How Better Feedback Can Accelerate Your DE&I Work

July 29, 2022 Jamie Notter

We created a fairly simple maturity model for understanding the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a common step in the journey is to move from informal conversations about DE&I topics to more formal training for all your employees. The informal conversations typically don’t go very deep, but when you move into a more extensive training program, covering topics like unconscious bias or anti-harassment, you have the opportunity for deeper and more lasting change.

But only if your culture is ready for that. Most people don’t think about the cultural underpinnings of successful DE&I work, but think about it for a minute. If you want the training that you provide to result in real behavior changes in your organization, then you will need people to call each other out (kindly) when the fall short of the behaviors covered in the training. It is normal to expect imperfection here, but if you have a culture where people are afraid to give each other feedback, particularly “negative” feedback, then you might have wasted money on that training.

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So at the same time you are thinking about delivering your DE&I related training, you might want to work on building a culture of feedback:

  • Implement “after-action reviews” more consistently. If people get used to rigorously evaluating what worked and what didn’t, it will become more “normal” to get feedback on behaviors or approaches that aren’t working
  • Train people in conflict resolution and difficult conversations. I know it’s my bias since I came from the conflict resolution field, but at this point I think every organization should be doing this.

If you can get your culture to a point where feedback flows freely and without drama, then the impact of your DE&I training can actually be accelerated.

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So from a culture change perspective, it works like this:

  • Culture problem: DE&I training doesn’t stick or progresses too slowly.
  • Relevant culture pattern: Intangible growth (our culture values aspirational growth more than it values developmental growth)
  • Culture solution: run after-action reviews and train your people in giving better feedback (with less drama)
  • Results: DE&I training results in new behaviors and improved employee engagement.

Note: this post is part of a new series on “Culture Solutions,” where we identify specific culture change action items that real clients have used to solve real problems in their organization.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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