An essential component of U-M’s campuswide DEI Strategic Plan is providing education and professional development for all staff and faculty members—more than 55,000 in all. During a year-long collaborative process, the U-M Organizational Learning Department developed a framework to guide this massive undertaking.
That framework, known as the DEI Lifelong Learning Model, articulates DEI competencies for staff and faculty member at every level of the institution and is now integrated with a comprehensive set of competencies for all staff and faculty members.
To achieve organization-wide impact, U-M Organizational Learning (OL) developed a portfolio of online and in-person educational sessions on DEI topics designed to scale. These educational sessions have reached over 23,000 staff and faculty members since 2016, and that number continues to grow.
Centrally provided educational programs based on the DEI Lifelong Learning model starts with the online “DEI Basics” session that defines DEI terms and concepts. This session provides the foundation for all future DEI-related educational experiences.
Goals and Objectives
The high-level goal of campuswide DEI education and professional development is to raise awareness and build skills to support institutional culture change.
This means making DEI part of the fabric of all we do, integrated in all our organizational processes from recruiting, hiring and training, to building an inclusive workplace through our policies and practices, evaluations and promotion decisions. Specifically, this large-scale initiative aims to:
- Develop a comprehensive framework and model for DEI (the DEI Lifelong Learning Model)
- Create a safe space for learning, where people feel comfortable and respected
- Provide education and training at scale to reach all staff and faculty on campus
- Educate supervisors and hiring managers on DEI awareness in recruitment and selection
- Incorporate DEI-related skills in performance evaluation, promotion, and advancement processes for all staff and faculty members
Audience and Collaborators
U-M’s DEI education and professional development programs are available to all staff and faculty at all levels on the U-M Ann Arbor academic campus and the health system, Michigan Medicine. Staff and faculty members from U-M regional campuses in Dearborn and Flint have access to DEI resources as well.
A small team of staff members developed and continues to lead this initiative under the U-M Chief Organizational Learning Officer. This includes a Strategic Initiatives Consultant (who also serves as a DEI Lead to the central university process); an Interim Assistant Director for DEI and Leadership Development; and a team of Instructional Designers who cultivate DEI educational partnerships across campus.
To support their work, the Education and Learning Advisory Group (ELAG) was convened in 2016 to serve as an advisory group for the team. This group, comprised of representatives from across the campus with responsibilities for managing, leading, and executing training and education in their respective areas, continues to provide input and feedback on plans for campus-wide DEI education.
The DEI-ILG Leads help the Organizational Learning (OL) team understand the range of needs across campus. The Facilitator Engagement Program (FEP) was created in 2018 to recruit skilled volunteer facilitators from across campus to conduct core educational sessions as well as customized workshops for units. FEP has been critical as a means to extend the reach of U-M Organizational Learning deep into the University community.
Planning and Implementation
At U-M, following the 2015/16 academic year when units across campus were engaged in developing DEI Strategic Plans, all unit-based DEI strategic plans were reviewed by members of the Diversity Working Group in an effort to identify core areas in need of education and training campuswide.
Based on that review, Organizational Learning conducted an audit of what resources were already available to support DEI education.
Online modules were created to set a baseline of understanding regarding DEI and other workshops were developed as part of the overall set of offerings available. Greater attention was given to aspects of DEI in all Organizational Learning programs.
In developing the DEI Lifelong Learning Model, it was important to create a set of clear expectations in order to identify desired behaviors that aligned with the lifelong learning model. From there, domains of competency were identified and, through an iterative process, the model shifted from competency to lifelong learning.
As discussions ensued, it was agreed that the primary goal was to help people become increasingly aware of their own blind spots, pursue additional education over time and, in so doing, help them commit to DEI education as a lifelong learning process.
In 2016, when U-M’s DEI implementation began, Organizational Learning evaluated their resources and set priorities for education, which included unconscious bias, bystander intervention, disability awareness, and intercultural awareness workshops.
The Organizational Learning team identified the awareness of unconscious (implicit) bias as a core competency to be cultivated by the entire U-M community.
Organizational Learning enlisted the services of Cook Ross, a consulting group that specializes in partnering with organizations to create inclusive leadership and cultures, to train and certify 6 staff members to facilitate unconscious bias sessions. This proved to be an ideal first step.
The following year, Organizational Learning identified an additional 28 individuals to complete the Cook Ross Unconscious Bias train-the-trainer program to scale unconscious bias training for the entire campus.
Bystander intervention was also identified as a core area to focus on for campus education, since it fosters awareness and empowers individuals to recognize and choose among multiple ways to address instances of unfair treatment.
For example, if you witness someone being verbally harassed, you can call attention to it, try to distract and deter what is happening, address it directly, or call for help, depending on the circumstances, your comfort level, etc.
To support bystander intervention training, Organizational learning partnered with Student Life to tailor a workshop entitled “Change It Up,” which was first developed for use with students, to teach bystander intervention skills to staff and faculty members.
In addition, Organizational Learning began offering “train the trainer” workshops for DEI practitioners, in order to expand the set of skilled facilitators across campus, and provide agency for facilitators to lead workshops in their own campus unit.
While these core offerings were in high demand as general and unit sessions, unit leaders and DEI leads also had the option to complete a unit request form to speak with a consultant and collaboratively design an alternative intervention to best meet the needs of their staff and faculty.
As the demand for consultations and workshops quickly outpaced available staffing, the Organizational Learning team was forced to regroup and determine how best to reach the widest possible campus audience with their relatively small team.
Recognizing that there were people across campus with facilitation skills doing DEI educational work, they developed the Facilitator Engagement Program (FEP).
This system of providing additional training and support for those willing to serve on a team of DEI facilitators became a mutually beneficial arrangement. As requests poured in, Organizational Learning staff evaluated each request against the skills and experience of their growing cadre of campus facilitators.
Professional development topics were added, and offered in what was termed Learning Labs. FEP participants provided valuable feedback that informed training on the same topic for broader audiences.
Providing DEI education at scale for a diverse, decentralized organization called for high quality resources and tools. A strategy used by Organizational Learning to maximize their reach was promoting online videos that individuals, teams, and units could access and use at their own discretion, such as videos by consultant Steve Robbins, which focus on diversity, inclusion and cultural competency.
Other electronic tools and resources, including DEI conversation starters and online courses through the online learning platform, Lynda.com, added additional content with wide access.
Evaluation and Impact
Effectiveness and impact are gauged in a variety of ways. Feedback is collected after every program through evaluation surveys. In addition, DEI Leads provide feedback on the consultation process, and the Chief Diversity Officer and Deputy Chief Diversity Officer share ideas and feedback received through central university channels.
Equally important have been the steady stream of impact stories that people share, informally and unprompted, on how DEI educational experiences have benefited them and their work team or unit.
Another measure of impact is the growing tally of individuals and groups participating in educational sessions, utilizing consultation services and accessing educational resources. To date, more than 23,000 staff and faculty have participated in DEI educational offerings, and that number continues to grow.
- If you are conducting a campus-wide DEI strategic plan, consider how you can tap into existing expertise of your community in terms of organizational learning, education and professional development. Additionally, involving your Human Resources Development and/or Organizational Learning experts to build out plans for DEI educational offerings will help ensure that the plan is well grounded and sustainable.
- Be flexible, nimble, responsive and open to change. To stay on course, pay close attention to both feedback and environment, and adjust plans accordingly.
- Engage all stakeholders, champions and opinion leaders as well as naysayers. Every voice matters, and every voice informs the process.
- Be aware of the larger context—and the national or international landscape—as you develop and implement your plans. For instance, external factors may increase demand for training and facilitation, and may impact your plans, needs and priorities.
- Advisory groups are extremely important. At U-M, the ELAG advisory group served as a sounding board and a source of ideas. The group guided our priorities year to year, and helped identify people and resources to further our goals.
- Be intentional in managing expectations and be deliberate in building the infrastructure to support the implementation of your plan. As you launch a DEI Strategic Plan, pent-up demand and heightened interest in educational sessions may result in a flood of requests. Having an online registration system, adequate staffing for responding to phone calls and emails, and an adequate number of trained facilitators in place will help avoid a backlog of requests.