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Investing in DEI: Unlocking the Potential of Your Budget

As the year-end budget crunch approaches and the challenges of a financially demanding upcoming year loom, numerous Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leaders are pondering ways to get the best out of their waning 2023 spends and maximize their budget allocation for 2024. But when it comes to DEI spends, your budget is more than a financial commitment. It’s an investment in your employees’ future and your organization’s potential, so we need to ensure every dollar counts. This blog post is for those looking to stretch your dollar and truly make a difference.

1. Intellectual property subscriptions bring external expertise, inhouse.

Not all organizations possess in-house DEI specialists, but specialized DEI training providers do. Considering the financial challenges brought about by the pandemic, training organizations worldwide are collaborating, offering their resources and expertise to clients like you at a fraction of the cost. By embracing training subscriptions and course licensing, you gain access to well-established courses for a fixed monthly or annual fee. This cost-efficient approach eliminates the need for extensive design efforts and external facilitators and also represents an investment in your internal trainers and their professional growth. Moreover, course licensing frequently includes “train the trainer” accreditations, ensuring the quality of program delivery, nurturing your in-house talent, and underscoring that DEI is not only a priority for your organization but is represented by your internal team.

2. Digital resources extend your training reach further than the classroom.

Instructor-led training can be incredible, but it can also be costly for those organizations on a small budget with a large headcount. Thankfully, in our post-pandemic world, we are all used to digital learning approaches–and thank goodness, I don’t just mean the click and read of yesteryear. Digital learning has come a long way and can be just as impactful as an instructor-led event, thanks to video learning, experiential scenarios, and behavioral nudge offerings, in the flow of work videos providing behavioral reminders. The truth is that digital learning is accessible, convenient, repeatable, and far more cost effective than your one off half day training events. Not to mention that despite incredible facilitators and well-designed training experiences being rolled out across the globe–synchronous learning isn’t for everyone–this can be due to various barriers such as time constraints or discomfort with group discussions. Investing in alternative digital learning pathways offers a less intimidating and more flexible way for individuals to engage with DEI content.

3. Point of need catalogues are available long after the trainer has turned off the lights.

Many organizations now recognize that the traditional classroom training event is a little outdated when used in isolation. We live in an era of immediate information, and regardless of how effective your instructor-led training sessions may be, they can’t address every curiosity during their limited timeframe. DEI issues are ever evolving and require immediate assistance, and yet no budget would stretch to having a trainer on standby five days a week. Point of need digital resources are a worthy investment that can be accessed anytime, anywhere–and repeatedly done so. It means learners can own their own development and seek out resources to bridge that knowledge gap. This convenience changes how DEI is ‘owned’ in your organization and eliminates the need to wait painstakingly for the next scheduled training session or SME availability.

4. Partner your authentic humans with artificial intelligence (AI) for training evolution.

There has been plenty of AI discussion in 2023. It will continue to gain momentum in 2024. So, for those of you creating your own training content, consider how to partner up your human specialists with artificial intelligence. To be clear, AI, like the one-off classroom event, will not answer all of your problems, and it cannot be a replacement for your subject matter experts, but it can provide them with tools to enhance the training experience and stretch your budget further. Video production tools enriched by AI tools enhance video production through diverse representation and rapid authoring. Internal algorithms and programming mean personalized learning paths and recommended reading lists that can be compiled with just a few clicks of the learner’s mouse. Chat tools can be used during virtual delivery to transcribe training notes, highlight key points, capture shared slides, and assign action items to participants. It is important to remember that while AI is already expanding the scope of our training efforts, AI-generated content should be regarded as a starting point for critical thinking. Harness this technology to liberate human resources. Allow them to do what they do best–be human and apply their expertise to making a difference to your workforce.

5. Break development out of L&D and use your champions to infuse it throughout the organization.

DEI efforts are not short-term endeavours but rather enduring commitments. It is vital to earmark financial resources for continuous learning opportunities, including workshops, forums, and mentorship programs. Consider investing in the establishment and support of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Your ERGs provide a platform for underserved communities to convene, voice their concerns, collaboratively tackle unique challenges, and extend mutual support. Although it may seem initially unconventional to invest your DEI training budget outside of training efforts, do not underestimate the significant contributions of employees who voluntarily lead these groups and naturally champion your messages of inclusion. This financial commitment demonstrates a deep appreciation for their dedication and underscores your commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.

The reality for 2024 is that budgets will continue to tighten, and DEI teams are expected to do more with less. We can’t continue to do what we have always done because the world today is unlike any we have known before–so start to think differently. Value the deliveries of yesteryear, but get excited for new ideas, approaches, and technologies that will make a difference when it comes to DEI transformation within your business.

About the Authors

Nic Girvan
A leader of impactful and unique learning innovations, Nic Girvan is GP Strategies DEI, Director of Learning and Delivery. With over 20 years’ experience working within Learning & Organizational Development, Nic blends her expertise in adult learning theory and general psychology to create hard hitting and inspirational interventions, that promote culture change and transform working environments. As a previous award winner for innovative instructional design, Nic is driven by the desire to lead her learning services to deliver truly impactful and ground-breaking DEI interventions. Not one to shy away from ‘unusual yet successful’ learning shake ups, Nic inspires her services to break industry boundaries and move beyond ’tick box training’. A truly inclusive and authentic leader, Nic works closely with both instructor-led and digital design teams to ensure her services offer not only return on investment but go beyond client expectation. A committed thought leader for effective training efforts, she regularly publishes blogs, articles, and thought pieces to promote the importance of effective training investment and transformative DEI upskills.

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