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“DEI training teaches employees how to contribute to an organization that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for all workers. Diversity training tries to shed light on unconscious bias, prejudice, and inequity – especially in its most subtle and underlying formes – and bring about real, tangible change. Its focus often includes – but not limited to – bias on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation.”


DEI training is in trouble. The biggest goal of DEI training is to provide knowledge and skills for employees and leaders to create, contribute to, and foster a more inclusive work environment. Training is an essential component of a comprehensive DEI plan, but it face plenty of challenges now. In these uncertain economic times, companies are cutting budgets and downsizing workforces – leaving many DEI teams on edge.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to other DEI practitioners about their concerns as companies cut back on resources and reassess their priorities. Some themes about challenges to DEI training during this time include:

  • The topics can be touchy – Topics such as privilege or systemic racism may be challenging for employees and leaders to understand. They require specially trained facilitators and an expertly curated curriculum to ensure lessons achieve the intended goal. When touchy topics are not well-facilitated, training can backfire by confusing attendees and causing skepticism about your DEI plans. Ensure your facilitator is prepared to handle the topic in a way that motivates employee self-development.
  • Competing priorities – When company leaders and employees are busy putting out fires, juggling high-priority projects, and navigating a struggling economy, it can be easy to push training to the backburner and treat it as something that can wait. It’s a good time to align DEI efforts to current company priorities to show that DEI provides solutions and a competitive advantage needed in times of uncertainty.
  • Tightening budgets – Now may seem like the wrong time to invest in training. External trainers and programs can be resource-intensive, and a year-long training initiative can be a significant line item on your budget. Organizations should prioritize training offerings by selecting topics that align with the DEI and company needs.  Spend energy maximizing participation in those pared-down training sessions and plan to offer your full suite of training in the near future.
  • Meeting fatigue – For the last couple of years, meeting fatigue has become a popular topic as companies try to find ways to decrease and limit meetings. Training can feel like just another meeting that eats up employee productivity. Many training programs last more than 60 minutes, creating a barrier to entry for people with limited availability on their calendars. Lower the barrier of entry by limiting training to 60 minutes and offer a “part two” on the topic if necessary.
  • Emerging legislation – We’ve been writing about legislation – such as Florida’s Stop Woke Act – that limits various DEI-related training from being conducted.  This creates hesitation and fear in companies that want to host training, especially those that want to get into more depth and complexity with their DEI topics. Partner with your legal teams to understand issues around training in states where you operate and discuss potential objections that may arise so you can prepare for them in advance.
  • A lack of psychological safety – The psychological safety that employees may have once felt has been shaken by the volatility of the economy and shifts that companies have been making.  DEI training isn’t often the first thing employees think about amidst other pressing concerns, and a session that dwells on the downside of historical wrongs may add to the angst employees feel.  Tune into your employees’ psychological needs by making DEI training engaging, solutions-based, and motivational so the session recharges their battery and fuels them towards action. 

Don’t let these issues threaten your DEI training program.  Instead, go deeper into DEI topics and get creative with how they are administered. Start your DEI training journey with our checklist (Planning DEI Training) and stay the course.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile