Understanding what it means to be inclusive within a learning and development (L&D) team and ensuring the team embraces inclusion will help embed diversity and inclusion (D&I) within an organization. An inclusive approach to training can help all employees achieve the learning outcomes they are striving for.

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion

A team that encourages diversity, not just through awareness of differences but through a genuine inclusion of a wide variety of people, backgrounds and ideas, makes a huge difference. Teams achieve more with a learning and development team that creates programs that help all people feel respected, involved and able to bring the authentic version of themselves to work. The best D&I development programs can influence organizational culture and help raise customer satisfaction, improve employee retention and enhance a company’s reputation.

There is a difference between raising awareness of diversity and inclusion and truly embedding a D&I culture within an organization. Both people and organizations can benefit from recognizing the differences among learners, celebrating those differences and developing all types of employees through inclusive training programs.

Without an inclusive L&D team, your training content may include stereotypes, and your message may be unable to engage your audience. Your team’s lack of diverse thinking may be holding both you and your learners back — and, as a result, your organization as well.

Learning and development leaders must provide inclusive opportunities to identify and challenge implicit biases by creating an open and welcoming environment to support learning. With that goal in mind, let’s look at some simple strategies that training professionals can use to build more inclusive teams and champion a D&I culture in their organization:

Building Diverse Teams for Diverse Audiences

Learning has never been a one-size fits all process, which is why both teaching and corporate training seek to address different learning preferences and ensure that education reaches all learners, giving everyone the opportunity to achieve the most out of any development or learning program.

To support diverse audiences, an effective learning and development leader should ensure diversity within his or her own team. It starts with recruiting. When hiring for a new position on your L&D team, first, consider your current team’s makeup. The, be transparent about the effect of unconscious bias during the recruitment and interview process. Consider mitigating this risk by:

    • Writing gender-neutral job descriptions.
    • Removing names and demographic characteristics from resumes.
    • Avoiding idioms that may not be familiar to individuals from other cultures.
    • Altering recruitment tactics if your applicant pool is homogeneous.

It may not be possible to immediately address a lack of diversity on your team, but being aware of any imbalance is a good place to start. Awareness will eventually lead to better understanding and then to the transformation of the team into a diverse, inclusive group.

Teams that embrace inclusivity have diverse experiences, strengths and ideas and, therefore, the potential to create innovative learning programs in a way that homogeneous teams cannot.

Creating Inclusive Content That Promotes Cultural Transformation

Diverse and inclusive learning and development teams can:

    • Create course content that is inclusive in its delivery methods.
    • Create accessible materials, by, for example, using high-contrast text and background colors and easily readable fonts and making sure all text is readable by screen-reading software.
    • Provide translations of content into learners’ first languages.
    • Produce case studies that resonate with all audiences and avoid stereotyping.

Diverse L&D teams connect with the people they are helping to develop by creating and delivering content that reflects the many backgrounds and abilities of their audience. In doing so, the outcomes will be better than for L&D departments that develop programs of the same style and language, regardless of the audience.

Remember, it is important to monitor and review your training programs constantly to see how effective they are at appealing to your target audience. Use anonymous feedback and one-on-one discussions to continuously improve your programs.

The most important consideration when it comes to designing training should be the fact that not all people are the same. To that end, L&D leaders should create a team that can deliver training that’s appropriate for everyone through a true awareness of their learners, their backgrounds and their particular skills.