Conducting Diversity Training Online

Diversity training can help improve teamwork, productivity, and morale. Here's how to create an effective online diversity training program.

December 29, 2020

Article highlights

Studies have shown that companies with diverse executive boards have significantly higher earnings. And diversity helps groups see more sides of an issue and make better decisions.

However, diversity in the workplace can also lead to arguments and misunderstandings. Employees may not be used to navigating cultural differences. They may get frustrated or leave certain groups out of teams or projects.

Diversity training can help employees understand and navigate their differences.

What Is Diversity Training?

Diversity training is ongoing training that aims to teach employees cultural awareness and how to treat people of different backgrounds respectfully.

Effective diversity training helps create a more inclusive environment. It can lead to more productive teamwork, reduce conflicts, and boost morale.

Many organizations decide to conduct online diversity training, letting employees do training at their own pace rather than taking up work hours in a classroom.

Value of Diversity Training

In part, diversity training is important just as a matter of compliance. Federal and state equal employment opportunity laws make it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or other factors.

Good diversity training can help prevent discrimination and harassment by teaching employees to value and respect differences.

However, diversity training in the workplace is about far more than just complying with laws.

Today, the workforce in the U.S. is more diverse than ever. And, as mentioned earlier, diversity in the workplace leads to better outcomes.

Diverse teams are more innovative. They also perform better financially.

According to a study by Mckinsey, “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Diversity training doesn’t automatically create a more diverse workforce. But creating an inclusive workplace culture can help attract and retain people from different ethnic backgrounds.

In fact, 67% of jobseekers told Glassdoor that workplace diversity was an important factor they considered when evaluating job offers.

Effective online diversity training helps every employee feels valued, respected, and heard. This leads to a more productive, happy workforce.


How to Make Diversity Training Effective

Diversity training can be controversial. Some have even argued that some compulsory diversity training can do more harm than good. Other studies show that diversity training can work.

The research on both sides demonstrates the importance of a carefully crafted diversity training program. Simply finding a generic diversity course online can backfire. Every organization must create a diversity training program that fits the needs and culture of the organization.

Here are a few ways to make online diversity training more effective:

Focus on the business case for diversity

No one wants to be given a lecture on morality. If employees feel that diversity training is talking down to them or force-feeding them rules about equality, the training may backfire.

The Harvard Business Review points out, “As social scientists have found, people often rebel against rules to assert their autonomy. Try to coerce me to do X, Y, or Z, and I’ll do the opposite just to prove that I’m my own person.”

Avoid making online diversity training just a list of do’s and don’ts for employees to follow. The training shouldn’t focus on the potential legal consequences to the company. Instead, focus on how diversity and inclusivity help improve the organization.

Online diversity training should also address how diversity training can benefit the employees individually – helping them increase their business skills and become better leaders.

“People want to know, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Villanova University management professor Quinetta Roberson told Workforce magazine. “‘Is this going to increase my skill set where I’m more likely to be identified as a high-potential or future leader?’ They need to be given some kind of motivation to learn.”

Make it about more than awareness

Cultural awareness is an important piece of a diversity training program. In order to counteract their biases and assumptions about others, people must first be aware of their own prejudices.

But if online diversity training stops after awareness, it will accomplish little more than making employees feel bad and putting them on the defensive.

Effective diversity training combines awareness with practical skills. This may include tools to help employees get better at cross-cultural communication, adapting to cultural differences, and even making more inclusive hiring decisions.

Including skills in diversity training gives employees some tangible ways to apply their training to their day-to-day activities in the workplace. It makes ideas about diversity more practical instead of just theoretical ideals.

Include perspective-taking or scenario-based training

One way to make diversity training more effective is to have employees mentally put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Trainees don't necessarily have to do this through in-person role-playing or with a partner. It can be as simple as writing down a few sentences about the challenges facing a minority group or listening to statements while imagining how someone from another culture might interpret them.

Though this may seem simplistic, it can be powerful, and the effects tend to last longer than other forms of diversity training.

One study found that “taking the perspective of LGBT individuals or racial minorities – by writing a few sentences imagining the distinct challenges a marginalized minority might face – can improve pro-diversity attitudes and behavioral intentions toward these groups. These effects persisted even when outcomes were measured eight months after training.”

Do more than just playback purchased training

Diversity training should feel relevant. Employees will likely tune out if they are forced to watch outdated videos of mediocre actors playing out generic scenarios.

Just like any other training, diversity training will be most effective if it’s interwoven with the company’s vision, values, and goals.

Rather than simply using a generic online diversity training program, company leaders should consider personalizing training for their organization.

This may involve taking the core messages and best practices in diversity training and creating a program designed to address the challenges the company faces. Or it could simply be adding a few personalized sections to existing or pre-purchased content.

Either way, adding some personalized touches to online diversity training can help show employees how it applies to them.

Should I Offer Diversity Training Online?

Diversity training is one of the subjects that lends itself well to an online training course. It isn’t overly technical, it falls more on the side of soft skills, and the training is virtually the same for everyone in the company.

Plus, studies show that workplace diversity training is more effective when it occurs over a significant period of time. This means online diversity training may be a good option since it allows company leaders to space out training components.

However, there are a few key questions to consider when deciding to offer online diversity training:

Can you prepare and host effective online diversity training?

Part of this is just determining whether diversity training content is in a format that will work online. PowerPoints or videos, for example.

In most cases, it will be fairly simple to adapt training content to work in an online format.

The other factor is hosting and distributing the training. Online diversity training should be in a format that’s easily accessible and easy to use.

A good training management software can make online diversity training interactive and comprehensive.

PowerDMS’s training management tools let company leaders easily deliver and track training. Administrators can see who has completed training, automatically send reminders to those who haven’t, and even easily create certificates to reward those who complete training.


Do you have a way to test comprehension?

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be easy for employees to simply tune out training lectures and videos. Quizzes help test comprehension and make sure employees retain information.

PowerDMS lets administrators easily create custom tests to attach to training modules. It automatically grades tests and shows trends in training across the organization.

Are you able to track results?

Diversity training doesn’t exist just for its own sake. Every online diversity training program should have clear goals and benchmarks.

Online training software can help leaders evaluate whether diversity training is effective. With PowerDMS, company leaders can easily see who has completed the course and how they performed on comprehension tests.

They can also use PowerDMS’s survey feature to gather employee feedback on diversity training content.

This information can help improve the online diversity training program. Test results show which concepts employees tend to struggle with. And anonymous feedback reveals how employees feel about the training content and how they think it could improve.

As the American workforce becomes increasingly diverse, diversity training is more important than ever. Effective diversity training can help employees communicate better, navigate cultural differences, and grow as a team.

Online training tools can be an effective way to offer ongoing diversity training in the workplace. As you seek to improve your company’s online diversity training program, use PowerDMS to customize content, deliver training, and track results.

Related Article

Footer CTA Image

Download your copy of the report

Download The Future of Policy & Compliance Management report.

How does your organization compare? Get your copy today.

Download the Report

Schedule a Consultation!

Learn how PowerFTO can help you access and track field training data to improve your agency's FTO program. Fill out this form to schedule time to speak with an expert!