November 29, 2023

The intersection of DEI and L&D

Learning and Development (L&D) developers often work alongside HR professionals and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) teams, but are separate functions in most companies. In some organizations, L&D falls under the HR umbrella or doesn’t even exist. As a result, L&D and DEI are not inherently linked and are not expected to intersect. Instead, HR departments are at the forefront of managing diversity and promoting inclusive and equitable values. Larger organizations may have separate DEI teams, but they are still not directly linked to L&D. Because recruiters and hiring managers are responsible for attracting, recruiting, and retaining top talent, they are typically in charge of the specifics of hiring and training.

On the other hand, L&D is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when talking about DEI. Few expect developers and L&D professionals to be pioneers in championing diverse values ​​and incorporating inclusion and equality into their function. But DEI should connect with everything that happens in the workplace, rather than turning it into silo initiatives. Each department can and should contribute to diversity and have its own way of implementing it. Thus, L&D has an equal responsibility and right to implement diverse and inclusive practices and policies within its function. Learn how L&D and DEI intersect and why the former should prioritize inclusive values.

The intersection of DEI and L&D

Although each company has a unique approach to DEI, they often miss the opportunity to use their learning programs to influence company culture, celebrate differences, and develop new ways of thinking. However, DEI and L&D could share invaluable data and insights, creating an opportunity for closer collaboration in the future. Instructional Designers are much more in touch with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as they help them design, evaluate and structure learning content.

But dealing with DEI and doing it right requires more because these topics are less openly discussed and require deep understanding, empathy, research, compassion for each person and an open mind. But that doesn’t mean DEI and L&D are worlds apart and can’t come together. As learning architects, instructional designers strive to create an engaging learning experience and achieve a specific outcome.

The aim is to increase their skills, abilities or knowledge or to improve their attitude. In addition, instructional designers try to address the needs and goals of both parties, the students and the organization. As a result, they shape more than just learning content. L&D indirectly influences workplace culture, helps drive strategic goals, implements and changes behavior, and promotes positive thinking. This makes its role crucial in supporting employees, the business, customers and stakeholders, as well as supporting effective training outcomes and inclusive practices.

Learning and diversity are constantly intertwined

Employees also need to understand the company’s mission, vision and values ​​and go through recruitment before they can succeed in their roles. Learning and development is therefore among their first points of contact, as workers need to learn about the company culture, their team and expectations. Companies need to employ L&D and DEI from the start to create a diverse and equitable workplace and teach new hires these values ​​and behaviors.

Instructional designers and L&D departments can align overall company goals with student goals and the learning solution. In aligning these goals, they must consider how the DEI’s goals align with the organization’s high-level goals. L&D must also ensure that learning solutions support students’ future goals and career aspirations. But if not every employee has the same level of access to these programs, it hinders inclusion. This is another telling sign that L&D and DEI are constantly intertwined – training and education programs must be inclusive and equitable to provide everyone with the same opportunities, knowledge and skills. Otherwise, the company risks creating a hostile environment where only high-performing employees have access to career advancement, upskilling, retraining and chances to expand their capabilities. This exclusion would also translate into lower productivity, retention and engagement.

Finally, DEI helps instructional designers and L&D professionals understand the full scope of diversity and that it is not just what meets the eye. Instead, it also includes unseen conditions, fights, and challenges. For example, many L&D programs fail to address the needs, strengths, weaknesses, and potential of employees with neurodiverse characteristics. Because it is invisible and people with neurodiverse traits tend to hide it, training and education programs are often ineffective and not tailored to include this group of employees.

Neurodiversity is still a relatively new concept in L&D. Many training developers don’t realize that this represents normal differences in how people think and react to the world, rather than a disability. Because of this, neurodiverse employees often feel that L&D is not built to match their unique strengths and challenges. This results in companies failing to equally nurture and develop all their talents and provide adequate techniques, tools, methods and learning opportunities.

How L&D professionals, DEI and HR teams can work together to drive different values ​​through learning

Here’s how L&D, DEI and HR teams can boost diversity and use training programs to promote inclusive values.

1. Make training and learning opportunities available to all

The first point of embedding DEI in L&D is to ensure that everyone has equal access to career progression, learning opportunities, upskilling and reskilling. Recruiters often focus on top performers, overlooking junior members and those struggling to adapt to their job roles or achieve impressive results. But if they are aiming for well-rounded, truly fair and inclusive training, they must give everyone equal attention and chances. New workers should have the same right to participate in training programs as workers in managerial positions.

Moreover, older employees should not be neglected and pushed aside, even as they approach retirement age. Inclusion cannot be selective or tainted by any favoritism. HR, L&D and DEI teams should constantly work to prevent and remove barriers that prevent people from acquiring new skills and knowledge or advancing in their careers. This includes putting in place up-to-date mechanisms and initiatives to ensure that no one is left out or unable to participate in training and education programmes.

2. Ensure L&D content is inclusive of all people groups

A team cannot perform at its best and produce stellar results if not even one member receives adequate training that matches their skills, strengths, weaknesses and weaknesses. This includes employees who experience, learn or interact with the world and others differently. An effective L&D program is only effective if it accommodates different learning styles, paces, challenges, preferences and opportunities. So they must embrace a neurodiverse workforce and remove the barriers they often encounter in the workplace. But this does not necessarily mean creating a separate training for each person. Instead, every worker should have an equal number of opportunities to learn and acquire new knowledge and skills.

3. Embed DEI in the organizational and L&D structure

Both DEI and organizations will thrive if it is part of the organizational and L&D fabric. Instructional designers, L&D professionals, and DEI teams can work together to ensure diversity in content, inclusion of diverse student populations, and successful learning outcomes for everyone. DEI should also play a role in recruiting initiatives, the hiring process, performance appraisals and reviews, succession planning, leadership development, and employee engagement. Staff should receive effective DEI training and learn about its values, but also have the necessary tools and skills to implement it, address biases, and foster accountability.

4. Make sure DEI information includes the C-Suite

Accessible and equitable training and learning about DEI should involve the entire organization, including executives and managers. This is essential to promoting diverse values ​​and fostering an inclusive workplace where everyone can learn, improve and grow. The top of the organization should understand what diversity means, who it includes and how L&D can help maintain an inclusive culture and openness. In this way, leaders from different groups and departments can share unique insights and experiences regarding learning initiatives and ensure that the thoughts, feelings and challenges of their community are taken into account.

5. Create an inclusive culture training

L&D, HR and DEI teams can work together to jointly develop an inclusive culture and values ​​by co-creating various training opportunities. Each party has specific expertise that can help make content engaging, diverse, effective and appropriate for different audiences. This initiative should involve the entire workforce, including the top organization, as it helps to sustain change and bring these functions closer together. In addition, these teams and departments can advise each other on appropriate terminology, approach and methods to meet the needs of each employee.

L&D and DEI are inherently linked and can provide better learning solutions and create more effective, diverse initiatives when they combine their knowledge, skills and expertise. Each function plays a significant role in creating a more inclusive workplace that doesn’t overlook anyone’s needs and ensures that no one faces challenges that hinder their growth. By working together, they develop better learning content and enhance its flexibility, allowing employees to expand their knowledge and acquire skills that help them fulfill their unique potential.

Ebook Publishing: WeLearn Learning Services

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