10 Success Factors for JEDI Trainings

With the push for businesses to focus on diversity initiatives, you may be surprised to learn that most justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) trainings don’t work. Despite good intentions, organizations are implementing trainings that don’t provide the desired impact. Instead, trainings can even cause more harm by wasting resources or inspiring resistance and backlash that damage company culture.

But—and this might come as a surprise—we don’t think they should stop.

Instead, we need to rethink what goes into racial justice training programs to make them more effective. Education will always be a critical piece in advancing racial justice and we’ve seen that when done correctly, the results are rewarding. Research drawn from nine years of program data involving 870 participants, including 250 leaders from US and Canada-based organizations, shows that there are 10 success factors that make JEDI trainings “stick” instead of fail. This data forms the foundation of our Deep Diversity Organizational Change Program and we hope that by inviting you into our process you’ll understand how to move your JEDI training in the right direction.

Whether your company is looking for or engaging in JEDI training, here are the 10 success factors that will lead you out of confusion and into deep organizational change.

Three colleagues in a board room at work.

1. Prepared Executive Leadership

The success of any organizational initiative will be determined by your senior leadership’s level of preparation. This is especially true of JEDI work.

Before your training begins, executive staff should invest time to learn about JEDI issues through pre-training, get clear on organizational goals and prepare to receive equity-based feedback. Doing this work in advance will create a strong foundation to support the success of your JEDI initiative and lessen your chances of wasting resources by moving in the wrong direction.

2. High Trust with Educators

Whether your JEDI training is being facilitated by an internal or external team, building high levels of trust between the educators and participants is critical. As the training progresses, difficult emotions or conversations may arise and the level of trust established between the educators and participants will influence whether your staff resist or lean into the process of change.

To create a smooth path forward, educators should seek to build a sense of community by modeling personal vulnerability, emotional intelligence, compassion and JEDI expertise.

3. Centering Emotions & Psychological Safety

We may like to believe that we are rational creatures, but the truth is that we are also highly emotional. Ignoring these emotions is a mistake—but it’s one that most JEDI trainings make.

Resistance is a natural, emotional part of any change process, especially when related to JEDI issues. Uncomfortable feelings may arise, but when we can acknowledge the feelings in the room educators can create a sense of psychological safety that allows participants to stay open regardless of their identity.

This requires the training team to have done the inner work necessary to connect with their emotions so they can hold space for participants to sit with big feelings and questions that accompany conversations about racial justice and equity.

“We are not rational creatures. We’d like to believe we are. But we are in fact emotional creatures. And us starting with that as the beginning is actually really most helpful.”

— Shakil Choudhury, co-founder of Anima Leadership

4. Program Content

Your program content, of course, will be an integral part of your JEDI training. In order to maximize the potential for success, your training should integrate both psychological and JEDI frameworks with practical skill development. Based on existing research and Anima’s years of experience, trainings that use an interdisciplinary approach are more likely to be embraced by learners, and therefore, have more impact.

By recognizing the psycho-emotional state of participants, teaching them JEDI literacy and giving them the tools to implement those learnings in the real world, your organization will be more likely to create lasting change.

Four colleagues sitting at a wooden table in a meeting room, reviewing documents on the table.

5. Program Process

How your organization moves through its JEDI training will impact the outcome. Be intentional about the process and the effects of your training will be more likely to “stick.” Anima’s experience and research suggests that successful JEDI trainings integrate the following processes:

  1. An extended time frame of several months using a cohort model with a clear start and end date.
  2. Enlisting volunteer managers first instead of immediately integrating mandatory trainings.
  3. Opportunities to apply JEDI concepts and problem-solving real time issues.
  4. Coaching and support from JEDI experts.

Meaningful change takes time and intention. The extended cohort model allows your company enough time to make change, while engaging volunteer managers invites those with pro-equity tendencies to create positive “buzz” within the organization. Mandatory trainings are “buzz-killers” because they integrate those that are more hesitant into the room too early, which can result in a disengaged tone for the group. And finally, as you navigate you training, allowing opportunities for applied learning and support will solidify learning outcomes in the minds of employees.

6. Program Supports and Self-Directed Tools

Proven self-directed tools are crucial to help managers engage their teams on JEDI content in order to reduce their anxiety—and unrealistic expectations—that leaders have to be JEDI experts. If your managers feel supported, you set them up to better support other staff through the process of change.

Three pairs of hands holding or pointing at documents being reviewed by managers.

7. Engage Managers

Anima’s experience and research shows that it is critical to have managers meaningfully engaged in JEDI problem-solving and action planning from the beginning, and to have them provide input into the broader organizational JEDI strategy.

Your managers are indispensable human resources in moving your JEDI strategy forward. It’s important to keep them engaged and informed in every step of your process so that they can effectively contribute to the success of the company.

8. Measure Outcomes

In order to identify success, you’ll need to define and measure it. Measure your JEDI program effectiveness using qualitative and quantitative methods. Analyze your data over time with internal measures such as employee engagement, hiring, promotion and advancement demographics. The data you collect will be valuable in tracking your progress and identifying areas of stagnation where more action may be needed.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Anima offers social inclusion audits, measurement tools and reports that will help your organization map out a clear path for its next steps in JEDI work.

9. Organizational Context Matters

Existing organizational context and culture is often the most influential factor in determining JEDI program uptake and outcomes. JEDI trainings are more likely to succeed in contexts where there are high levels of employee engagement and trust. Conversely, trainings are more likely to struggle in environments with low morale, dysfunction and low psychological safety. If the latter is your organization’s reality, JEDI training may reveal some of the organizational glitches that need attention before equity principles and practice will flourish in your context.

10. 360 Hours for Equity Literacy

Racial justice trainings need to be seen in the framework of an equity literacy project, not a one-off moment. Anima’s co-founder Shakil Choudhury often likens this process to developing language literacy.

Three colleagues sitting at a table together in front of a wall of windows.

It’s estimated that 360 hours is required for an adult to develop basic English-as-an-Additional-Language skills. Once the underlying pattern is decoded and recognized, what was once just a “squiggly line” becomes a letter, and an unrecognizable sound transforms into a word or sentence that has meaning. Similarly, in the early stages of learning systemic patterns of bias are like the squiggly line and can be hard to recognize.

Perhaps you may not notice that female employees are regularly interrupted in meetings while the men are allowed to speak freely, or that Black employees are more likely to receive lower performance evaluations than white counterparts — it’s through learning and practice that the patterns become easier to recognize.

It’s useful that successful JEDI training integrate a similar 360-hour benchmark for learning, practice and application for leaders to develop a basic level of equity literacy.

Now that you know what you need… what’s next?

Justice-based training and education are key parts of a necessary shift towards greater fairness, engagement and productivity. But to truly support organizational change we need JEDI programs that work.

Keeping these success factors in mind will help you make better decisions when you design, implement or select equity-based training programs. By focusing on doing the things that matter, you’ll avoid wasting time, resources and energy running an ineffective JEDI training.

For more on how you can transform your workplace into a more equitable environment integrating all of these best practices, join our Deep Diversity Organizational Change Program.

Anima Leadership

Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice where everyone can feel like they matter and belong.

Since 2007, we have worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations teaching, consulting and coaching transformative change. Our award-winning training programs and innovative measurement tools will help us journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging.

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