Putting People First

Research shows that organizations leading the way in diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEI&B) make learning a top priority. They learn about the policies, processes, and programs that increase diversity and create equity. Then they take action to establish hiring goals, de-bias performance review processes, track metrics, and report on progress. 

While these programs are important aspects of DEI&B strategies, the people who bring these initiatives to life matter just as much. That’s why organizations committed to DEI&B also encourage learning among their employees. They support people in developing the knowledge, understanding, and behaviors needed to put these things into action on a daily basis. 

How People Development Fits into DEI&B

DEI&B executives and consultants agree there are strategies that may and may not be effective in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through leadership development.


  • Structured, in-depth, and ongoing
  • Goes beyond “checking a box”
  • Informed and guided by experts, with both solo and group learning
  • Engaged and invested in senior leadership
  • Updated content that is relevant and sensitive to current issues
  • Addresses race explicitly


  • One-off programs or workshops
  • Programs that are disconnected from business strategy and existing initiatives
  • Limited support from senior leadership
  • Untrained and inexperienced facilitators
  • Outdated content

Voluntary, not mandatory: In addition, it’s more effective if engaging in DEI&B learning and work is voluntary for employees. This provides autonomy for people in underrepresented groups and reduces possible backlash or further harm. Voluntary participation supports trust and psychological safety, which are foundational to DEI&B efforts in organizations. People must feel safe in order to identify problems, communicate with one another, and change organizational norms. (Research by Ely/Thomas)

What Ongoing DEI&B Work Looks Like

Leadership development is only one part of an organization’s overall DEI&B work.

  • DEI&B efforts should be ongoing and integrated throughout an organization.
  • It is not something that can be checked off or completed. There is no one-stop, one-off solution.
  • The work is ongoing as long as there are racial inequities and/or people who feel they don’t belong. 

That means every team must integrate DEI&B into their goals and daily work. Leaders need to demonstrate their commitment and hold the organization accountable for results, and employees should be included and involved every step of the way.

3 Tips to Start Building Your DEI&B Program

Foster an environment of high psychological safety

Productive conversations about DEI&B require high psychological safety. Without it, discussions can be difficult and sometimes even cause harm (e.g., damaged relationships, burdening people to educate others, disengagement, etc.). 

Structure your discussion questions so they are designed to enhance learning and build trust. These questions should focus on the content at an appropriate level, avoid probing personal questions and remind people to share when they are comfortable while taking others’ experiences into account. 

Extend your focus beyond just hiring and performance reviews

While developing an inclusive hiring process is important, these actions alone don’t create inclusive work environments. Develop an L&D program that supports managers in developing the skills to become more aware of their own biases and what it takes to catch them and respond productively. With these kinds of skills, managers improve the effectiveness of HR’s processes. 

Learning is just the beginning

While soft skill development is essential, it’s only part of what’s needed to build inclusive, equitable, and diverse organizations. Fostering an environment where people are supported to develop their knowledge, understanding, and behaviors is needed to put these things into action on a daily basis. This can foster inclusion throughout your organization. 

Don’t forget that people learn in different ways. Structure your program to feature insights from a variety of DEI&B executives and consultants, business leaders, organizational researchers, neuroscientists, psychologists, historians, community organizers, and journalists as well as artists. And you’ll consider the very important perspectives of another source: first-person stories from people working in roles similar to those in your organization.

Partner and Learn

We believe this work takes many people and organizations. At Verb, we seek to partner and learn from each other. We’d love to hear about what your organization is doing and be a supportive partner in your efforts. 

We also appreciate feedback and collaboration to include more perspectives to improve content for learners and customers. As we learn from each other, we can support more organizations and people advancing DEI&B.

To learn more, schedule a demo today.

Download the complete DEI&B Leadership Development Guide.

Find out how Verb can unlock your team’s full potential.