Building an inclusive learning environmentby
Diversity and inclusion are high on the corporate agenda right now but before you can truly achieve this on an organisation-wide level, you need to ensure it’s baked into your learning and development strategy too.
Diversity and inclusion are popular buzzwords in HR these days. As companies are trying to build more diverse workforces, they place a lot of their focus on the hiring process – but what happens after hiring? Inclusion and equity should shape every business function, and employee training is no exception. Inclusive learning means that all employees get equal opportunities in developing their skills and growing within the organisation.
Opening the doors of employee development through accessible, representative training communicates your company values.
Simply offering training won’t do the trick, however – you need to make sure your training programs are geared toward learners’ needs. Unfortunately, that’s the hardest part, because not every learner has the same needs.
Why training needs a redesign
While the principles you teach may be universal, training is not always ‘one size fits all’. People have a variety of needs and perspectives. Unfortunately, employee training can sometimes fall into the trap of catering to only one general viewpoint or learning style. Your current training programme may not be taking certain needs into consideration. For example:
- Cognitive diversity (the differences in how people think and solve problems) means people learn through a variety of styles. So, if you only offer one training type, some people may struggle to follow.
- People from different backgrounds don’t always feel their differences are welcomed and respected, particularly if training doesn’t take into account different cultures, language barriers, etc.
- Employees from different age groups may have varying levels of tech-savviness, making it hard for some of them to keep up with online training.
- Team members with disabilities could face difficulties when it comes to attending, logging in, or navigating training.
- Employees working remotely due to the pandemic may not have access to all the resources they need to complete training. Attending live online training, for example, may be difficult if they’re sharing resources in their households.
The good news is that eLearning can boost inclusion and diversity. Even though it looks like online training is giving employees a hard time (e.g. to those who may not be tech-savvy, or those who may not have all the necessary resources), modern learning management systems and training platforms have features that help build inclusive learning. At the end of the day, it’s only a matter of how you use these features.
How to design and deliver inclusive training
Here are five tips for using technology to create and sustain an inclusive learning environment.
1. Focus on representation
Make sure your training programme reflects your workforce. Use inclusive language. Introduce diverse characters and instructors to mirror the workplace you have and the workplace you aspire to have. Online training makes it easier to invite instructors from different backgrounds to speak to a wide audience. Videos, images, and animations can showcase diversity as you represent a variety of people in different roles.
Diverse representation spreads the message that your training and your company welcome different perspectives. When people see themselves in your training, they see that there’s a place for them in your organisation.
2. Use multiple training content types
Different people learn in different ways. The good thing about online training is that you don’t have to limit yourself to one type of training content. Switch things up and reinforce learning by presenting your content in a variety of formats. For example, you can offer a wide range of options for learning a concept. Include text, videos, images, or audio files in your LMS so people can explore the formats that speak the most to them.
People also learn at different paces. Online training offers self-paced learning to fit individual schedules and preferences. Having various content types gives learners this flexibility. For example, they can pause a video to look for additional resources, or revise an online written guide as much as they need to.
3. Design for accessibility
Scan your training to see if it’s accessible to everyone. Are there ways you could make it work better for certain needs? For example, make sure video and audio resources have captions or that transcripts are available. Interactivity is great for engaging learners, but if your training includes drag-and-drop functionality, make sure there’s an alternative. Include keyboard shortcuts for those who may have mobility limitations. Create an equal opportunity for learning by making it easy for everyone to access and navigate your training course.
4. Offer diversity training
Making sure your training is inclusive is a great step into boosting inclusion in the workplace, but alone is not enough. Consider offering training about diversity per se. Diversity training can eliminate unconscious biases. It can give teams a common vocabulary for talking about diversity and inclusion. It can also help people understand the benefits of creating an environment where everyone feels safe being themselves.
Make sure training addresses how to interact positively and respectfully. Effective courses should also show how diversity and inclusion are tied to your company's mission and values.
5. Ask for and implement feedback
Finally, check in regularly to see how employees receive your training. What improvements can you make? The above tips will give you a strong foundation for making your training inclusive, but individual needs and challenges exist in each organisation. Prepare to address them by providing a way to capture them.
Share a post-training survey to gather feedback and reach out to teams on a regular basis to discuss challenges. Many training platforms make it easy to adjust content or implement new features that will make your training programs more accessible and more engaging. Respond to needs quickly to make your training as effective as possible.
Inclusive learning builds inclusive workplaces
Diversity and inclusion are not boxes to tick. You can’t just install software and reap the benefits of a diverse workplace. With careful planning, however, and the right input, you can create an environment that fosters inclusion. Boost your efforts by developing training that works for everyone.
Opening the doors of employee development through accessible, representative training communicates your company values. It shows your employees what you care about by removing barriers to advancement that underrepresented people often face. Make sure you're building a healthy, inclusive workplace by aligning your training with your goals for diversity and acceptance.
Interested in this topic? Read How to ensure L&D boosts your diversity and inclusion agenda.