Get Instant Access
to This Blueprint

Learning And Development icon

How to Be an Ally

Equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to be allies to their colleagues.

  • Emerging Leader
  • Accountable, Emotionally Intelligent, Learning Focused

Learning Outcomes

Help employees:

  • Define allyship and core concepts related to being an ally.
  • Recognize allyship accountabilities.
  • Learn how to practice allyship in the workplace.

    The Learning Experience

    Training Download (PPT) 3 hours

    Ready-to-use training deck, designed for effortless customization and virtual or in-person facilitation by a member of your team.

    How to Be an Ally Resources

    How to Be an Ally

    Equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to be allies to their colleagues.

    Training Overview


    Target Audience

    General employees

    Target Length

    Three hours

    Training Materials

    Speaker's notes are included in the notes pane section of each slide. Use these to plan and practice the training session. Note: Text in italics are written to the facilitator and are not meant to be read aloud.

    Activity slides are scattered throughout this training deck and are clearly marked "Activity" in a bar on the left side of the slide. Instructions for activity facilitation can be found in the notes section of each slide.

    Recommended Customizations

    • Review all slides and adjust the language or content as needed to suit your organizational context and culture.
    • The pencil icon above denotes slides requiring customization of the slide or the speaker's notes, for example, adding in an organization-specific process.
    • Customization instructions are found in the notes pane.
    • Prepare for this training by reviewing the speaker's notes and instructions well in advance of delivery.
    • Conducting training over two sessions:
      • If you wish to conduct this training over two sessions, present Module 1 on the first day and Module 2 on the second. The Handbook will be the same for both modules.
      • Customize the agenda on slide 4 accordingly.

    Training Session Materials


    1. Adjust the speaker's notes on the slides before (or after) any slides you modify or delete to ensure logical transitions between slides.
    2. Update the agenda to reflect new timings if major modifications are made.
    3. Even seasoned leaders and employees need to be reminded of the basics now and again. Rather than delete more basic slides, cut back on the amount of time spent covering them and frame the content as a refresher.
    4. If you wish to connect this training to your 360 program or individual development plans, modify the speaker's notes accordingly.
    5. There is an optional video on slide 36. If you wish to play this video, you will need audio functionality.


    Time Topic
    • Introduction
    • Leaning Objectives
    • Ground Rules
    9:15am-10:40am Module 1: What does it mean to be an ally?
    10:40am-10:45am Break
    10:45am-11:50am Module 2: Allyship accountabilities and responsibilities
    11:50am-12:00pm Wrap-up

    Learning Objectives

    1. Define allyship and core concepts related to being an ally
    2. Recognize allyship accountabilities
    3. Learn how to practice allyship in the workplace

    Ground Rules

    1. Allyship is a sensitive topic. Set ground rules before beginning the training.
    2. Respect each other and avoid judgment
    3. Share only what you are comfortable with and maintain confidentiality
    4. Know that everyone's experience is valid
    5. Allow people to finish their thoughts
    6. Use "I" statements

    What does it mean to be an ally?

    Personal reflection

    Think of a time when someone stood up for you or when you witnessed someone standing up for another person.

    • How did that make you feel?
    • How did it have an impact on your life?

    What does allyship mean to you?

    What does it mean to be an ally?

    A L L Y

    Always center on the impacted

    Listen and learn from the oppressed

    Leverage your privilege

    Yield the floor

    Allies foster inclusive work environments

    Being different due to inherent diversity traits/identities
    (race, gender, etc.)

    • Being different due to inherent diversity traits/identities
      (race, gender, etc.)
    • Being on guard against biases
    • Impacts on employee wellbeing and productivity

    It's not enough to think you're an ally

    I see myself as an ally to colleagues of other races and ethnicities

    White Women: 81%; White Men: 82%.

    Black women have strong allies in my workplace

    Latina Women: 25%; Black Women: 26%.

    To be or not to be

    Individual Brainstorm

    Complete the statements:

    • "I care about allyship because…"
    • "I am hesitant to be an ally because…"

    Paired Discussion

    Find a partner and discuss your statements.


    Share your thoughts on your brainstorming and discussion.

    • Why do you think it's important to reflect on why we want to be allies or why we may have some reservations?

    Learn about the implications of social structures and systems of inequality

    class - Classism; Race - Racism; Gender - Sexism/Heterosexism; Ability - Ableism.

    *This is not an exhaustive list of social structures/systems of inequality/privileges
    Source: Adapted from BMC Public Health

    Allyship begins with recognizing your privilege and power

    A coin representing systems of inequality. The top is Privilege; the bottom is Oppression.

    Top of the coin: privilege

    • You have advantages others do not
    • You did not earn it
    • You have it because of who you happen to be

    The coin

    • The social structures that produce and maintain inequality (e.g. racism, sexism, ableism)

    Bottom of the coin: oppression

    • You have disadvantages others do not
    • You did not earn it
    • You have it because of who you happen to be

    Anyone can be an ally

    The inequality coin found above, with the following labels: Privilege: Upper/ middle class; White; Able-bodied; ; Straight; Male. Oppression: Lower class; Not white/racialized; Disabled; Not straight/ LGBTQ2IA+; Non-male/ female.

    *This is not an exhaustive list
    Source: BMC Public Health


    Privilege Self-Assessment

    Individual Activity

    Complete the self-assessment on page 7 of the Handbook.

    Once complete, reflect on the following:

    • Have you ever considered any of the items you placed a checkmark beside as an advantage or a disadvantage?


    Share your reflections with the group.

    Equip yourself to be an ally by learning key concepts


    Anti-oppression is the active practice of challenging and resisting oppressive systems on an ongoing basis.


    Anti-racism is the practice of opposing racism by challenging values, structures, systems, and behaviors that further perpetuate systemic racism and aiming to change the status quo. It is an active process that deconstructs power imbalances between racialized and white people.

    What if I make a mistake?

    It's okay!

    Allyship is not about perfection. You won't always get it right. It's a journey of learning and unlearning.

    Own your mistake

    • Apologize for your mistake, even if you didn't intend harm.
    • Listen graciously while being called in or out and build your capacity to receive criticism.
    • Hold yourself accountable to changing your behavior.


    • Proactively educate yourself.
    • Don't expect those you're trying to ally with to educate you or show you the right way.

    Keep trying

    • You're going to keep making mistakes.
    • Embrace the process of allyship by constantly answering these statements:
      • "I want to learn more about…"
      • "I intend to listen more closely to…"
      • "I will pay more attention to…"
      • "I will get better at…"
      • "I will show up with…"
      • "I will do…"
      • "I will work on being more…"
      • Source: S.P.A.R.K.

    What would you do?

    Group discussion

    In your groups, select one or two scenarios and discuss how you would respond as an ally.

    Scenario debrief

    Share your thoughts on the scenarios you selected.


    Take a moment to think about what factors may have contributed to your response as an ally.

    Allyship requires active behaviors

    Learning and unlearning

    Find opportunities to learn about those who are different from you to unlearn and challenge your biases and assumptions.

    Speaking Up

    Leverage your privilege and power by standing up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.

    Owning your mistakes

    Graciously accept mistakes and take it as an opportunity to learn.

    Uplifting those around you

    Raise those who are around you to ensure that they are accessing the same opportunities and experiences.

    Supporting colleagues

    Listen to the experiences of your colleagues and identify opportunities to support them.

    As allies, we'll all encounter challenging situations

    Hearing an inappropriate joke

    Watching someone be left out

    Noticing that someone is spoken over

    Witnessing someone be hostile

    Allyship accountabilities and responsibilities





    Module 2: Allyship accountabilities and responsibilities

    11:50am-12:00pm Wrap-up

    What are some challenging situations you have encountered at work?

    Brainstorm some challenging situations you've encountered at work. → For each situation, write down why the situation was uncomfortable for you.

    Someone made an inappropriate joke about a colleague's cultural practices.

    • I didn't know who the people involved were.
    • I didn't know what to say at that moment.
    • I didn't think it was my place to say anything.

    Speak out against non-inclusive behavior

    Calling In

    • A private and intentional conversation with a colleague regarding problematic behavior that needs to be addressed.
    • A learning opportunity for the colleague to reflect on their actions, understand the impact of their actions, and hold themselves accountable for improving their behavior in the future.

    Calling Out

    • A public confrontation of a person's non-inclusive or discriminatory behavior.
    • Call someone out when:
      • An individual isn't receptive to call-in conversations.
      • An individual is becoming aggressive.
      • You need to prevent further offense or there is immediate danger.

    Handle difficult conversations with EASE

    E A S E





    Removing someone from a harmful situation

    1. Remove the person being harmed
    2. Remove the person doing the harm

    Leverage empathy to support your colleagues in the workplace





    "Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts of another person"

    – Psychology Today

    Empathy means refraining from focusing on yourself when others share

    • Recognize that it does not feel great to be left out, tokenized, or othered.
    • Do not provide solutions based on what you would do.
    • Avoid putting your similar experience in the center of someone else's current experience.

    Build your empathy map

    An image of your empathy map.

    Think of a time when you needed an ally.

    Complete the empathy based on your partner's identity and situation.

    Sometimes your support as an ally will be less obvious

    • Extend your network
    • Sponsor someone in the organization
    • Make yourself available to your colleagues
    • Mentor a peer
    • Recognize your colleague's efforts
    • Adopt inclusive work practices

    Allyship Tactics

    How can you respond to certain situations as an ally?

    • Call the other person in
    • Have a meaningful conversation
    • Share the space

    Adopt a dynamic learning mindset

    Dynamic learning mindset (DLM)

    • Seeks to learn from mistakes
    • Open to feedback
    • Resilient in change through calculated risk
    • Committed to growth
    • Focused on the cumulative power of effort

    Adapted from Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

    Create a learning mural

    Take a couple of sticky notes and write down resources that you and your colleagues can use to continue learning on your allyship journey.

    [Organization's name] Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion learning resources

    How to use allyship to promote DEI at the organization

    "Purl," Pixar SparkShorts

    How will you hold yourself accountable?


    Action Item

    Support breaking glass ceilings

    Sponsor a junior employee in my department

    Write down two or three personal allyship goals and share them with your group. As a team, identify actions to help each other reach your goals.

    You're not in this alone

    Training Session Evaluation

    Works Cited

    Crossman, Ashley. "The Concept of Social Structure in Sociology?" ThoughtCo, 28 June 2019. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
    Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballentine Books, 2007.
    "Empathy." Psychology Today, n.d. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
    "Empowering Workplaces Combat Emotional Tax For People of Colour in Canada." Catalyst,
    4 July 2019. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
    Erskine, Samantha E., and Diana Bilimoria. "White Allyship of Afro-Diasporic Women in the Workplace: A Transformative Strategy for Organizational Change." Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol. 26, no. 3, 2019, pp. 319-338.
    Gurchiek, Kathy. "Workplace Allies Serve as Ambassadors for Change." SHRM, 1 Mar. 2019. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
    Jha, Rega, and Tommy Wesely. "How Privileged Are You?" BuzzFeed, 10 Apr. 2014. Accessed
    9 Nov. 2020.
    "Many white employees aren't stepping up as allies to Black women" Lean In, 2023. Accessed 7 July 2023.
    Nixon, Stephanie A. "The coin model of privilege and critical allyship: implications for health."
    BMC Public Health, vol. 19, no. 1, 2019.
    "Purl." YouTube, uploaded by Pixar SparkShorts, 14 Feb. 2019.
    Reed, Kayla. "Ally." Twitter,13 June 2016. Accessed 09 Nov. 2020.
    Spark4Community. "Why I Don't Call Myself an 'Ally'." S.P.A.R.K., 24 July 2017. Accessed
    9 Nov. 2020.
    Spicer, Andre. "The Psychology of Being a Better Ally in the Office – and Beyond." City Press Office – City, University of London, 8 July 2020, Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
    "Students Learn A Powerful Lesson About Privilege." YouTube, uploaded by BuzzFeedVideo,
    9 Dec. 2014, Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
    "White employees see themselves as allies—but Black women and Latinas disagree." Lean In, 2020. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

    How to Be an Ally preview picture

    About McLean & Company

    McLean & Company is an HR research and advisory firm providing practical solutions to human resources challenges via executable research, tools, diagnostics, and advisory services that have a clear and measurable impact on your business.

    What Is a Blueprint?

    A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your HR problems.

    Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

    Want to Learn More About Learning Resources?

    Speak to a member of our team to learn more about this content through our advisory process. Reach out to book a touchpoint with our team. Discuss how to implement this learning content in your organization.

    Facilitated Programs

    Don't have time to facilitate this content yourself? Check out our facilitated programs to find what works for you. Let us take the coordination, administration & facilitation off your hands.