Get the most out of diversity, equity & inclusion training in 2024 

Posted on January 16, 2024

By Elonka Soros, Diversity & inclusion consultant and Creative Access trainer 

Whether it’s sparked by the personal impact of the cost-of-living crisis, reflections on high profile cases of bullying at work, or discussion about global conflicts, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) conversations will continue to top workplace agendas into 2024. Supporting managers and colleagues to navigate these complex issues in a culture of respect and inclusion might take a little planning by HR professionals, but the beneficial impacts will be worth It, says Creative Access inclusion consultant Elonka Soros.  

We did not leave 2023 quietly. World events, political and economic uncertainties, and another round of nasty winter colds and flu are giving us all something to be concerned about. With post-pandemic work life still yet to find its rhythm, it’s no wonder many colleagues across the creative economy have been telling me they are finding it hard to keep going as ‘normal’.  

Senior leadership colleagues talk about the tensions of managing the economic impacts of a tough year for business, alongside the social and emotional fall-out in the workplace. While everyone else, from team leaders to interns, have been sharing the anxieties of working in an era of volatility and uncertainty.   

But 2023 wasn’t all about the troubling news and unease. Throughout last year, co-workers have also expressed a greater awareness of their diversity and acknowledgment that we won’t all be feeling the impacts of external events in the same way. More nuanced understanding of gendered, racialised or socio-economic experiences has in part been prompted by better workplace conversations – often facilitated by inclusion specialists – and the genuine desire of businesses and team-mates to support and accommodate talented colleagues during difficult times.  

“If only I knew what to say or do” 

Motivation doesn’t always lead to action. Feedback from over 200 hours of Creative Access DE&I workshops points to people’s fear of getting things wrong, with inappropriate actions or outdated terminology. This is where HR professionals can help colleagues by providing the tools and a framework to build inclusion competency, and to instil confidence in those leading and supporting a respectful and inclusive team culture.  

At Creative Access, we facilitate discussion, reflection and develop actions that lead to workplace culture change. Our DE&I workshops, mental health and wellbeing awareness sessions, and leadership trainings, are safe spaces where colleagues explore topics and learn strategies, tips and techniques that allow businesses to harness the added value of the diversity of their people, and in their teams.  

As we’re entering 2024, HR professionals will be thinking about what the training needs of your team will be and what will make the most impact. Whether it’s ways of opening up recruitment to a wider talent pool, addressing culture change or developing policies that dial up your inclusion aspirations, here are three tips to help you optimise your next investment in DE&I. 

Prepare for success   

Benjamin Franklin is credited with coining the phrase: “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail” and in the context of booking your next DE&I training or consultancy, putting a little preparation in at the start not only ensures successful outcomes but saves time and money down the line.  

Online modules and off the shelf training sessions might look financially inviting but can leave participants frustrated as the current context can be overlooked. No two companies are the same and it stands to reason that the training needs of delegates, will also differ too.  At Creative Access, whether you’re engaging on one of our core courses or online briefings, we advise a planning call with the trainer so that your specific challenges are understood, and the workshop can be tailored accordingly. The world is changing very rapidly, and with it, the events that may trigger a need for team reflection and collective learning too. At time of writing, I have just finished another call with HR colleagues asking for my support with frameworks for having constructive conversations around religion, race and community in light of ongoing global conflict.  The Creative Access team is agile and alert to current affairs and best practice. All trainers have personal and professional lived experience across the full scope of the DE&I opportunity for the creative economy. 

You can also prepare for success by letting your team know what’s ahead. Be clear with colleagues about the expected outcomes of the training and share the agenda early on, allowing colleagues time to process the sensitivity of certain topics and share any access requirements.   

Plan-in for the next steps 

Very often the success of training is measured in participant engagement, but the purpose of a DE&I workshop is to effect tangible culture change. One way to ensure a legacy from the training is to plan in the next steps for delegate participation. Successful companies have held facilitated all hands meetings at the end of a suite of workshops where key insights are shared, and actions communicated. Others have provided colleagues with the opportunity to take part in a reflective session a few months after the initial workshop where themes and outcomes of the first workshop are shared and there is space to consolidate learning, share progress and recap to ensure staff have confidence and tools to lead the inclusion agenda.   

Equity and inclusion are the outcomes of ongoing actions. As sure as the world turns, there will always be more we can do or learn, and we will make mistakes – it’s how we respond to them that matters. HR professionals can generate momentum after DE&I training by scheduling in the spaces where colleagues continue their learning, feedback, and collaborate with each other.  

Whether your team needs to have more courageous conversations, manage bullying or harassment, set up and run employee resource groups, or develop the skills of allyship, Creative Access has a bank of ideas for formal, informal, internally generated, or externally facilitated next steps. All of our courses come with exclusive access to further resources, which are shared with all participants, and for HR colleagues there are additional invitations to update at regular free subject webinars. 

Practise makes perfect

A successful programme of training will deliver an inspired and motivated team eager and energised to engage with your DE&I action plans. It may surprise you therefore that at this point, my final tip is a heads-up to ‘curb your enthusiasm’. It can be tempting to rush into a flurry of activity, especially if you feel you’ve been battling to get DE&I seriously on the company agenda, but it could be easy to get very busy with initiatives and still get to the end of 2024 unclear about what you’ve achieved.  

A DE&I consultancy session can help those responsible for leading the change to take stock and identify the best course of post-training action. Taking an honest look at any in-training feedback about where your company is now and helping you plan for where you want to be by the end of the year. You won’t be able to do everything in twelve months, so don’t set yourself up to fail by promising to do so. Colleagues are less forgiving of pledges and statements that are not followed through.  

That’s not to say that you can’t be ambitious, far from it – but four or five priorities, with specific and measurable actions, communicated with transparency, and clear lines of accountability will deliver far more impact than 100 pages of strategy and a thousand flowers blooming.  

At Creative Access we’re ambitious – our mission is sector wide. Like many of the companies we work with, Creative Access is values-led, and data driven – our internal DE&I is as important to us, as supporting you with yours. We developed our Annual Thrive Survey to help us ensure that we’re actively living our DE&I aspirations.  In it we monitor the diversity of our workforce, check for equity in progression and pay, document the richness of our workplace culture, and measure the impact of our training and consultancy.  We have the data and are certain that we’re practicing what we preach so that we can help your business to Thrive too.  

Whatever 2024 brings politically, socially and for our businesses, we can be certain that it will involve more change. Restructurings, new hirings, new business and new people. If you want to know how to navigate business sentiment around DE&I with your team, check out the annual Thrive pulse report by Creative Access which outlines best and current practice for employers around the structures needed to support employees and build inclusive workplace cultures.