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The merits of diversity and inclusion training are borne out in multiple statistics, and reflected in the increasing presence of minorities in leadership positions. Increasingly, however, this progress seems to be under threat.

Seen by some as little more than box-ticking, diversity and inclusion training has become a political battleground, discouraging some businesses from conducting it.

Many of the businesses pulling back from diversity and inclusion training likely did not appreciate its real value in the first place. Harnessing the benefits of the training not only requires businesses to invest in it, but also to understand why it’s so important – and how its lessons can be applied to transform culture and attitudes from the top down.

Diversity & inclusion training explained

The idea behind diversity and inclusion training is to address potential sensitivities in the workplace. The objective is to break down barriers in communication, and make people more comfortable talking with each other, thereby improving working relationships. People often worry now about whether what they say in the workplace is appropriate, or may be offensive or exclusionary. D&I training isn’t designed to heighten this fear, but to ease it – providing a space for explanation and open discussion, and empowering colleagues to talk freely and respectfully.

Diversity as a term can sound exclusionary by nature, as so many people think it doesn’t apply to them. But that’s much the point: it applies to everyone. It encompasses differences in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, and abilities, and more. It’s about recognising that people come from various backgrounds and have unique perspectives, experiences, and talents to offer. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about creating an environment where every individual feels respected, valued, and empowered to contribute their best work. Achieving both is necessary to make the most of everyone’s talents.

There’s now a weight of evidence that proves diverse teams are more innovative and creative. It stands to reason: when people with different backgrounds and experiences collaborate, they’re more likely to generate unique solutions and creative strategies. It’s not just the addition of a variety of talent, but the ways in which people from different backgrounds and with different experiences challenge each other, and spark creative thoughts. Better diversity and inclusion isn’t designed to replace anyone, but to ensure that everyone’s talents are recognised and made use of.

The value of diversity & inclusion training

With many businesses now operating internationally – and cities proving increasingly international – clients and customers are also increasingly diverse. To better understand and meet their needs, it’s helpful for workforces to mirror this diversity. Prioritising diversity and inclusion can also help with attracting and retaining top talent: a workplace that takes diversity and inclusion seriously will attract more candidates from minority backgrounds, but it might also be seen by others as a sign that the business cares about its employees.

D&I training also equips staff with the knowledge and skills needed to recognise and address unconscious bias and discrimination. Again, this shouldn’t be controversial, even if some increasingly loud voices want to convince you otherwise. Potential legal issues aside, nobody deserves to be treated differently or worse than anyone else at work, and doing so deprives the business of a valuable asset. D&I training helps to prevent this, making everyone more comfortable at work.

Diverse teams also tend to make better decisions, bringing a wider range of perspectives to the table, and helping to avoid insensitivities in marketing and other communications. Finally, there’s the simple, moral argument: businesses have a duty to contribute positively to society, and embracing D&I training helps to create a fairer and more just workplace that sets an example for others to follow.

Why diversity & inclusion training matters

The increasing prominence of minority voices in society and the business world has driven rapid growth of D&I training over the past decade in particular. The training leans into a popular sense that change was necessary after years of unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace. This was true both in terms of fair hiring practices and attitudes towards minorities, who have traditionally been underpaid and unrepresented in many roles and industries. D&I training continues to be both a popular and successful form of training, and is increasingly a proactive choice, rather than a reaction to incidents of discrimination.

However, opposition to the training has been growing – or at least the voices have been getting louder. Increasing politicisation has treated it as an exercise in common sense; or worse, an exercise in division. The belief is that people do not need to be told how to talk to others, and that doing so is unnecessarily limiting, imposing a sort of sterility on workplace language and culture that might impede creativity. It’s also seen by some as a fruitless exercise that doesn’t make any tangible difference. Some cynics believe that it is often performative, and done more for good PR than in service of any real goal.

There is no downside to better appreciating the nuances of communication and the implicit biases we carry – more knowledge, awareness and sensitivity can only be a positive thing. Serious opponents of diversity and inclusion training tend to argue that it is ineffective, rather than wholly unnecessary, and this can be true. But such conclusions are often the result of rigged tests. The training can be ineffective when it’s set up to fail, because its usefulness only extends as far as you are willing to adopt it.


Diversity and inclusion training needs not just to be taken, but to be absorbed and implemented, in a way that ingrains its lessons in the workplace. The fundamental reason for the training is to affect people’s ingrained behaviours, attitudes and cultures, and make them more empathetic towards others. It should be seen as a journey to bring people on together, and a way to affect lasting change, not treated as the destination itself.

The key to utilising diversity and inclusion training is understanding that it isn’t just a one-time event, or an act of compliance. Like any training, it’s the start of a journey that shouldn’t ever end, with infinite scope for improvement. It requires continuous commitment, education, and open dialogue – all fostering a culture where everyone is valued, respected, and given an equal opportunity to succeed.

Is your business championing diversity & Inclusion?

Working in partnership with you, we provide insight and expertise to help you address organisational challenges and pursue long term goals. Whether you are looking to gain a better understanding of your training and development gaps, would like to address certain workplace behaviours, or develop workforce solutions for a particular challenge, we can help identify your options and the solutions available.

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Mark Fryer

17th November 2023

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