March 20, 2023
Mainstream Living employees discuss what they've learned during a training with CultureALL's DEI Planning
You walk into a gym. You look around and see people at all skill levels and strengths. Some people approach the free weights timidly; others hoist a couple hundred pounds. Trainers show newcomers how to use the equipment while seasoned gym-goers work on their own.
The best fitness gyms foster an environment where each individual works toward their goals at their own speed, choosing activities that both challenge and support them. Everyone has their own pace.
No single exercise program works for everyone.
So, why do organizations expect all their team members to benefit from the same diversity training exercises?
One woman in Central Iowa started building a fitness center for Diversity and Inclusion nearly three decades ago. At that time, Sherry Gupta was the lead training facilitator of the Global Awareness Program at Principal International. In that role, she studied the range of skill sets - and mindsets - that people develop as they live and work in multicultural spaces.
After leaving Principal International, Sherry founded CultureALL, where they’ve been researching and testing better ways to move the needle on DEI efforts since the early 2000s. Today, CultureALL’s DEI Planning team guides organizations to transform their company cultures and work toward stronger diversity, equity, and inclusion for their members.
While studying at the acclaimed Intercultural Communication Institute, Sherry learned from leading experts, researchers and practitioners in the field. She quickly realized the limitations of most diversity programs. “We have to give people the building blocks they need to develop skill and grace in cross-cultural interactions,” she said. “The Institute introduced me to all kinds of possibilities for experiential activities and frameworks we can use to help people understand what they might be experiencing with culture.”
It was at the Institute where Sherry took courses with the creators of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as it was being developed. Since then, IDI has emerged as the leading psychometric instrument to objectively quantify an organization’s capacity to accept and adapt to differences.
The Inventory identifies five mindsets that people use to recognize differences: Denial, Polarization, Minimization, Acceptance, and Adaptation.
“With each mindset along the continuum, you start to see more and more of the world around you,” Sherry explained.
Today, CultureALL uses IDI with clients. It is a useful gauge of an organization’s progress toward inclusive behaviors. And because IDI data is objective, removed from judgment and opinions, organizations find it motivating to move forward on their journey.
But measurement is just a fraction of its value, according to Sherry. “IDI is just a tool. The real magic is in how we use the Inventory data to inform our analysis of what the organization needs. We still have to ask all of the right questions.”
Using IDI data as a starting point for analysis, CultureALL sketches out a three-year plan that Sherry calls a roadmap. “IDI puts things into a linear awareness of development and provides a bit of a roadmap of where I was, where I want to be, and what I need to do to get there,” she said.
A good fitness routine uses a variety of exercises to increase your body’s physical capacity. In a similar way, the CultureALL team has built programs offering a range of skill-building activities and resources that are appropriate for each skill level.
“Our programs are built on the premise that we have to provide something for everyone,” Sherry said. In contrast, she sees typical diversity training programs expecting participants to process information at an intellectual level without giving them real-life opportunities to practice. “And so, having the CultureALL Ambassador in the room and being able to listen to an accent, being able to move to a different dance and different music, or tasting hummus for the first time in your life: Those are the types of things that CultureALL programs allow people to really explore, not just at an intellectual level but with their whole being.”
Using their client’s unique IDI data, CultureALL is able to recommend specific developmental activities to achieve DEI goals. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.
“If I'm faced with an experience that’s too challenging for what I’m prepared for, then I might retreat or develop attitudes about differences that might be less accepting.” She said, “We need to put in place the building blocks for people to be able to move through their developmental process in a constructive, positive way.”
Sherry sees CultureALL’s DEI Planning approach as offering organizations a trusting partnership. Clients gain insight from personal experience, supportive resources, and new strategies to navigate through this increasingly complex multicultural society. “We have all the skills and desire and the resources to help clients set their intentions and continue their practice so they can advance toward achieving their goals,” she said. “They need to know: We’ve got them.”
CultureALL is ready to help organizations become more inclusive and equitable. Contact us at Explore@CultureALL.org or call 515.273.8569 for your consultation.