Step 4: Fill Knowledge Gaps


Step 4: Fill Knowledge Gaps

By: Alyson Weiss

Once each team committed to completing action steps that advanced the organization’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Vision, the YNPN Boston EDI committee looked for opportunities to support by filling knowledge gaps.

After extensive conversations, we decided to fill knowledge gaps primarily by offering optional in-person trainings on Saturdays in a central location. As an all-volunteer organization, much of our work is done remotely, so emails can get lost, and we are always looking for opportunities for quality time. However, there are many creative ways to fill knowledge gaps, including by sending relevant articles to your staff, attending webinars, watching relevant videos and discussing them over lunch, creating self-learning challenges and posting the progress around the office, etc. Think outside the box, and select the method that works best within your organization’s culture.

We also decided to create and deliver the trainings ourselves for three primary reasons: 1. Because we believe that we understand our organization’s needs and model best, and can therefore tailor our trainings to meet those needs. 2. Because our organization’s mission is professional development, and this allowed EDI committee members the opportunity to stretch and grow. 3. Because we did not have the budget to pay for an external trainer. This may not be the best option for your organization, and we encourage you to build partnerships with organizations with expertise where appropriate and possible.

To protect the EDI committee’s limited capacity while maximizing its impact, we used the following criteria to determine where to focus our efforts:

  1. Alignment with the goals outlined in our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Vision.

  2. Cross-team impact - trainings should give needed tools to several or all teams.

  3. Unique value offering to the organization - resources should fill a gap where no other team would or should work instead of duplicating already-existing capacity.

Under this criteria, we selected the following topics for our first two trainings:

  1. Implicit Bias in Interviewing and Hiring. YNPN Boston operates on an annual recruitment timeline. Once per year, we ask our entire Leadership Team to pitch in and interview applicants. However, most volunteer interviewers have not had the opportunity to receive formal training on how to interview and make hiring decisions, which means they often unknowingly rely on implicit bias (‘trusting their gut’, looking for ‘cultural fits’) when making hiring decisions.

  2. Creating Inclusive Teams. The hope was to offer this training after we had selected our Leadership Team for next year, but prior to onboarding, so that leaders would be prepared to build an inclusive culture on their team from day one. Due to staffing transitions, we have not yet facilitated this training, but we are on track to deliver the training before our next leadership team onboarding.

A top priority for these trainings was accessibility to the information for different learning styles. A few of the methods we used for our first (and, as of now, only) training (this one was on implicit bias in interviewing and hiring) were:

  • Assigning pre-reading. This allows attendees who have had no exposure to this topic to catch up on some basic terminology and concepts, without allowing the training itself to get bogged down in introductory topics. Independent reading can also be the preferred learning method for internal processors and introverts. It is best practice to send the slides out in advance as well if you are able to.

  • Opening with an experience. At the beginning of the training, we handed out a case. The case was tailored to represent a real-life situation that could possibly happen at YNPN Boston. To start, the case outlined the first few minutes of two interviews for the same position, and then asked participants to select which candidate they would extend an offer to. This made the broad topic of implicit bias in interviewing more tangible, and exposed the bias we all bring to the hiring process, making the training more relevant.

  • Using a variety of tools. Throughout the training, we used powerpoint for visual learners, video for auditory learners, and partner and full group exercises for different types of experiential learners. We also wrote extensive comments in the ‘Notes’ section of the powerpoint so that staff who could not attend could still learn from the training.

The post-training survey found that 86.6% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they could now identify a candidate who is a true, unbiased culture fit for YNPN Boston. In addition, that recruitment cycle resulted in a board that is 55% people of color - the first time in the organization’s history that the board has had a POC-majority. While we do not have the ability to directly tie this result back to the training, and while we still have room for improvement (the non-board volunteers skewed whiter that year than the previous year), the post-training survey revealed that participants left with tools they did not have prior to the training.

Organizations strive not to offer promotions or jobs without also offering training and mentorship in preparation for it. Likewise, filling knowledge gaps is a crucial step to ensuring that staff are prepared to successfully execute new EDI goals, since this may be a new skill or tool for many. Feel free to use our training on implicit bias in interviewing and hiring, develop your own trainings, partner with experts in your community to offer trainings, or develop alternate models to fill knowledge gaps in your organization.

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