To meet the demands of the current business environment, many organizations are rolling out new online or hybrid training modules. These learning solutions present timely opportunities to bolster company-wide diversity and inclusion by making training accessible to all.

The Benefits of Diversity

Across sectors, more and more organizations recognize that a diverse staff and inclusive workplace are not only good for society but are good for business, too. An employee pool comprised of individuals with varying attributes (e.g., gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, disabilities and sexual orientation) boosts a company’s intellectual potential. When people work within nonhomogeneous teams, they think differently, which challenges the brain and fine-tunes its performance. Engaging with people from different backgrounds helps a team tackle issues from different angles and consider new perspectives.

The benefits of diversity roll up to the organizational level. Research increasingly shows that diverse organizations build smarter, more innovative teams and are more profitable. One such study comes from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, whose research illustrates that diverse companies are more efficient and productive and, ultimately, deliver greater profitability. In light of the overwhelming benefits, many companies have launched initiatives to promote diversity and foster inclusive workplaces.

Striving for Equity Amid Disruption

Today’s heightened focus on diversity and inclusion comes as organizations everywhere face unprecedented upheaval. For years, globalization has altered the way companies around the world do business. At the same time, technological advances have rapidly disrupted industries and traditional business models.

The opportunities are enormous. Global business opens access to new markets, while advancing technologies have the potential to significantly boost productivity and efficiency. However, for companies to reap the benefits of this dynamic business environment, they must help workers adapt.

Employees need training to effectively operate within new models. Given the rapid rate of change, this adaptation can be a significant challenge. In a 2019 McKinsey Global Survey, nine out of 10 executives said they saw skill gaps in their workforce or expected them to develop within five years.

In the midst of this already volatile business climate, along came the disruption of 2020. Seemingly overnight, the day-to-day workplace experience changed dramatically. Many companies embraced a full-time work-from-home model, while others adopted hybrid solutions. For some, this change will be a temporary shift, and for others, it will be permanent. In order to stay viable during the pandemic, many organizations pivoted their business models to stay afloat and position themselves for long-term resilience and success. This refocus raises new demands for training that many companies are meeting with fully remote or hybrid learning models.

As organizations craft training strategies for this environment, it is essential that they not lose sight of diversity and inclusion. In fact, now is the time to make diversity a greater priority, because training presents an opportunity for companies to promote equity and inclusion from within.

Supporting a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Workforce

Creating an inclusive, accessible environment for a diverse workforce means embracing and supporting linguistic and cultural differences. Around the globe, many people speak English as a second language, but competency varies greatly. And language barriers don’t just impact companies with a global presence; as people who originate from different countries become a larger part of the U.S. workforce, even companies that do not cross national borders must consider the language preferences of their staff. Over 66 million U.S. residents spoke a language other than English at home in 2017 — a number that doubled since 1990 and almost tripled since 1980.

To create equity among staff members, learning materials must be equally accessible to native English speakers as well as learners with limited English proficiency. It’s more effective to learn in one’s own language; people learn better when they can focus on the subject matter rather than first translating the course material. Conversely, when a learner receives training in a second language, complex topics are harder to comprehend, and the risk for misinterpretation increases.

In-language training is not only the most effective approach, but it’s also the most inclusive. In the workplace, inclusion is measured in terms of the extent to which employees feel accepted, valued and respected for the characteristics that help make them unique. For many people, language is inextricably tied to identity. To create a culture of inclusion, organizations must ensure that everyone’s native language is socially accepted and welcomed.

By making training accessible across languages, a company demonstrates that it is invested in its employees’ growth and development. In-language training makes non-native English speakers feel valued for — not in spite of — some of the characteristics that make them unique: culture, background and language.

What Is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting content to a particular language, culture and locale. By taking into account the cultural considerations that make the content relatable, localized training makes learning materials culturally and linguistically fitting for the learners.

Localization is a comprehensive process that entails the translation of text along with the adaptation of graphics, images and layout. It also involves converting conventions such as time, date and units of measure to local standards and adjusting translated text so it displays properly. Audio and video elements may require subtitling or voiceovers, recorded with voice talent that sounds natural to native speakers.

Ultimately, the goal of localization is to make a final product that looks and feels as though it were created for the target language and culture, while conveying the core objectives of the learning module. A well-thought-out localization strategy presents content that feels familiar to the user, creating a stronger connection and better engagement. By committing to a localization strategy when developing new course material, an organization’s approach transforms into one that is inclusive and accessible to all employees.

Learning Across Languages

While the upheaval in the current business environment presents challenges, the disruption also creates opportunities for implementing positive change. With the need for new models of training comes the opportunity to localize that content and create a more inclusive workplace culture. By overcoming language barriers and promoting a culture of learning for all, organizations can demonstrate that they value, respect and appreciate employees for the differences that help make them unique.