More and more diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners are moving their workshops and trainings … [+]
The spread of COVID-19 has had an unimaginable impact on the world at large and particularly, the workplace. Companies are scrambling to navigate and integrate remote work into the organizational design. Many higher education institutions have moved to an online format. For consultants, this is also a particularly challenging time. Individuals in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) space must now find a way to translate their DEI efforts into a virtual format, while keeping participants interested and engaged. There are also claims that the quality of learning may be compromised when switching to an online format. How can DEI workshops, conferences, trainings and other efforts be crafted into an online format that facilitates learning and keeps people engaged? 10 DEI practitioners shared how they are redesigning their DEI efforts following COVID-19.
Donna Dockery, DEI practitioner and Ph.D. student: Thinking of different online platforms, I would hope that even with a large group, they can somewhat be broken down…the same ideas and rules remain as if I would be there in person. Not taking things personally, listening to understand not to respond…I wouldn’t want to be just a talking head. I’d still want to be able to pose questions, do the whole shared screen thing to show whatever slideshow, video or activity is appropriate…I’d also have normal follow-up with surveys.
Michelle Kim, co-founder and CEO of Awaken: You don’t need to lose interactivity just because you’re virtual…we are continuing to create spaces for people to engage in activities, dialogues, and self-reflections even in a virtual environment. We’re leveraging all the bells and whistles of modern technology: polls, breakout rooms, videos, chat but really the most important differentiator is our facilitators’ ability to engage the audience and create an inclusive container where the best learning can happen. We are continuing our inclusive and equitable facilitation practices virtually—we acknowledge everyone has different needs, so diversifying the types of activities is an important part of our learning experience design. There is so much you can do with platforms like Zoom…you can easily share your gender pronouns by changing your name that appears on screen. We leverage breakout groups to encourage conversations and group work. We enable chat and polling so folks can feel comfortable sharing their ideas even if they don’t feel comfortable speaking to the group, and ensure we’re verbalizing and amplifying ideas that may get lost otherwise…don’t be boring. Period. Stop lecturing at people for 30 minutes at a time—in person or virtually.
Kelly Charles-Collins, consultant and founder of HR Legally Speaking: With Zoom, my technology of choice, we have options. In a webinar setting, I can choose for attendees just to hear my voice and see slides, or I can allow them to see me and see my slides. If I want to interact with my audience, I can do a meeting. Unlike the webinar, this allows all attendees to be on screen and have the ability to interact with each other. This is more akin to an on-site presentation. I’ve provided these options to my clients to allow them to not only continue their event but more importantly protect the health and well-being of all involved…many people, including me, have been doing online presentations…along with in-person speaking for years. Therefore, this is not much of a change. For those who haven’t, this is an opportunity to learn a new skill and evolve. They might just find a new or additional way to do business.
Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Looker: We are reimagining our entire DEI program virtually. So, hosting panels, trainings, lunch and learn conversations, and developing online tools like managing inclusive virtual meetings…we are also working with our mental health ERG to host virtual hangouts for folks who struggle with isolation by working from home…we are using Google Hangouts given that Google is our parent company now.
Karen Fleshman, founder of Racy Conversations: Social distancing has meant in-person workshops must be cancelled, while our need to listen to each other has never been greater. I have always believed live, in person workshops were necessary to create psychological safety but am now working on webinars with some of the most insightful women of color I know to provide a space for people to express their fears, support each other, and grow at this challenging time.
Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno, co-founder of Future for Us: We were planning on hosting our second annual Future for Us Assembly in Seattle on April 17th, a day-long cross-sector conference for over 500+ womxn of color professionals…now after COVID-19 outbreak, our state of Washington has been at the epicenter of it, we have decided for the safety of our growing community to move the conference virtually. We plan to keep participants engaged by creating a sense of belonging before the actual virtual conference by using social media to creatively ask interactive questions through polls and giving participants power to participate…we have found that our community often wants to be engaged before the larger events and now, this is a key moment in time to take advantage of that.
Kay Fabella, DEI Consultant and podcaster: I gave my last in-person DEI training two weeks before my adopted city of Madrid announced that senior centers, offices, schools, bars and restaurants would be closing for the foreseeable future. My clients at tech and financial services companies are working hard to support their teams as they shift to remote work, to protect their health and safety. But even though I no longer see my clients physically, I can still provide virtual options to support their teams and continue to deliver the solutions we outlined before COVID-19. I adapt to their existing VPNs and platforms or walk them through virtual tools I use in my business daily like Zoom and Google Drive. Remote work policies are often overlooked in the diversity and inclusion conversation until there is a pressing need for them. There are also significant productivity, communication, and mental health challenges for employees who’ve never worked from home before. The beauty of being an entrepreneur with experience working remotely is that I can advise my clients not just on how to move our DEI trainings online, but also on strengthening their work-from-home policies. This way, I can continue to help them support their people as we adjust to a new reality.
Brian Klecatsky, DEI consultant: In our already hyper connected world, technology and global teams have required remote and distance learning approaches. These models provide great insight for on-going training in times of crisis. I’ve always been a fan of a blended learning approach that gets learners engaged in their learning. Starting with pre-reads and self-assessments, followed by 30-60 minutes of self-guided online course material that builds awareness of key ideas, sets context and establishes a common language and ways of approaching within your organization…this serves as fodder for a facilitated team interaction which ideally would happen in person, but in remote circumstances can be as effective leveraging an online platform for a group debrief and action planning session.
Denise Branch, DEI consultant and speaker: I’ve settled for using Zoom meetings for the virtual reality that COVID-19 has forced everyone into. We are all having to transition our business operations into virtual environments during the COVID-19 pandemic and pandemonium. I’m all in for upending traditional D&I training practices. Maybe the coronavirus will help move the needle on D&I. Transitioning from face-to-face training to online training in the name of public health and safety is the right move to make. Still, I’m learning certain pedagogies that might work really well in a face-to-face learning environment may not work well in an online learning environment. That is where I’ll have to adapt and reinvent my D&I trainings. The coronavirus crisis is changing how we do business—with our clients, and with each other. If there is ever a more important time to practice more inclusion, equity, belonging and learning, now is that time.
Alexis Braley James, founder of Cascade Employers Association: I facilitated a training called “Consciousness Raising and Capacity Building” for professionals this week via online webinar and I was impressed with the vulnerability a screen can provide. It also encouraged folks to self-identify their race and gender pronouns in a way I had not experienced before. There are platforms that allow for break out spaces…for small groups and a more intimate experience. I won’t be moving all my trainings to webinars but let’s not allow COVID-19 to stall our progress.