The concept of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has taken center stage in workplaces across the globe for good reason. It’s important to understand the roots of DEI in order to predict and prepare for future-forward DEI programs. Consider the following definitions:

Diversity refers to the presence of notable differences within a specific setting.

Equity is the process of ensuring that programs, protocols, and approaches are fair and impartial, and provide equal outcomes for all parties involved.

Inclusion ensures that everyone in a workplace feels that they belong and are respected by their peers.

Today’s learning and development (L&D) professionals have an undeniable responsibility to drive meaningful and lasting change in the workplace. This is especially true in light of the history of past injustices that have disadvantaged and marginalized previously underrepresented groups at work.

Leaders and managers need to ensure that they include underrepresented individuals in L&D programs and opportunities, capability assessments and in the solutions to business problems, in addition to ensuring equitable assessments and learning. L&D must work to ensure that individuals from diverse backgrounds have the opportunities and skills they need to ensure their own job security and enjoy the same professional development opportunities needed to secure promotions, contribute to team projects and have a tangible impact in their places of work.

The Importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion are all essential components of a healthy workplace, and they’re vital to creating and maintaining a successful work environment and creating flexible learning programs for everyone involved. DEI practices encourage L&D professionals to help grant employees equal chances to thrive on personal and professional levels.

Before you can start to re-evaluate your L&D initiatives and implement DEI-friendly programs, it’s important to completely understand each component of the acronym. You will need to know how the three concepts of DEI work together as a whole in the context of future DEI trends.

3 Key DEI Trends to Pay Attention to in 2022

  1. Growing and Evolving Remote Learning Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the face of the global workforce. Millions of working people across the globe have had to rapidly adapt to remote work environments. Many have still not returned to full-time office work in 2021.

Some people have returned to office environments now that vaccines are widely available. But many employees have voiced a preference for permanent remote work and development opportunities.

A global survey conducted by McKinsey found that up to 75% of employees would like to work from home at least two days per week. The global workforce has been through challenging times over the past 18 months, and many people are starting to re-evaluate their careers and how they would like to work. Those who are currently working and learning remotely are especially eager to continue to do so. Just under 65% of people prefer the ability to work from home over a $30,000 pay increase.

Moving toward partially or fully remote work can make a lot of sense for businesses, especially when it comes to L&D. Remote work and learning poses far lower outbreak risks for COVID-19, and reduces costs in terms of decreased business travel, office-related expenses and physical space rental overheads.

Businesses that plan to retain a remote workforce will need to weave DEI practices into their efforts. They can do so by:

  • Considering if every member of their teams can realistically work and complete training from home, and which employees should be on site for certain tasks or programs that can’t be completed from home.
  • Assessing whether or not every team member will have the same access to the time, tools, technologies and workspaces that they need to work and learn.
  • Gauging whether or not everyone has the option of adopting an asynchronous work and learning schedule.

Remote work is potentially an excellent avenue for promoting workplace diversity. Working and learning online enables L&D professionals to ensure that all employees have equal access to blended learning solutions. Certain groups and demographics, such as working mothers, may prefer the flexibility offered by remote learning and face less bias while doing so.

L&D teams will also be responsible for finding innovative new ways to build and foster company culture online within the context of professional development, bringing remote teams together in ways that are inclusive, equitable and celebrate diversity.

  1. Using AI Technology in Employee Development

The events of 2020 strained the world economy significantly. Many organizations have tightened their budgets and scaled down their operations (including L&D) as a result. By the same token, the need for these businesses to upskill their staff has never been more prominent.

In the future, it will be up to L&D teams to find ways to build efficient and personalized training experiences. This can be achieved and automated at scale with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solutions.

Creating automated workflows, assessments, and blended learning practices will simplify the training process and free up L&D staff to work on higher-value development projects. These projects include the creation of a custom training experience built on strong DEI frameworks that support other crucial operational initiatives.

DEI is a human priority, but it is also a business one: Research shows that 67% of job seekers value workplace diversity when evaluating potential employers. If those employers want to retain these talented workers, they will need to use automation to create a diverse workplace for all and to provide learning programs that work for all employees as well.

  1. Embracing the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging forth since early 2020. Although vaccines are rolling out at a rapid pace, the Delta variant continues to be a global concern. The pandemic has brought about great uncertainty around the future of work and the ability of businesses to survive amid a battered economy. There’s now a need to embrace this “new normal” and promote diversity in ways that ensure workers’ safety and health.

Companies’ DEI practices can be woven into the concept of the new normal in a number of ways. Many companies have already prepared long-term health and safety policies to keep their staff safe amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. Certain organizations are instituting customized time-off policies for workers who have to care for loved ones coping with the virus, or who have contracted COVID-19 themselves. Other businesses have launched flexible work-from-home policies that enable people who are hesitant to return to work, to work remotely instead.

These are all excellent developments. However, it’s equally important to accommodate workers dealing with other circumstances, such as managing work and motherhood. L&D leaders and their teams may need to take the following steps to protect their employees against burnout and support their diverse talent in the foreseeable future:

  • Create a company culture of compassion, understanding empathy, and continuous learning.
  • Communicate intentionally during check-ins, collaborations, learning program development and during other essential processes.
  • Offer flexible learning opportunities to employees who have caregiving responsibilities or who are experiencing mental or physical health concerns.

Incorporating DEI Into Future Practices Benefits Everyone

Building efficient processes and a robust culture around DEI requires much more than a simple mission statement.

Future-forward L&D teams will need to learn how to prioritize DEI in all of their tasks, from program development to execution. They will have to create solutions that support DEI, promote the consistent education and retention of diverse employees and provide useful data-backed insights into these initiatives to support both the business and its people.