Key takeaways:

  • This kind of training goes beyond pointing out workplace inequities, instead identifying concrete ways to support and amplify the voices of marginalized teammates.
  • Many third-party services and tools are available to help you facilitate allyship training.
  • Allyship training doesn’t just benefit underrepresented members of your organization; it’s a win for the entire company’s culture.

Find the right software to help you conduct allyship training in our LMS Software Guide.

Getting started with an allyship training program

An allyship training program teaches employees about marginalized groups and the biases, stereotypes, and inequalities they face. It provides resources and foundational knowledge workplace allies need to communicate with and advocate for underrepresented members of the workforce.

Allyship training is a nuanced and specific form of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training that requires thoughtful planning and investment in the right resources. To get started with an allyship training program in your own organization, consider following these steps:

  1. Determine who will lead your allyship program
  2. Create a well-researched, inclusive training proposal
  3. Get buy-in from senior leadership
  4. Invest in third-party programs and expert-led workshops
  5. Align employee expectations and promote your training program
  6. Determine who will lead your allyship training program

1. Determine who will lead your allyship program

If your organization has a learning and development (L&D) department, they are likely the best candidates to lead allyship training. However, they should partner with the HR and DEI teams to make sure training plans meet all compliance expectations and DEI standards. If your company doesn’t have dedicated internal L&D resources, an HR or DEI representative would be best to lead allyship training and align it with any existing cultural competency training.

If your L&D, HR, and DEI teams are currently overstretched, under-resourced, or generally inexperienced with allyship training, it’s a good idea to bring in a third-party expert or consultant to help with program development and implementation. Put together a diverse internal task force to research and select the best third-party training resources for your business.

2. Create a well-researched, inclusive training proposal

While planning your allyship training, research your company’s current demographics and conduct surveys to uncover existing workplace issues you can address in the training content. Some organizations like Lean In and Frame Shift Consulting offer free resources to help you facilitate a meaningful discussion about allyship that’s unique to your workplace.

You might consider diving deeper into regional and global DEI issues to prioritize the issues that affect your teams the most. Additionally, keep an open ear for ideas and suggestions from employee stakeholders while planning your allyship training — one of the best ways to understand what’s important to your staff is to listen when they tell you.

Once you’ve compiled a list of ideas for your allyship programming, structure them into a clear training plan with proposed objectives, budgets, and timelines.

3. Get buy-in from senior leadership

Before allyship training can begin, you’ll likely need senior leadership to approve the program’s costs and objectives. But you shouldn’t stop there when it comes to getting senior leadership buy-in.

Explain to the leaders in your organization why this training is important for employees and the company’s culture, then make sure they clearly understand why their vocal support and active involvement in the program is necessary for its success.

4. Invest in third-party programs and expert-led workshops 

Once your training proposal and budget are approved, it’s time to reach out to third-party programs, experts who lead allyship training workshops, and relevant software vendors. Vetting and selecting the right third-party partners is an important part of making sure you’re providing credible, thoughtful, and holistic allyship training for your employees.

5. Align employee expectations and promote your training program

Clarify whether participation in the allyship training is optional or mandatory for employees. Mandatory participation ensures widespread awareness and acknowledgment, but employees generally have more enthusiasm if they can choose whether to participate.

While it may seem like an obvious final step, don’t forget to advertise your program and encourage employees to sign up for the training. Explain the value of this training in company-wide communication channels and give middle managers some talking points to reiterate this value to their teams. 

Broadcasting your allyship training course also shows your organization’s commitment to making these kinds of conversations and opportunities available to employees.

Allyship training best practices for your organization

Whether you’re just getting started with allyship training or are looking to optimize an existing program, these best practices will help you create a program that is effective for all kinds of learners.

Offer scenario-based training modules

Scenario-based training helps allies prepare for uncomfortable situations. It teaches them not only how to recognize what’s happening, but also how they can respond in a way that makes space for marginalized groups of people.

These training modules should go beyond initial scenarios and focus on follow-up opportunities. Instructing allies on the best course of action will help them de-escalate hostile situations and create space for marginalized groups to speak in calm, collaborative environments.

Moderate conversations and workshops

Moderated conversations and workshops help allies receive conversational training that stays focused and respectful while still giving them the chance to ask questions and talk through allyship scenarios. Unless someone on your internal team is already a trained moderator or DEI facilitator, be sure to complete moderator training or hire a training professional to lead these conversations.

As part of any facilitated discussions, don’t forget to cover intersectionality, what it means, and why it matters. Race, gender, sexuality, veteran status, disability status, neurodiversity, and other DEI-recognized categories are not mutually exclusive traits; each member of your workforce is a blend of different identities. It’s important that allyship training programs reflect that intersectionality without essentializing employees.

Leave space for underrepresented voices to speak

Much of your allyship training program should focus on active listening skills, especially for allies from privileged backgrounds. Teach them how to actively listen and discuss sensitive topics with colleagues without diminishing marginalized experiences.

Help them to also recognize when and why colleagues may feel uncomfortable or hesitant to speak in certain workplace situations. Encouraging open minds will help all allies — especially managers — create space for underrepresented groups of people to voice their concerns and ideas.

Invest in allyship training software and programs

Allyship training resources come in all kinds of formats: flyers and booklets, live workshops, theatrical presentations, online training courses, gamified mobile apps, and more. There are also software solutions that offer boilerplate and DIY options for creating an allyship training program that fits your exact requirements.

Measure success and take stock of employee feedback

For the ongoing success and growth of your allyship training program, it’s important to take stock of how effective the content is and employee sentiment toward allyship and DEI more generally.

Use employee engagement software to survey participants before and after the training to understand the impact it had on their familiarity with allyship topics. Additionally, ask employees what they liked or didn’t like and what they would like to see more of in the future.

Seeking out this kind of feedback will allow you to appropriately tweak your allyship training program over time.

Learn how to measure success: DEI Metrics: The Key to Building an Effective DEI Program

Benefits of allyship training

Allyship training benefits allies, marginalized groups of employees, business leaders, customers, and the organization as a whole. Here are just a handful of the benefits you can expect after starting an allyship training program for your company:

  • New space is created for uncomfortable conversations, allowing people to confront and use their privilege effectively.
  • Employees know practical ways to speak out and take action when they notice problems in the workplace.
  • Underrepresented employees can access a network of support.
  • All employees learn how to recognize and address unconscious bias and microaggressions.
  • Teams across the organization can engage in an open dialogue, which is especially helpful as cultural norms change; employees will be prepared to discuss what these changes mean for themselves and their colleagues.
  • Employee engagement improves in the organization, giving underrepresented employees more opportunities to grow and speak.
  • A stronger culture of empathy develops both internally and externally.

Allyship training FAQs

What is allyship in the workplace?

In the workplace, allyship occurs when an employee uses their privilege and influence to support employees from marginalized communities. Allyship may involve listening to, supporting, encouraging, and/or advocating for colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds.

In many cases, allyship in the workplace requires allies to speak out when an injustice occurs and make sure employees of all identity backgrounds are considered for company recognition, promotions, raises, and other growth opportunities.

What are the objectives of allyship training?

Some of the most important objectives of allyship training are:

  • Raising awareness and empathy for people from marginalized backgrounds and the biases and stereotypes they face.
  • Increasing awareness of workplace inequities and microaggressions.
  • Building effective communication and collaboration skills that translate to working with people of various backgrounds.
  • Creating safe spaces for underrepresented employees to voice their opinions and ideas.
  • Giving allies the tools they need to take action when they see an opportunity to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Normalizing uncomfortable or difficult conversations among colleagues from all backgrounds.

Who is responsible for leading allyship training?

Allyship training is most often led by members of one of the following groups:

  • Human resources department.
  • Learning and development department or team.
  • DEI committee.

If your company does not have these departments or teams in place, consider one of these options:

  • Create an internal, cross-functional task force.
  • Hire a third-party consultant.
  • Select a company executive to lead allyship training.

Why is allyship training important?

Allyship training is important because it simultaneously supports and empowers both marginalized groups and privileged individuals who want to become allies. Marginalized employees will benefit from the growing number of thoughtful allies in the organization, while allies will benefit from scenario-based training and concrete examples of how they can take action to support their colleagues.

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