Bev Markland, our Chief People Officer at Agilitas expands on the importance of diversity in the workplace.

The IT sector has undergone significant changes in recent years, and channel businesses are now transforming how they operate. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have taken precedence on corporate agendas in recent years, with the need to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace becoming increasingly important.

In Agilitas’ recent Channel Trends report, which surveyed 250 UK Channel businesses, it found that whilst leaders are acknowledging the importance of diversity in the workplace, strategies to improve DEI were not a top priority, with over 25% of companies not looking to implement any diversity strategies this year, if at all.

Statista also reported that women made up only 29% of the workforce with a further 22% representing ethnic minorities. The slow speed at which diversity rates are improving across IT businesses highlights the need for DEI at a grassroots level. As companies expand and innovate, DEI can help create a dynamic ecosystem where diverse voices fuel collaboration, and drive business excellence.

Why DEI training is crucial for IT organisations

DEI is becoming increasingly important in many aspects of business, and whilst it’s being talked about, there is much more that needs to be done. As companies across the channel continue to broaden their products and services, their workforce needs to diversify with them. Organisations, therefore, must incorporate diversity training into their strategic frameworks to align their employees, processes, and services with DEI goals.

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For minority women groups across the industry, structural and societal change (or lack thereof) has failed in promoting workplace diversity, and equal access to education and recruitment, all contributing to an ethnocentric work environment. DEI training can help empower underrepresented groups, enabling them to feel heard, recognised and supported. It can also help businesses bridge the gap between different cultural backgrounds and experiences.

Whilst some progress has been made, it’s time for businesses to start walking the talk. DEI training allows channel leaders to gather diversity data that can help inform where there are barriers that need to be removed, and actions to be taken, to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Developing effective training strategies

DEI training comes in various forms, and although its importance is widely known, channel organisations still face many challenges in selecting and implementing the right training strategy. Many programmes are rendered ineffective or fail to create lasting change due to the limited amount of time and resources directed towards the much-needed sessions. Ineffective DEI training can also fail to create a meaningful impact due to a lack of engagement, negligence, or improper implementation. However, a systematic and continuous approach to DEI training can help channel businesses to foster a long-lasting positive change in workplace culture.

Businesses should tailor training programs to suit their specific needs and challenges, with a holistic approach to diversity. DEI training can also be integrated into other initiatives, such as mentorship programs and workforce education as well as learning management systems. By leveraging a combination of different training types, including basic diversity and awareness training, businesses can provide an overview of best practices to promote and support cultural diversity in work environments.

Additionally, unconscious bias training can play a key role in nurturing a conducive environment for diversity to thrive. Training employees on using tools, like checkers to identify and eliminate potentially biased language and actions, can further bolster cultural awareness. Cultural sensitivity training is also crucial for organisations that wish to harness the power of a diverse workforce. Educating employees on cultural nuances and customs can help businesses operating in the channel forge a cohesive and collaborative workplace.

Leveraging DEI training to attract new talent and customers

Innovation is key to success in today’s highly competitive landscape. Gartner reports that gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperform gender-homogeneous, less inclusive teams by 50%, on average. This highlights the need for channel businesses to consider diversifying their workforce and training their current staff on DEI strategies.

To attract and retain top talent, companies need to create a positive culture that celebrates differences and fosters a sense of community. By investing in DEI and committing to diversity in hiring practices, channel organisations can tap into a wider pool of talent and leverage diverse perspectives to drive innovation and fuel growth.

Companies that incorporate DEI training into their frameworks also present a more attractive option to customers and investors who value diversity and inclusion.  By aligning their values with those of their stakeholders, channel organisations can strengthen their reputation and build stronger relationships with clients and partners. 

In addition to training, using online tools and language models can assist companies in assessing and identifying the presence of biased language within job postings. Establishing a level playing field helps to provide prospective candidates with the confidence needed to certify that the organisation they are applying for is bias-conscious, which helps to eliminate further roadblocks in talent acquisition.

The future of DEI

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not and should not just be buzzwords – they’re essential ingredients for success. IT businesses need to approach DEI training not as a mandatory compliance, but as a strategic tool for promoting inclusivity, collaboration and understanding in workplace environments and driving forward societal change. By investing in DEI training, companies can create a workplace culture where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered. Channel organisations can harness this training to improve decision-making, foster creativity, engage remote staff and thrive in an interconnected global marketplace. As the channel sector continues to evolve, embracing diversity and training will not only drive innovation but also ensure a brighter and more inclusive future for all.

Bev Markland, Chief People Officer