May 31, 2023
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) covers a wide range of complicated yet crucial subject matter that affects workers' everyday lives. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with diversity-related information, concepts, and ideas. To help you build a more inclusive and diverse workplace, we’ve done the work to compile essential DEI topics to include in your next inclusion training and initiatives.
Think of DEI as three guiding principles for creating a fair and just organization. These principles influence work policies, attitudes, and values to create better opportunities for people who’ve been historically underrepresented and discriminated against. And in turn, it uplifts the entire organization, even individuals who have not and do not experience inequality.
Let’s quickly define each to have a better understanding of how they’re all interconnected.
A workforce is diverse when people of varying backgrounds come together for a common goal. Diversity is about bringing people of different races, class statuses, gender, sexual orientation, ages, neurodiversity, physical characteristics, etc. to the table. Because everyone has a special contribution only they can bring.
Equity is the actions you take to level the playing field at work. It’s not as simple as slicing the cake equally for everyone. The reality is that some people were born with societal advantages and disadvantages, we usually call these privileges. Equity is about considering those privileges and then taking appropriate action to make sure the result is equal.
Inclusion is all about creating opportunities for your diverse workforce to be actively participating and involved in work. Your employees need to experience being heard. An inclusive workplace values the voices of everyone, especially those that were historically excluded and devalued at work.
Because DEI’s become such a buzzword, especially in recent years major protests and fights for representation have been at the forefront of our culture. It’s easy to misunderstand and create bad stereotypes about the concepts. By having conversations about diversity topics, whether through training or casual discussions with workmates, you’re already actively contributing to a culture of inclusion. It’s about making these discussions accessible and approachable.
Several surveys and corporate reports have noted that diversity isn’t enough, employees need to experience an inclusive work culture. Openly learning and discussing DEI topics shows that you’re actively creating this culture. Cheng and Groysberg in the Harvard Business Review, note that a learning work culture is one most likely to be effectively diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
So let’s get started and discuss the 10 important diversity topics, issues, and lessons your teams need to learn at work today.
Diversity and inclusion are often used together and are thought to be interchangeable. But they are two completely different concepts. A workplace can be diverse and not inclusive, and vice versa. Diversity answers the question “Who are we?” While inclusion aims to solve the problem of “How do we make this work?”
In very simple terms:
Originally a legal term tied to civil rights, intersectionality is the way different forms of discrimination may overlap and complicate each other. As an individual, you likely define yourself with multiple identities. And that’s what makes diversity. Not just different kinds of people, but people with multiple identities.
Being more in touch with your employee’s diverse experiences will make everyone feel safer at work and therefore more productive. Your management and teams need to understand that people’s experiences are nuanced. A great way to apply intersectionality at work is to take cultural intelligence training, or how to become more successful in a global or multicultural context.
Microaggressions are subtle, and often unintentional, acts of discrimination. Common examples of these are dated jokes or misinformed questions that can make marginalized people feel uncomfortable. Other times a microaggression can manifest in a change of behavior when a person is around someone who simply looks or dresses differently.
It’s an overlooked DEI topic. Microaggressions are “small” by definition, but they happen often. That’s why it’s important to learn how to spot and stop these slights in your work environment because they can lead to even greater forms of mistreatment. The best way to learn is by citing examples from real experiences and listening to your team members. Create a culture of accountability and mutual respect for boundaries even outside of work.
Let’s be real. Any talk about LGBTQIA+ can get confusing (even for people in the community). There are as many identities as there are people in the world. So, an important DEI topic goes back to the basics. What’s the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?
Here’s an easy way to understand the difference:
A workplace can avoid uncomfortable questions or microaggressions if the employees understand these concepts. Even being open to understanding these concepts will go a long way.
Try integrating social learning into your office culture. Encourage learning about each other’s different identities and expressions to make room for better communication and collaboration.
It may seem like an obvious answer, but because of the (often violent) history of racism, this topic isn’t talked about in an upfront manner. To eradicate racism in the workplace, you have to know what it looks like and, more importantly, where it comes from.
To start you have to understand that racism isn’t just about racist people but about systems we can undo by taking concrete action. We can create DEI initiatives and training at work to bring about change. Create meaningful lessons and training backed up by statistics, history, and lived experience.
Disability awareness is a critical DEI topic because employment rates for people with disabilities are rising. It’s up to about 21% in the US in 2022. To ensure safety and productivity in the workplace, employees must be trained to be sensitive to the different possible impairments. Sometimes impairments are not obvious, while others manifest only in certain situations.
Awareness is the first step to recognizing and stopping discriminatory practices and behavior. If you don’t already have a training program on disability awareness, create one and collaborate with your team. If you already have one, strive to make it better. Aim for continuous improvement to make sure your company culture is as inclusive as it can be.
DEI topics are often more about prevention rather than cures. It’s much better to create a workplace that doesn’t tolerate an inch of discrimination. Regardless, it’s still important to know what to do when inappropriate behavior happens, even when you’re not directly involved.
Bystander intervention training includes knowing the appropriate responses and behavior when faced with a discriminatory action. The training also involves instilling a sense of collective responsibility within your company’s teams. This ensures that every employee feels safe wherever they may be.
Generational diversity is another DEI topic not often discussed in popular conversations about inclusion. Generation gap talks happen online, especially in social media and even in memes. But in real life, especially at work, it can be challenging to work with generation gaps. The lingo of Millennials differs from the lingo of Gen Xers and may cause miscommunication.
But beyond lingo, people from older generations might not be as tech-savvy as younger people. You must adjust your training to accommodate this reality as well. That’s why hybrid or blended learning is still one of the best options for training because it’s much more inclusive. Many individuals may still opt for face-to-face work and training.
Unconscious bias is one of the most important contributors to discriminatory actions. We all have unconscious biases, and that’s because we learn different biases growing up. Images and ideas we see on TV, lessons we learned from our parents, and even stories we were taught in school all form our biases.
Unconscious bias training shows us which of our biases may be correct, incorrect, or even outright harmful. The process can be uncomfortable as we may need to change ideas that are fundamental to our worldview. That is why training needs to be created with intention and with the best tools. Take a look at some tips on how to create bias training that works.
Intentional inclusion is all about creating impactful action-based plans with your entire company. Actions speak louder than words and every member of your team is responsible for contributing to a safe and inclusive workplace. This means that everyone’s input, regardless of their background, is highly valued and recognized.
Integrate teaching intentional inclusion alongside your DEI initiatives. Your active efforts and plans for inclusion will define your company culture. So when somebody asks if your team is inclusive, you have a tangible answer to give. Your intentional inclusion reflects what you value as a company.
Diversity doesn’t stop at hiring. A company that’s inclusive to its core just becomes so much safer, more effective, and more productive. Employee performance is positively impacted by inclusive work policies and diverse workmates. We suggest adding equity to your company mission and creating statements that stand for a just work environment.
Recognizing special days for different cultures shows how much your organization values its people. For example, include Muslim holidays like Ramadan, Black History Month, Deaf History Month, Pride, and many other days important to your teams. It’s also a great way to introduce different cultures, ideas, and traditions to the rest of your employees, which can lead to better team synergy and deeper relationships.
Having seniors, managers, and executives from different backgrounds will only keep you ahead of the game. Diverse people drive innovation and bring fresh ideas that homogenous teams could never imagine. And keeping your leadership inclusive means you’ll have seniors who can advocate for underrepresented individuals. This builds trust both ways and impacts productivity, creativity, and teamwork at all levels.
As we mentioned earlier, a learning work culture is essential to diversity. Create effective DEI training backed up by experience, expertise, and research. The key is to make it approachable!
One of my favorite diversity courses is EdApp’s DEI course created and taught by Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown. It’s fun, interactive, straight-to-the-point, and comprehensively covers everything your teams need to know about the basics of diversity, equity, and inclusion at work.
As a nonbinary person, language is so important to me. Respecting pronouns is just the beginning—normalizing inclusive, comfortable language shows that your workplace cares about its people. It’s also a learning experience, understanding why people speak the way they speak.
Language is how we understand each other’s worldviews so it's important to make sure we’re speaking to each other at work with utmost respect and kindness. We’re all more productive that way!
It’s daunting to learn about DEI topics and lessons. In many people’s minds, it feels like walking on eggshells, learning to say the right thing. But at the end of the day, we want to demystify DEI and say that it’s all about respect, kindness, and trust.
Diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces will always be more productive, effective, and innovative than those that aren’t.
So, begin your organization’s journey to inclusion and start a conversation today.
Start learning about important DEI topics with the award-winning elearning solution, EdApp! It’s free forever.
Alec is an eLearning writer for EdApp, a pioneer LMS that designs creative mobile workplace training solutions. On the off days, they enjoy cooking, reading, or finding a live show or play to watch.