How to Develop a Diversity Training Program

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If you've developed training programs for employees before, you know that with some concentration, developing the content is the easy part. How employees and your organization receive that content can be risky, especially if formalized diversity training is somewhat new to your organization. Remember that different employees receive training content in various ways. Your objective is to develop neutral, inclusive content for your diversity training program.

Survey employees in your organization. Don't start from scratch. A diversity training program should reflect its recipients. Develop a sense of what issues employees currently face so the training can address these issues.

Develop a training section around gender. Whether said or unsaid, employees have a natural tendency to play out gender roles in the workplace. Training participants should be able to discuss what it's like to be a man or woman working for your organization. You should address any specific workplace policies related to gender, such as gender discrimination or sexual harassment.

Build a section around ethnicity. This will make up a large part of the training, given the wide ethnic variety that may exist within your organization. Employees also may interact with clients or external constituents of different ethnic backgrounds. Even if your organization is primarily homogeneous from an ethnic standpoint, participants should discuss their own ethnicity as well as others'. Also discuss topics like language---words or phrases specific to a certain ethnicity or offensive to a certain ethnicity---and perceptions or stereotypes. Address any policies related to ethnicity such as racial discrimination or racial slurs.

Include a section on religious and political views. Participants can discuss how they believe their employer handles these areas, as well as whether or not they feel comfortable enough to discuss these issues in the work environment. Communicate that it's not important for everyone to agree with certain religious or political views, but that each employee should respect them and their colleagues' right to them.

Gather as much feedback from participants as possible once the training's complete. It is usually the most helpful to take a two-step approach. Distribute an evaluation form for participants to complete at the end of training. Then consider sending an additional request via email to capture any residual thoughts. Use this feedback to foster further development of your diversity training program.


  • Consider expanding the training to include additional areas such as age. If your organization has any initiatives or programs that address diversity, make employees aware of them during the training. Diversity training should be mandatory for all staff, if possible, so that all issues can be addressed and so that all staff have the benefit of learning from each other.


  • Diversity training can be very controversial and challenging. Don't be discouraged. Use the tension as an opportunity to facilitate better understanding of issues and how they can be addressed.