At many companies, the phrase “corporate training seminar” comes with an array of eye rolls and plenty of mental associations with the off-color presentations led by manager Michael Scott in “The Office." However, diversity trainings represent a crucial element of a representative workplace, and companies should use these opportunities to educate, to correct problematic behaviors and to foster a harmonious and inclusive environment.
But when these seminars occur during regular work hours (as is the norm), convincing employees to give them their full attention in the midst of looming deadlines and rapid-fire email blasts can be challenging. Harvard Business School recently acknowledged this challenge in an article, pointing out a few helpful tips for keeping employees focused during corporate diversity training.
1. Set up the room in a distraction-free manner.
This may seem overly obvious, but a meeting spot with limited barriers and plenty of opportunities for noise intrusions will hamper the speaker’s ability to capture and hold your employees’ attention. Instead, HBR recommends “learning environments [with] minimal clutter, open spaces for introspection and collaboration, large windows for optimal daylight and quiet nooks for personal reflection or mindfulness practice.”
2. Make use of “mindfulness time”.
Giving employees time to destress from their everyday schedules and set an intention can be important steps before hosting a training, according to HBR. They suggest that “a few minutes of mindfulness training at the beginning of a learning experience, and in between each new learning segment, can help participants clear mental clutter and be open to new ideas and content. This can be as simple as two minutes of sitting still, inviting a sense of relaxation in the body and mind, focusing on the breath, and letting go of distractions.”
3. Encourage participants to take mindful breaks.
While your employees may be tempted to use their seminar breaks to check their email or dial into another meeting, encouraging attendees to remain mindful during these times will help them retain the valuable information provided throughout the session. HBR advises bosses overseeing these seminars to “help participants resist the urge to check their phones. Instead, encourage them to enjoy a mindful break, which could include a walk outside, writing in a journal, or an opportunity to reflect on learnings with a colleague.”
4. Enlist a seminar leader who is specially trained to handle these educational scenarios.
Here’s an extra tip: don’t be the Michael Scott of this seminar. By this, we mean that you’re well advised to hire a professional diversity-training seminar leader to lead the workshop rather than trying to take it on yourself and risk making detrimental errors or causing your employees to feel uncomfortable. Consult your HR rep or company leadership; they likely have recommendations for programs designed to set you up with a well-equipped seminar leader.