Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate
The University of South Florida Muma College of Business, in collaboration with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and global manufacturing firm Jabil, offered a free, seven-week certificate program on how to improve employee diversity and create business models that embrace equity and inclusion.
Call to Action
Three power players in the Tampa Bay business community joined together to educate people about essential practices and tools to increase employee diversity, and to create a sustainable business model that embraces equity and inclusion. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Jabil Inc. partnered with the University of South Florida (USF) Muma College of Business to offer a free, seven-week certificate program that focused on ways organizations can create a more diverse workplace as well as address equity issues and foster inclusivity.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a complex topic that can be addressed from a variety of angles, disciplines, and theoretical bases; we chose to tackle it from a business perspective. At the start of the pandemic, we offered two free certificates to help leaders navigate the crisis. Our Post-Crisis Leadership certificate drew 11,000 registrations, though it could have been significantly higher had we not capped it due to budgetary constraints. The second certificate focused on the hospitality industry and drew 6,000 registrants.
Because of these and other efforts, we were approached by two preferred partners to offer a certificate on DEI. The leadership of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jabil were confident in the college’s ability to educate both current and emerging business leaders, respected our faculty, and were aware of our desire and ability to deliver such a program.
The program consisted of seven two-hour modules comprising a mix of live and pre-recorded content that began in March 2021. A specific journey was created and each module focused on a different area of diversity, starting first with personal biases, then moving to the workplace and lived experiences, and ending with actions people could take to spark new—or fuel existing—DEI efforts. Participants learned how building or growing a workforce that includes people of differing races, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and disabilities can not only improve broad society issues, but can also help companies develop novel business practices, increase revenue, and improve performance.
While the certificate was well-suited for HR professionals and C-suite leaders, organizers designed it for people across multiple levels and industries. Sessions aired weekly, and many people watched them live to participate in chats, polls, Twitter conversations, or live Q&A. Modules were recorded and available on demand via YouTube, so those who were unable or preferred not to watch live could access content. Participants had to pass each module quiz in order to earn their certificate. Quizzes were due in May and digital badges/certificates were awarded in June. The opening sessions included exceptional panel discussions and keynote speakers and the faculty-led instructional segments included a myriad of guest speakers.
After an upsurge in divisive events in 2020, more employers were prompted to pledge to work toward greater racial equity and fairness within their businesses. The USF Muma College of Business wanted to help companies do so through our newly created, seven-week DEI Certificate program. We initially defined success as a few thousand registrants, however, within weeks of announcing the program, more than 100,000 corporate executives, small business owners, educational leaders, and others had signed up. At the end of the first module, that number had swelled to 135,000, eclipsing by 10-fold any other program offered by the business college.
Enrollees represented 15 countries, including the United States, which led all nations with the most online registrations. There were more than 900,000 video views, countless social media interactions, and more than 63,000 participants received a digital certificate and Credly badge they could display on LinkedIn. Most massive open online courses have completion rates in the single digits, however, this one ended with more than half of all registrants earning the credential. Post-event surveys showed participants valued the opportunity: More than 70 percent of respondents rated the program as “extremely valuable” and gave it a five out of five, and 20 percent rated it at a four out of five.
Participants said the program enriched their lives with concrete, life- and business-changing lessons. The college has received hundreds of inquiries from people at all levels in business, asking for guest speakers, special company-specific sessions, or other DEI resources. When the “notify me” list for future sessions reached 20,000 people, USF decided to offer the pre-recorded content again for free, but with a nominal fee for the credential.