I get a lot of calls for “diversity training” and my first question is always, what kind of training do you need? Most don’t know. Most also don’t know how to answer the question.
In order to figure out what your organization needs, it’s a good idea to start with the question, “Why do you want training?” Answers to this can be varied. And while there are certainly innumerable answers to this question, here are three typical responses:
- Our diversity is growing and we’d like to ensure that our organizational culture grows with it. We want everyone entering our organization to have a baseline understanding of what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to our organization and how they apply to our work, to our mission.
- We’re not so good at interfacing with ______________ community and need some cultural competency training around this.
- There’s a negative narrative about working here among ____________ people (fill-in: people of color, women, lesbian/gay, millennials, etc.). We’ve had employees lodge complaints – from HR conversations, to exit interviews, to formal EEOC complaints. We want to work on making it better; we need to be better.
Depending on the answer, your approach should be different. How you go about it is key.
1. Fostering Inclusion
With the first scenario, you have likely had at least one conversation among leadership about the meaning and value of diversity, equity and/or inclusion for your organization. You may have been working on building greater diversity at the staff, board and/or volunteer levels and want to ensure your new recruits are welcomed into the organizational environment. Maybe you want to extend inclusive thinking throughout the various nonprofit function areas – programs, communications, fundraising, operations – for ever greater success. Perhaps you’ve built an inclusive culture but want to dig deeper and offset employment inequities that occur systemically. Here are some tips as you think about training:
- Share your diversity, equity and inclusion values broadly with your organization constituents (if you haven’t yet done it);
- Invite a trainer to meet with staff and identify the specific areas where you’d like to improve understanding as an organization; enlist their help in designing a learning program that will work for your organization. If you haven’t already done it, consider including training on implicit bias and microaggressions in your plan.
- If this is an organizational priority, encourage not just staff, but all volunteers, interns and board members to participate in your new learning program – you will establish a strong, values-rooted organizational culture fast – depending on your annual turnover, in less than one year, you could see a noticeable shift.
- Consider using the Intercultural Development Inventory with your leadership team and engaging in an intentional and focused learning process. Those leading the organization must model the best practices around inclusion and you need to provide them with the tools to do that. Not engaging leadership can lead to “not walking the talk” scenario which will undercut your efforts. Furthermore, members of your leadership who are not prepared to engage in difficult conversations, who don’t understand systemic inequities facing specific groups and/or who may have a tough time working with people across difference, will undercut your efforts.
2. Cultural Responsiveness
The second answer relates to learning about specific populations. Sometimes you recognize you don’t have enough information about a group of people in order to serve them well. Perhaps there’s a new immigrant group or a newly identified unmet need. It’s important to learn about the cultural norms of the groups you are serving in order to serve these populations well. Here are some training considerations:
- Consider first why you don’t know much about this population. Are members of this group represented in any way on your staff or board? In your volunteer or client groups? Is this a newly emerging population? Is this a long-standing community with whom you are disconnected? Is there any painful history behind your disconnectedness that may prove to be a continued barrier, that may need resolution first?
- Work on building authentic relationships with this group. Build your organizational networks – encourage staff and board to make strong connections with sister organizations that serve this group and their community members. Find out how your organization might help them in their work. Invite sister organizations to provide training and development for your organization. Compensate them for this valuable service. Consider opportunities to work together on projects in which you have a shared interest.
- Consider forming an advisory group made up of members of this community to help inform you on policies and procedures, including employment practices and outreach.
3. Trouble shooting
The third response is your hint that there is deeper work to be done. If there are negative narratives or specific complaints, it may be the tip of the iceberg. If you engage in training without laying the proper foundation, you may leave staff feeling that the training is just “window dressing” without real meaning. Negative narrative(s) fester when they haven’t been given the space to properly air out. You could do more harm than good. Some considerations before you proceed with training:
- Engage a consultant to help you get started. It doesn’t have to be very expensive, but it will be well worth your while and save you valuable time and money in the long run.
- An outside third party will be able to gather data about the perspectives and experiences among your staff, engage them in conversation about the how to move the organization forward and help set a plan for change.
- Take the organizational readiness survey at the Denver Foundation’s Inclusivity Project. While the survey focuses primarily on race and ethnicity, you can think of the survey along any dimensions of diversity. http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/node/55
How much will it cost?
Fostering Inclusion. Many organizations offer diversity, equity and inclusion training. Recent research has shown that organizations which include a strong implicit bias training component have had good results in shifting organizational culture and in making positive strives in their recruiting and hiring efforts. Look locally for a facilitator or pair of co-facilitators who can lead your training and education efforts. Cost depends on frequency of training, but organizations should budget a minimum of $1,000 per half-day of training which includes two professional facilitators. I recommend organizations invite all existing employees to a beginner level training (you want everyone to at least be above a certain threshold of understanding), then include it in each new hire’s orientation process.
Cultural Responsiveness. It’s important to build relationships with the groups and communities about whom you wish to learn. Pricing can vary, but nonprofit organizations should be prepared to spend at least $500 in Michigan for a half-day session. Some organizations will provide training for free, but with an honorarium. Consider not paying less than $500 for their valuable expertise.
Trouble Shooting. Engaging a consultant in this work is especially important if you are facing specific problem areas. Consultant fees vary based on the organization size, scope of services needed, and geographic spread. LaTosch Consulting uses a simple six-step assessment process that typically takes 4-6 months, depending on the organization. Much of the work can be done remotely with as few as three in-person meetings. Fees are based on the size and complexity of the organization. Click here for a free consulting quote.
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