One association took extra time and introspection to uncover the secrets of creating and delivering meaningful training in diversity, equity, and inclusion for members. Among them: DEI training must be sustained, visible, and holistic.
The School Nutrition Association has consistently offered its members diversity, equity, and inclusion training. However, as many other associations have probably experienced, we realized our programming was not strong enough to create a lasting effect. When we set about to change it, we discovered several important elements of more effective DEI training.
The goal of DEI training is to help members become more culturally competent, empathetic, and self-aware. SNA's professional development team has identified the secret to achieving that goal for our organization: DEI training must be sustained, visible, and holistic.
SNA's training series is delivered through webinars, conferences, and SN Magazine articles. It features a mix of firsthand lived experiences, self-assessments, networking connections, and suggested actions.
Since developing this program using a seven-step, cross-functional team effort, we have seen more success and engagement from our members.
Understand Your Audience
Before launching into a DEI initiative, be sure you understand your audience’s needs. Engage your volunteer leaders in open discussion to ensure the programming is relevant. Even if it is uncomfortable, ask questions like: “How else do you see us meeting this objective? " and "What do you think is missing?" as you build your DEI training.
We recognized that because our members have different levels of education and different job functions, programming that resonates with one person may not resonate with another. By offering different training approaches, we can better meet our members’ learning needs.
The goal of DEI training is to help members become more culturally competent, empathetic, and self-aware.
Define Goals and Measurement
What do you want to accomplish with your DEI training? Is your goal to help members foster a culture of inclusion and work better together? Are you trying to equip them with the tools they need to thrive in a diverse work environment?
It may be challenging to measure behavioral change among participants after the training. At SNA, follow-up surveys after each DEI milestone are cost-effective and straightforward ways to track progress. Based on member feedback, we identify knowledge gaps and areas that need to be further explored.
Adopt a Cross-Functional Team Approach
Review the draft training plan with a cross-functional team. When you incorporate great ideas from colleagues in other departments, they feel included and you build organization-wide support. DEI training must be ongoing, so be sure to foster an environment of continuous learning and growth.
Create a budget and timeline and identify the staff resources required to create the training and deliver it on an ongoing basis. Explore whether sponsorship might be available to fund the program. SNA’s sponsorship team was involved at the outset, and once key decision makers approved the plan, a sponsor committed to one-year support. This allowed SNA to allocate more staff resources to the program, finalize the budget, and secure expert DEI speakers, which enhanced our members’ learning experience.
Use a Variety of Touchpoints
A successful DEI training initiative starts with excellent programming, delivered through a variety of touchpoints. At SNA, a recent example is the celebration of Black History Month. The main training component was a 90-minute webinar in which trailblazers in school nutrition—current and future leaders—shared their unique journeys. These leaders openly discussed challenges they faced, how they rose above them, and how the school nutrition profession could be more inclusive.
To complement the webinar, SN Magazine’s February issue covered the topic, and our marketing team reached out to some of our most engaged members, who tapped into their own professional networks. We collected members’ testimonials and photos in branded social media posts to make it easier for them to share with their own networks.
Engage Members in Your DEI Outreach Efforts
Tap into your members’ collective wisdom. When we developed the concept for our Black History Month campaign, we reached out to our most engaged members for their help. Not only were they excited to share their personal stories, but they were delighted to bring other members into our campaign, giving them the opportunity to celebrate with the entire SNA community.
Our members enjoyed seeing familiar faces and learning more about their peers. One of our state associations even used our program as inspiration to develop their own.
Measure, Evaluate, Evolve
A DEI initiative requires regular assessment of results. The combination of our Black History Month webinar, SN magazine coverage, and the social media campaign was successful. Survey results show the training was well received, eye-opening, and motivating.
We plan to continue this cross-functional approach for future DEI milestones—like Hispanic Heritage Month in October and Native American Heritage Month in November. Now we have a framework to build upon.
Our experience has shown us that a successful DEI training program must be long-term, sustainable, and cross-functional. It is also critical to embrace DEI within the whole organization and across all programming. Make a concerted effort to recruit diverse speakers and ideas as you build training programs. Our surveys show that our process is working to help our members become ever more culturally competent and is enhancing collaboration to serve students better. We also see that our members are engaged and coming back for more.