By Shayne Bauer-Ellsworth | March 19, 2019

Whether you’re a learning and development practitioner or leading your organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, you should be asking the question, “how sustainable is my learning strategy?” Education and training are foundational to many of the interventions we employ to create and sustain inclusive environments, but without consistent reinforcement, learning objectives may not stick.

To create an inclusive environment, your learning 
strategy has to be sustainable. Click To Tweet

The fundamentals of how, when, and where we learn have changed dramatically in recent years. And yet, those of us tasked with designing and implementing D&I learning initiatives are often reluctant to adapt and apply new learning trends and technologies. Research shows that to truly harness new skills, learning needs to take place over time with consistent reinforcement, using different modalities, and with opportunities for application, feedback, and long-term performance support. 

Knowing this, I served as the lead architect of Cook Ross’ newest eLearning program, Invisible Influencers. This comprehensive program is a simple yet effective example of a learning ecosystem designed to equip learners with the tools to disrupt unconscious bias. Its four components are user-friendly and crafted for continuous reinforcement to ensure learning sticks.

Use these tips to build a learning ecosystem that is 
accessible, retainable, and sustainable. Click To Tweet

Learning ecosystems like this provide the framework for hosting the right learning experience, at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way. So how can you create your own learning ecosystem? Here are a few tips –

1. Keep several key goals in mind while designing. Your learning ecosystem should:

  • Embrace digital and social learning
  • Focus on, and empathize with, end users
  • Deliver a personalized learning offer
  • Facilitate and support learning communities on and offline
  • Be outcome focused and support performance

2. One size does not fit all

There are a variety of learning ecosystem models out there.  This is not a cookie-cutter approach and one size does not fit all.  Variables include desired outcomes; learning culture; budget and resources; and which tools, content, courses, or resources will be well utilized.  Effective ecosystems can be both simple and complex.

3. Start where you are and know where you want to go

  • Develop clearly defined objectives and outcomes that will support the implementation of a learning ecosystem.
  • Ensure a communication strategy is developed to support your initiative.
  • Administrative support needs to be available for learners, and to manage metrics and reporting.
  • Draft a maintenance plan – who, how, and with what frequency will your learning ecosystem be contained, managed, and maintained?

4. Build for today, adapt for tomorrow

  • Clearly define your learner populations, matching the target populations to the appropriate tools within your learning ecosystem.
  • Identify the training modalities that meet the learning needs and styles of your target populations.
  • Identify the learning technologies currently available in the organization and any additional portals, platforms, or systems that may need to be acquired.
  • Adapt to trends and shifting dynamics in your organization and industry.

5. We’re better together

Don’t go at it alone – leverage the internal resources and partnerships at your disposal.  If the initiative is being led by D&I, reach out to your learning and development colleagues.  Look for every opportunity to collaborate and integrate. If inclusion is our goal, then we can’t overlook or ignore opportunities to embed and integrate D&I into everything that we do!

Don’t underestimate the value of your business systems partners – not only can they help you identify technological trends, but they can also help you look for opportunities to integrate performance support into the tools and systems your workforce uses daily.  For example, how might we integrate bias mitigation tips and strategies into our online performance management tool before the data is submitted and performance conversations are held?

An effective learning ecosystem provides the environment in which learning is accessible (user-friendly and available at learners’ fingertips), retainable (reinforced through on-the-job application), and sustainable (resources are provided to support learning application).

If you’re interested in learning more about how we built an effective learning ecosystem in our new eLearning program, Invisible Influencers, join me for a web seminar on April 9th at 2pm ET by clicking the button below.


Shayne Bauer-Ellsworth is a Solutions Architect with Cook Ross. She engages with internal and external clients at all levels to develop and execute holistic and systemic solutions that serve to engage, retain, and inspire talent.