Emtrain Delivers A New Approach to DEI Focused on Behavior Change

As we detailed in our research study Elevating Equity, driving diversity is a tough business. Not only do companies need to source, hire, and manage people in an inclusive way, they have to build a culture of fairness, train people on bias, and educate workers on day-to-day behaviors.

The typical approach to DEI starts with training: unconscious bias, EEO, diversity, and inclusion. But does it really drive impact?

As many studies have shown, the answer is typically no. While there are many forms of diversity training, it’s time for a new model. Enter Emtrain, a vendor we’ve been studying over the last few years.

Emtrain is an interesting company. Founded by an employment lawyer (Janine Yancey) who came from the trenches of resolving employee conflict, Emtrain maps inclusive culture to behaviors and focuses on behavior change.

And this is what our research has discovered. Diversity is not a problem of “eliminating bias.” It’s a process of developing empathy, building inclusive skills and changing behavior. And many of these skills are subtle: things like allyship, valuing differences, curiosity, and listening. Without developing these skills, just recruiting a diverse slate of candidates won’t work. In fact, many of our clients tell us “representation” does not create a sense of inclusion. Its the opposite: it is Inclusion that creates Diversity.

Let me explain what Emtrain has done.

The company uses a three-step process. First, it connects employees with high-quality video scenes that demonstrate real-world situations. Many depict current situations in the news that are relatable and attention-grabbing.  Stumbling over the use of pronouns? There’s a pronoun lesson. Want to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement at work? Watch a heated real-time video of a conversation at a big tech company.

Second, the system prompts people to share their opinions about the scene and identify how these behaviors play out in their own company. The answers are anonymous so employees share their real perspectives. Seeing these stories by other employees helps people feel energized to learn and improve.

Third, the company uses the captured data for benchmarking. Unlike surveys and DEI “awards” programs based on representation, Emtrain benchmarks behavioral comments and culture. By asking hundreds employees to self-rate their company in each area, the company can see how it compares with peers.

As this data is collected, HR and leaders receive a confidential inclusion score comparing their workforce culture to others. Then Emtrain recommends other content or management actions to address the gaps.

This is a powerful solution. For years L&D leaders have struggled to connect training to outcomes (I wrote a whole book on this). The Emtrain methodology not only helps employees learn from others, it gives L&D and HR leaders immediate feedback on the value of training. In the context of diversity and inclusion, it’s quite an eye-opening experience.

Genentech, for example, scores very well in our Elevating Equity assessment. Once they started using Emtrain, the DEI leaders found plenty of areas to address. The head of DEI told me their employees greatly value the experience and they find the scenarios challenging and valuable. Employees even use the Emtrain “color spectrum” in conversations to discuss issues at work.

To drive continuous learning, Emtrain also offers micro-learning and short lessons on topics. This includes guides, webinars, tip sheets, and interesting videos – all focused on topics managers need. I’ve been learning about allyship, LGBTQUIA+, bias against Asians, how to create inclusive team meetings, social media drama, how to tell jokes, and even the use of proper pronouns. DEI is such a rich and constantly changing topic, we need vendors like Emtrain to keep us current on legal, social, and societal trends.

DEI is an important and complex problem. It starts with compliance and legal risk and turns into a focus on mission, belonging, and trust. Beneath it all is the need to change behavior. Let’s hope more vendors like Emtrain push in this direction.

Additional Resources

Elevating Equity: Certificate Program in the Josh Bersin Academy (one of our highest-rated programs!)

Chief Diversity Officer: The Toughest Job In Business

Elevating Equity: The Challenge Of The Decade

Why Is Belonging Such A Big Issue In Business Today?