How to roll out global bias & inclusion training in your company

Creating shared meaning about bias and privilege is essential for teams to promote psychological safety and productivity.

Here’s how we took 300+ Brandwatch employees through 230+ hours of training during a growth-focused phase of our business.

In response to evolving discourse around social justice and identity and research on the links between psychological safety and productivity, more and more employers are turning to inclusion training as a tool to equip employees to excel in their roles.

With global teams spread out across various cultures — with different histories and social contexts — the task of training all team mates on bias, privilege and inclusion in a meaningful way to increase confidence navigating conversations can seem like an impossible task.

In 2020 when I joined Brandwatch, with their offices in Sydney, Singapore, US and UK plus remote employees spread even further afield, one of my first assignments was to take our entire global team — starting with senior leadership — through rigorous bias and inclusion training.

350 participants, 118 workshops and 236 hours of total training time later: I’m happy to share what helped us pull off this ambitious rollout so you can make it happen in your company, too.

Articulate a powerful “why” message to maximise staff engagement

At Brandwatch one of our values is to be bold — that means we must be bold when it comes belonging.

But we can’t be bold about belonging unless we’re able to embrace the discomfort that comes with recognising our privileges, our biases, and the reality of an unjust society.

We tied in the purpose of the training with our wider company goals to increase the number of underrepresented candidates we hire, and to increase sentiments of inclusion across all individuals in all teams, especially those from non-dominant groups.

As a leadership team we all subscribed to this justification and ‘sang from the same hymn sheet’ in all comms related to the rollout. We left ample time for pre-launch comms to allow the plan to propagate.

Our CEO was very vocal in all hands meetings, on Slack and in emails about the importance of making time for this training — sharing his personal reflections on what he gained from the sessions he attended.

Measure the training’s impact to show your team ROI

At Brandwatch we regularly measure the demographics of our staff, the inclusion sentiments within each department, and participants’ feedback on any educational events.

When team mates are stepping away from their daily responsibilities to invest time into training, its essential you measure the impact of this time-investment on their personal development plus wider company goals. Consider measuring feedback through a post training survey to share the results with participants after.

We have used data from our global training program e.g. participation rates per department and participant’s feedback on the material and facilitation style, to adapt and create an even more effective global training program in 2022.

Partner with an experienced training company that you feel comfortable with

Most tech teams are relatively homogenous and rarely capture the variety of lived experiences in society, or even in their customer base.

This means the success of bias and inclusion training depends on the facilitator’s ability to capture the curiosity and imagination of participants — they must take your employees on a journey that challenges their preconceptions and helps them create more inclusive habits.

At Brandwatch, we needed a training partner that could anchor the content in our values and goals, while challenging team mates to evaluate the power they had to effect change. The Hustle Crew program fit our needs perfectly. Pre-rollout we were able to adapt the content to the specific challenges we face, and tie it into relevant product and commercial goals.

Be honest about what is, and isn’t, working.

Our 2021 global training rollout is complete. With 230+ hours of transformational conversations about bias, privilege and inclusion under our belts, we are not the same team we were one year ago. We’re stronger, we’re smarter, we’re more productive.

I’m incredibly proud of us for getting here, but I’m also in constant conversation with stakeholders across the business about what could have gone better.

The first time you do anything, it’s not about getting it perfect. You just need to get it done to capture real life data that helps you adapt and improve in the future. Don’t get stuck in a rut planning. Take action knowing you will gain insight to improve for the next time.

The conversations sparked in immersive training help us build our confidence to discuss our lived experiences. They give us shared meaning around complex and nuance topics like privilege. They give us a space to finally share personal reflections behind the ways we work and why we show up.

This is the work, this is how we drive change.

I hope you found this helpful! Please like the post, comment with any questions/reflections, and share. Follow me on Twitter @abadesi.

VP Global Community & Belonging at Brandwatch. Author of careers book #DreamBigHustleHard Host #Techish