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How to Provide an Engaging Learning Program around Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & inclusion (D&I) ranks among some of the top areas of importance for organizations in the United States. While it is a popular buzzword, it’s also an integral part of any effective business strategy because it serves as a driver for innovation.

However, diversity is often viewed in very binary terms — men and women, black and white, old and young, homosexual and heterosexual, etc. This approach winds up marginalizing much of the diversity embodied by others who fall outside of those polarized categories, leaving them to feel like outsiders.
Inclusion is all about helping employees feel understood, valued, welcome, and comfortable working, and simply being who they are as individuals. It’s about embracing and celebrating those different characteristics, attributes, perspectives, and experiences that make them unique.
How can your organization increase employee learning engagement while embracing D&I principles? Here are a few of the ways you can approach this challenge:

Face the Challenge Head-On

Incorporating aspects of diversity & inclusion into your company’s learning programs is a huge step in the right direction. However, as the country becomes increasingly diverse and connected with the rest of the world, it presents new challenges for learning and development roles within organizations. As such, it is more important than ever for businesses and organizations of any size to develop a strong learning culture.
In addition to developing stronger leaders and more informed employees to fill your internal leadership pipeline, this type of culture also helps organizations attract and retain top-quality external talent.
When trying to increase the profile of diversity and inclusion in your training, it’s important to include it at every level of training from the get-go. Johnson & Johnson is an organization that tries to embody this ideology in all of their training.
In an interview with Fast Company, Johnson & Johnson’s chief diversity officer, Wanda Hope, says:

“As we are going through our talent process throughout the year, whether goal setting or coaching conversations or a mid-year review, we’re always giving out training materials, and we’ve embedded diversity and inclusion into those materials so that people are always thinking about how they can be more inclusive and making sure that there aren’t any hidden biases that may be impacting our thinking.”

In order for a company to develop a truly inclusive culture, it also requires involvement from the organization’s leadership, and the opportunity for all employees to learn from mentors and role models.

Offer Diverse Learning Delivery Methods

As a learner, every employee has individual strengths and weaknesses. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that is effective for all learners. This is why having a multi-faceted approach to learning can be helpful.
Rather than strictly offering in-person courses in a classroom, companies can instead offer blended learning options that incorporate both in-class components as well as multimedia learning content.
Big Think+’s digital learning solutions offer a plethora of short-form online videos that feature diverse experts from numerous industries. The selection of relevant and timely videos is customizable and is tailored to meet the specific needs of your organization and industry.
Additionally, our custom and standard courses integrate learning activities that help your employees practice and apply what they learn to their work. These activities can include:

  • Guided discussions among peers;
  • Informal pre- and post-test evaluations;
  • Self-reflection opportunities in private, structured spaces; and
  • Step-by-step processes for how participants can apply the learned concepts.

Incorporate Diversity Training into Other Learning Initiatives

Many companies follow dated ideas by offering diversity training as its own mandatory course — often offered primarily to management groups. However, this targeted and forced approach is not necessarily an effective method because it can result in unintended effects, such as creating resistance or increasing biases in employees.
According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article:

“Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance—and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.”

Rather than having employees complete mandatory, stand-alone diversity training courses, you could, instead, work elements of diversity training into all voluntary learning & development initiatives within your organization. Voluntary training opportunities typically result in more positive responses from employees. By making D&I awareness something that is encouraged in everyone as part of these programs, you’ll be able to help all employees within your organization embrace and embody the principles of diversity & inclusion.

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