Who Should Participate in Inclusiveness Training?

As your inclusiveness initiative develops so will the level of involvement of various stakeholder groups. Many variables influence the decision about whom to involve in the training process and at what point. There is no right or wrong decision to make because every organization has different factors to consider and the roles of different stakeholders vary from organization to organization.

In general, though, usually the staff and the board of directors will participate in inclusiveness training either together, separately, or both.

Training for Staff Only
There are many advantages to holding training sessions only for staff:

Because staff usually spend 40+ hours a week with their organizations, their organizational awareness around issues of inclusiveness tends to happen more quickly and intensely than that of board members, who typically focus on such issues intermittently. 

Organizations have more control over staff schedules. So, if the leadership of the organization deems inclusiveness training to be a priority, it is. The same cannot be said of board members. Hence, staff are usually available to attend more training sessions than Board members.

Since staff focus on the day-to-day implementation of an organization's work while the board usually focuses on governance and policy, allowing staff to go through training with other staff members may give them the space to think about inclusiveness issues in a way that is relevant to their ongoing work.

In some organizations, staff members defer to board members and are unwilling to say things that may be considered "risky."  Holding staff-only trainings minimizes the likelihood of having staff members censor themselves in front of board members.

Staff members directly implement programs and policy, so their training needs to be designed with this focus in mind.

Training for Board Only
There are also advantages to having inclusiveness training for board members only:

In many organizations, board members commonly defer to staff members in discussions related to the organization because staff members naturally have more information and expertise about the organization. A board member-only training minimizes the likelihood of board members deferring to staff members.

In most organizations, boards of directors have their own norms that can be disrupted by the introduction of non-board members. Given the limited time that most boards have for training, and the very personal nature of inclusiveness training, it may not be worthwhile to take the time necessary to establish new norms for a combined group.

Group size may be a contributing factor. Smaller trainings have a more intimate quality to them and training outcomes are easier to achieve with smaller groups. If a board of a large organization is willing to go through inclusiveness training, their learning process may not be as successful if they work in a relatively large group with staff. 

Board members have a distinct organizational leadership role that training needs to address. 

Training with Board and Staff Together 
There may be situations where a training of board and staff members together makes sense: 
  • Smaller organizations with limited diversity at the staff and/or board level may have more diversity if they work together, which will improve the training.
  • Undergoing shared experiences with the staff and board members can help build relationships. This can be particularly useful if there is a need to address particular inclusiveness issues that require the leadership of the board as well as the staff.
  • Joint training sessions can help fill gaps between staff and board members if one group is generally more diverse and/or more aware of inclusiveness issues. Sometimes the gulf between the two groups is significant and training can be a tool to bridge the gulf.
  • Joint training sessions may also be useful once each group has undergone separate training.

When you talk to inclusiveness trainers about a possible plan for inclusiveness training, discuss the issue of who should be involved in the training and at what point. In all organizations, especially larger organizations, it is important that the leadership of the organization (include board and staff leadership) are invested and involved in the training early on. Staff with less authority often get frustrated if they undergo training only to find that the leadership of the organization has not yet engaged in the process and is not committed to making changes as a result. Similarly, since the Inclusiveness Committee is responsible for leading the inclusiveness initiative, it may make sense to do an initial training for the committee, especially if it includes all or most of the organization's key leaders.

 

Just as a child is born without fear, so is it born without prejudice. Prejudice, like fear, is acquired.
     Marie Kililea

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