How to create better D&I programs
Reuben O'Connell
5 minutes
July 5, 2023

D&I programs work to promote a much more diverse and inclusive space–the key is literally in the name. The nature of such programs work in order to provide equal access, opportunities and resources available for all regardless of sexual orientation, gender, disability, ethnicity and so on. 

We know that you introduce these programs with the intention to end discriminatory practices and that inclusion training programs have become part of the process of onboarding and building your culture. This sets a standard for many companies’ stances on discriminatory behaviour in the workplace. 

However, a plethora of recent evidence point to the undeniable failure of programs in changing workplace behaviours. In a Deloitte survey, 80% of respondents agreed that inclusion is highly valued when choosing an employer, yet only 53% of UK employers have a D&I strategy in place. 

Many diversity and inclusion programs are described as useless and ineffective; they do little to have any impact on behavioural change in the workplace. 

Three top reasons for D&I failure

1. Programs are short term

D&I are often short term and low cost initiatives. Some companies see it as a tick box for their work environment. And employers recognise D&I initiatives as a resolution to any political litigation they could potentially face.

Short-term programs do little in having a lasting impact on employees and their behaviour towards others in a company or workplace. A 2019 study confirmed this, arguing that the common “one-shot” type of D&I program sessions were the least effective in influencing behavioural change for a more diverse and inclusive workspace. Employees often forget the information within hours of a session.

Some suggest that more long-term programs and structures that promote diversity and inclusion would have much longer lasting effects in behavioural change and diminishing discriminatory practices in the workplace, like mentoring, which can be carried out over a prolonged period of time.

2. Programs are reactive, not proactive

Employees have felt that their companies respond to external factors like George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 with D&I training instead of initiating programs proactively. The nature of intentions for D&I leads to its failure.

Upon the 2020 racial injustice, employees witnessed a rise in companies opting in to D&I programs. 

As can be seen, 25% of employees described D&I programs as reactive as opposed to proactive. If your employees identify D&I training programs as a reaction, there is something wrong with your intentions for D&I. This leads to its inevitable failure.

Employees need to feel that it is the honest aim of the employer to improve and diversify the workplace. They should not perceive D&I training as a reactionary initiative, as this perception would not lead to long term changes.

Bringing in initiatives as a ‘reaction’ as opposed to a proactive initiative further invalidates diverse employees. Employers cannot simply expect to improve their experiences through a “one-shot session”.

3. Programs centre around white or male employees 

D&I training has always concerned changing the behavioural patterns of male and/or white employees, and about knocking down the stereotypes that are rife amongst these particular groups.

There has been little evidence recorded in support of the claim of changing behaviours amongst men or white employees in work environments, and in response to D&I training. This all falls on the intentions of bringing D&I initiatives into the workplace in the first place. 

Further, Toni Morrison popularised the phrase ‘white gaze’ which has been used referring to failed efforts of diversifying the workplace and eroding office stereotypes based on racial discrimination. D&I training implements the removal of conscious or unconscious racism, sexism and homophobia alongside a multitude of other issues. This change has typically been based on the change of male or white employee behaviour. 

E.g., White-centricism was found in Robin Diangelo’s D&I workshops. Diangelo theorised ‘white fragility’. White employees  are the focus of D&I instead of their POC peers when angered over accusations of unconscious racism. This further validates the white employee at the cost of their POC peer.

White outrage enables a delineation from the importance of the POC experience in the workplace. This white fragility keeps POC’s ‘in line and “in their place”’. It does very little to impact any impactful change resulting from D&I training. 

But, we need to diversify our workplaces. How?

Research from Deloitte demonstrated the impact of successful DE&I training:  This is valuable in an age of Millennial and Gen-Z job-hopping culture.

Therefore, there needs to be a solution where it is easiest for diverse staff to be acknowledged in the workplace. If done right, reverse mentoring is one of the most effective ways for the education of executives and senior members of D&I.

Mentoring software, if done right, enables successful D&I in the office.

Guider recognises these issues surrounding D&I training and provides an effective solution through our mentoring software.

What is reverse mentoring?

Reversal of roles
  • Reverse mentoring shifts the power dynamic. Instead of senior members of a workplace mentoring their junior counterparts, it tends to be the other way around. 
Bridging the age gap means bridging other gaps
  • It can be used to bridge generational gaps where senior employees can learn from those who they would typically mentor.
Reverse mentoring leads to diversifying senior teams

📖 To find out more about reverse mentoring: Reverse Mentoring: A Complete Guide 📖

How does mentoring remove the white gaze in D&I? 

A diverse range of employees gain ownership

Recent data has shown that 33% of leadership roles in companies go to women, and black professionals held 3.3% of all senior roles in the US in 2018. A lot of these senior teams are men, and are white, hence this reversed form of mentoring challenges the lack of diversity that may be identified in senior roles.

Long term plans remove a white gaze and enables success

Long-term reverse mentoring schemes offered by Guider allow all employees to participate in, and be at the centre of D&I if they so choose, removing the preliminary focus of shallow D&I initiatives that focus on changing male and white behaviour.

Why is reverse mentoring so successful for D&I programs? 

Reverse mentoring fits the criteria

Generally mentoring is a long term prospect. Reverse mentoring can be long term and impactful in diversifying the workplace, removing the stereotypes of D&I initiatives being short-term, shallow, and reactive

Reverse mentoring promotes successful D&I strategy
  • A 2018 reverse mentoring case study of senior NHS leaders demonstrated how two BME staff participated and took ownership in mentoring a white director. This study concluded that reverse mentoring creates an optimal environment for continuous improvement of attitudes, behaviours and practices.

Is Guider’s matching algorithm neutral?  

There is no bias, you will find your match

Due to the smart algorithm used in our mentoring software, it removes any unconscious bias faced in work environments.

Mentees are paired up with mentors who would be a great fit, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, race and any other factors that may have been an unconscious barrier for some employees. 
Anyone can participate, but not every person who may have felt forced to be a ‘face of D&I’ needs to participate

Also, mentoring software promotes the idea of choice for diverse employees to participate; it removes the idea that some groups are having to be pushed into D&I initiatives because they ‘fit the criteria’.

Long-term reverse mentoring software programs, as provided by Guider, are the solution to produce successful D&I outcomes.

To learn more about creating a more diverse and inclusive workspace through mentoring software: Book a demo!

What's next?

Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways Guider can help you supercharge your L&D with mentoring:

See how much mentoring can save your business with our ROI calculator

We've crunched the numbers from all of our customers to work out the financial value of mentorship to businesses. It might be just what you need to get executive buy-in

Build your own mentoring programme

If you're looking to build and launch a mentoring programme in your organisation, then our guide is the best place to start.

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The Complete Mentoring Toolkit
Everything you need to create and scale an effective workplace mentoring programme. Includes: setup checklist, matching guide, expert advice, proving ROI and much more.

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