The rise of remote and hybrid work. The Great Resignation. In 2022, businesses are called to navigate these new continents and geographies, while also dealing with the very real repercussions the COVID-19 pandemic had on their staff’s mental health and stress levels.
For many organizations, this was a call to action on the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) front. Faced with a workforce that’s now more diverse than ever and whose needs have changed, employers made commitments to create more inclusive workplaces. Some succeeded. Others are still falling short when it comes to hiring diverse talent and ensuring equal representation at all levels.
Creating a culture of inclusivity at work certainly takes time and effort — but training can be a big help in that regard. With the start of a new year, it’s the perfect time for employers to adapt their training programs so that they reflect their DEI values and are truly inclusive, both in theory and in practice.
The Current State of DEI in the Workplace
DEI is not a new concept in the workplace. Diversity training has been around for decades, but it’s constantly recalibrating to address the social and systemic injustices of our current society. And the pandemic was a great wake-up call on how many of these injustices are still prevalent.
Not everyone was hit the same by the ramifications of COVID-19. The U.S. workforce took a big hit across the board, but it was the marginalized, historically excluded and diverse parts of it that struggled the most. For instance, things were significantly harder for female employees, with 2.4 million women leaving the labor force compared to 1.8 million men. And a McKinsey survey showed that diverse U.S. employees, in general, faced more challenges than their non-diverse counterparts.
In response, many companies felt compelled to take action to advance DEI and address any existing racial biases and discrimination in their organizations. Apart from being the morally right thing to do, building a diverse, equal and inclusive workplace is also good for business. Bersin by Deloitte research found that diverse teams can bring in up to 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee as they can rise up to challenges better and are better equipped to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base.
Workplaces that do well on the DEI front are also more sought after. A Glassdoor survey showed that for 76% of job seekers, a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. The same survey showed that 50% of current employees want their company to do more toward promoting diversity.
Yet, employers are still falling short of their DEI commitments. This is not because they don’t espouse these values, but because they’re struggling — with competing priorities, a lack of resources and a lack of sufficient training.
Prioritizing DEI training during this period of immense change is the key to doing better. But even if your company doesn’t have the budget or resources to deliver a new DEI training program, there are still several steps you can take to ensure your existing one is more inclusive.
5 Tips for Inclusive DEI Training
1.) Use the Right Language
It’s important that DEI training uses the right language both figuratively (favoring informal, everyday language wins over technical jargon) and literally. Your chosen learning management system (LMS) should not only support multiple languages, but it should also be created in a way that’s conscious of your team’s linguistic make-up. For instance, if you have several Latinx employees, you should consider translating training materials into Spanish.
2.) Use Gamification
Gamification elements have long served to make employee training more fun and engaging: One survey showed that 83% of employees whose training was gamified feel motivated. But it can help with your DEI efforts, too.
Opting for gamification characters that are representative of different cultures is a great way to show, right off the bat, that your company stands for a diverse workplace where everyone is welcome. Allowing people to customize their avatars and providing options like skin colors, head coverings, different clothing options or mobility aids, can go a long way toward making your employees feel valued and represented.
3.) Use Microlearning
Microlearning, or short, bite-sized lessons (i.e., three to seven minutes) generates 50% more learner engagement because it mirrors the brain’s working memory ability. It also allows your staff to train in small doses, which is more manageable especially if they work from home.
4.) Use a Variety of Delivery Methods
Different learners have different preferences in how they consume content — and your content delivery methods should reflect that by offering a variety of materials that will appeal to different users.
Follow the WCAG-2 Accessibility Requirements
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 exist to make online content more usable for people with disabilities. Whether you already have employees with disabilities working at your organization or not, it’s very important to ensure your LMS adheres to them — and not just for compliance reasons. This will also signal to employees with disabilities that you’re taking them into account and can give them the framework they need to succeed.
L&D is Changing — Especially in the DEI Space
With The Great Resignation dominating most industries, there has never been a more critical time to invest in employees. A recent survey on tech employees showed that for 58%, skills development is the top criterion when selecting a company to work for.
When considering your L&D strategy with DEI top of mind, you should also consider the following:
Remote and Hybrid Work
Working from home and/or in a hybrid capacity is here to stay. Amping up your DEI efforts means ensuring your employees will all have the same opportunities to grow and succeed, no matter their location.
Flexible Work Schedules
It’s not just the “where” work happens that has changed — for many companies, it’s the “when” as well. With many companies experimenting with flexible work hours and a large majority (83%) of American workers would be in favor of a four-day work week, creating a more inclusive training program means being mindful of people’s time availability. For instance, putting a greater focus on self-paced learning can help a lot when your employees have a flexible work schedule.
When it comes to DEI, openness, flexibility, and self-awareness are critical toward building a more inclusive and tolerant workplace. Offering continuous soft skills training by giving your employees access to a frequently updated depository of ready-made courses, will go a long way toward setting them up for success.
The Importance of Core Values
Today’s leaders must be more than efficient workers. They must have a set of core values they believe in, including values such as empathy, integrity and diversity, to be successful. This is especially important if you want to attract and inspire younger generations, who lean on their values when making career choices. Over the past two years, 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen-Zs have made choices over the type of work they are prepared to do and the organizations for which they are willing to work based on their personal ethics.
The future of work will require employers to step it up when it comes to their DEI commitments. Companies that don’t get on board will quickly fall behind when it comes to things like employee satisfaction, confidence — and ultimately, talent retention.