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Learning Design Best Practice for Diversity, Ethics, and Inclusion

Kristen Motzer, Learning Director, LRN

Standard corporate training is not enough to create a workplace where there is a strong sense of belonging, as organisations are seeking new ways to both educate their employees and inspire them to build a more welcoming environment.

Diversity, ethics, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives need to take centre stage. This involves sharing experiences, building empathy, and reflecting on how to drive change. Here are some learning design best practices that ensure the material is not only efficient, engaging, but also meaningful.  

Ongoing engagement

Training must be a continuous commitment, but this could prove costly and time consuming. That is why microlearning is much more effective – it delivers quick, accessible learning to employees when and where it is necessary, and allows increased retention of training material.

This is particularly valuable when discussing DEI topics, which focus on changing individual and company-wide behaviour. Microlearning reinforces material over time to sustain lasting change and offers different learning experiences (such as videos, infographics, and quizzes) to sustain engagement.

Striking a balance between individual and collaborative elements

DEI encourages discussion and self-reflection on sensitive topics, so it is beneficial to approach a DEI curriculum as more of a journey than an on-paper guide. 

Take the time to evaluate the organisation’s full range of curriculum assets, determine where people might require extra time to process and apply what they have learnt and assess where it makes sense to incorporate group conversations as well. 

Group learning prompts changes in behaviour, that is why having a place to ask questions and share experiences makes such a difference.

Everyone participates

For better DEI integration into daily operations, everyone including executives and managers need to be champions for the initiative. As business leaders must become role models, demonstrating the behaviours and mindset that they want to see their employees adopt.

However, since this approach still remains one of the biggest challenges for learning and development professionals worldwide, it is critical to empower leaders to participate in the curriculum itself – whether it is through creating specific training or having them facilitate wider group discussions – they should not only be on the learning journey with their teams, but also guiding them through it. 

Global perspective

Adopting a global approach goes beyond including more people of different nationalities. To ensure the content is relatable, the wider learning experience needs to account for cultural differences, even when the information seems universal. When designing DEI material, organisations must consider the fact that discrimination and racism are unfortunately everywhere, and how it manifests can vary depending on location. So, start with the most basic message of seeing commonalities with one another, then build from there.

Real life stories build empathy

Real people and real-world scenarios bring the DEI curriculum to life and helps learners to identify themselves with the content. Actual, unscripted, human experiences are far more relatable; people can connect over these stories and trigger their empathy as a result.

As with all learning experiences, it is vital that the curriculum also offers guidance on how to apply the information in real life. The more specific call-to-action, the better, whether it is having coffee with a new colleague or making sure that everyone’s voice is heard in a team meeting.

Not always black or white

Some traditional ethics and compliance training follows a “should and shouldn’t do” format, however DEI topics are far more nuanced. The main objective of the curriculum is helping people identify what systemic issues need changing and encouraging them to question their own perceptions.

Equip employees with the skills to navigate those grey areas and they will in turn contribute to building a respectful workplace culture – the key is starting with empathy and understanding. Help others connect with shared values, like respect for all, part of that means creating a space where it is ok to not know something and ask questions.

A successful and meaningful DEI curriculum is one that instils empathy. Organisations must remember to nurture human-centred learning, which fosters respect for other people and helps individuals feel like they can bring their whole person to the workplace.

Kristen Motzer, Learning Director, Learning Resource Network (LRN)

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