The spread of COVID-19 has had an unimaginable impact on the world in general and in the workplace in particular. Companies scramble to navigate and integrate remote work into organizational design. Lots of higher education establishments have moved to an online format. For consultants, it is also a particularly difficult period. Individuals in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) space must now find a way to translate their DCI efforts into a virtual format, while keeping participants interested and engaged. Some also claim that the quality of learning can be compromise when switching to an online format. How can DCI workshops, conferences, trainings and other efforts be designed in an online format that facilitates learning and keeps people engaged? 10 DCI practitioners shared how they are rethinking their DCI efforts following COVID-19.
Donna Dockery, DEI practitioner and Ph.D. student: Thinking of different online platforms, I hope that even with a large group they can be broken down somewhat… the same ideas and rules remain as if I was there in person. Don’t take things personally, listen in order not to answer… I wouldn’t want to be just a talking head. I would still like to be able to ask questions, do the whole split screen to show the right slideshow, video or activity… I would also have normal poll tracking.
Michelle Kim, co-founder and CEO of Awake: You don’t need to lose interactivity just because you’re virtual… we continue to create spaces for people to engage in personal activities, dialogues and reflections, even in a virtual environment. We take advantage of all the bells and whistles of modern technology – polls, chat rooms, videos, chat, but the most important differentiator is our hosts’ ability to engage audiences and create an inclusive container where the best learning can happen. We virtually continue our inclusive and equitable facilitation practices. We recognize that everyone has different needs. Diversifying the types of activities is therefore an important part of the design of our learning experience. 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 the screen. We take advantage of focus groups to encourage conversations and group work. We enable chat and polls so people can feel comfortable sharing their ideas even if they don’t feel comfortable talking to the group, and make sure we verbalize and amplify ideas that might get lost otherwise… don’t be boring. Period. Stop lecturing people for 30 minutes straight, in person or virtually.
Kelly Charles-Collins, consultant and founder of Legally speaking HR: With Zoom, my technology of choice, we have options. In a webinar, I can choose to have attendees just hear my voice and see the 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 participants to be on screen and have the opportunity to interact with each other. It’s more like an on-site presentation. I have provided these options to my clients to allow them not only to keep their event going, but more importantly, to protect the health and well-being of everyone involved … many people including me have made presentations online… in addition to speaking in person. for years. Therefore, it’s not really a change. For those who have not yet done so, this is an opportunity to acquire a new skill and to grow. They might just find a new way to do business.
Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Viewer: We are virtually reimagining our entire DCI program. Thus, by organizing panels, trainings, lunches and learning conversations, and by developing online tools such as the management of inclusive virtual meetings … we are also working with our ERG in mental health to host virtual meeting places for people who struggle with isolation by working from home… we use Google Hangouts since Google is now our parent company.
Karen Fleshman, founder of Racy conversations: Social distancing means in-person workshops need to be canceled, when our need to listen to ourselves has never been greater. I’ve always believed that live and in-person workshops are necessary to create psychological security, but I’m now working on webinars with some of the most insightful women of color I know to provide a space for people to voice their fears. , support and grow during this difficult time.
Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno, co-founder of Future for us: We had planned to organize our second Assembly Future for us in Seattle on April 17th, a one-day intersectoral conference for over 500+ women of color professionals … now after the COVID-19 outbreak, our Washington state has been the epicenter, we have decided to the safety of our growing community to move the conference virtually. We plan to keep attendees engaged by creating a sense of belonging prior to the virtual conference by using social media to creatively ask interactive questions through polls and empowering attendees to participate … we’ve found that our community often wants to be engaged before larger events. and now is a key moment to take advantage of it.
Kay fabella, DEI Consultant and Podcaster: I gave my last DCI training in person two weeks before my adopted city of Madrid announced the closure of senior citizens’ centers, offices, schools, bars and restaurants for the foreseeable future. My clients in technology and financial services companies work hard to support their teams in their transition to remote work, in order to protect their health and safety. But even if I no longer see my clients physically, I can still offer virtual options to support their teams and continue to provide the solutions we described before COVID-19. I adapt to their existing VPNs and platforms or guide them through the virtual tools that I use daily in my business 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 issues for employees who have never worked from home before. The beauty of being an entrepreneur with remote working experience is that I can advise my clients not only on how to move our DCI trainings online, but also on how to strengthen their work from home policies. That 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 distance and distance learning approaches. These models provide excellent insight into continuing education in times of crisis. I have always been a fan of a blended learning approach that engages learners in their learning. Starting with pre-readings and self-assessments, followed by 30-60 minutes of self-guided online course material that raises awareness of key ideas, sets context, and establishes a common language and approaches within your organization. … This serves as fodder for a facilitated team interaction that would ideally occur in person, but in remote circumstances can be just as effective by leveraging an online platform for a group debriefing and planning session. ‘action.
Denise branch, consultant and lecturer DEI: I just used the Zoom meetings for virtual reality that COVID-19 has forced everyone to do. We all need to transition our business operations to virtual environments during the COVID-19 pandemic and pandemonium. I am completely ready to overturn traditional D&I training practices. Maybe the coronavirus will help move the needle over D&I. Switching from face-to-face training to online training in the name of public health and safety is the right decision to make. Yet I am learning some pedagogies that might work very well in a face-to-face learning environment may not work well in an online learning environment. This is where I will have to adapt and reinvent my D&I training. The coronavirus crisis is changing the way we do business, with our customers and with each other. If there is a more important time to practice more inclusion, equity, belonging and learning, it is now.
Alexis Braley James, founder of Cascading Employers Association: I facilitated a training titled “Awareness Raising and Capacity Building” for professionals this week via an online webinar and was impressed with the vulnerability that a screen can provide. It also encouraged people to identify their race and gender pronouns on their own in a way I had never experienced before. There are platforms that allow relaxation areas … for small groups and a more intimate experience. I won’t be moving all of my training to webinars but let’s not let COVID-19 slow our progress.