their experiences. And learning from peers often leaves a lasting impression and builds empathy.  So, where possible, create opportunities for learners to share stories, insights, and perspectives.  You can facilitate this through discussion forums, group projects, and breakout sessions.

10.  Regularly Update The Training Material

Diversity and inclusion are dynamic areas, evolving with societal changes, research findings, and emerging narratives. As with most courses, online diversity in the workplace training requires regular updating to ensure the content remains relevant, accurate, and aligned with the latest best practices and organizational policies.

11.  Emphasize Psychological Safety

Essential to any course, especially for diversity training in the workplace, is a need to create an online space where participants can discuss diversity topics openly. Establishing clear rules against discrimination at the start, demonstrating empathy, and creating a safe place for all are critical.

12.  Blended Learning Approaches

Use a blended learning approach where possible when creating your diversity in the workplace course. Consider a mix of e-learning modules, webinars, reading materials, and forums.  This caters to different learning preferences and keeps engagement high.  And if feasible, you could integrate face-to-face sessions to make certain activities more impactful.       

13.  Avoid Image Stereotypes

You could use lots of free images and other content in your training. But these need to be authentic, which is one of the reasons to use the storyteller to tell their story.  So, avoid stereotypes when using images, voice casting, and writing narratives.  It prevents participants from listening to a voice or seeing a picture and thinking, ‘They don’t sound Asian enough’ or ‘look Indigenous enough.’  For example, using poorly selected ‘stock images’ can be viewed as tokenism.

screenshot from an Indigenous Experience Diversity Training Examples

Some resources we find valuable and helpful are

14.  Diversity Training Is Only Part Of The Solution

Diversity training is an integral part of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. However, a course on its own isn’t going to achieve the results you desire.  Suppose you aren’t genuine in your approach to diversity in hiring, promotion, and other programs.  In that case, no amount of training will help.

For example, one of our recent clients provides some practical diversity training examples.  They took steps to not just talk about diversity but created training for their managers on inclusive hiring.  It included training on more equitable processes, creating a richer talent pool, and a practical toolkit for the managers.  While not a complete solution, it demonstrates the work that will have a more profound impact.

screenshot from an inclusive hiring course

Screenshot From An Inclusive Hiring Course Created For A Real Estate Development Company

Diversity In The Workplace Training – Final Thoughts

Diversity and inclusion in the workforce is a prerequisite for most of us in the workplace.  Organizations are also rapidly realizing the value of creating a more inclusive and harmonious workplace where everyone feels valued, understood, and respected.  Results show that it can drive innovation, enhance creativity, foster a more inclusive environment, and generate improved financial returns.  All this means that diversity in the workplace training is one of the most popular and demanded courses now.  And while creating online diversity training in the workplace has many advantages, you now have 14 tips to overcome challenges and make your training a valuable, authentic, and successful part of your diversity and inclusion programs and practices.

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Spark + Co has worked with over 70 clients since 2007, providing custom online courses. We help businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to achieve their training goals.  Need to help creating custom diversity and inclusion training?  That’s what we do, having created diversity and inclusion courses for many organizations and we’re ready to help. Book an initial consultation now, send us an email, or find out more from our website.