Whether you’re a learning and development practitioner or leading your organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, you should be asking the question: How inclusive is my learning strategy? Education and training are foundational to many of the interventions we employ to create and sustain inclusive environments.
The effectiveness of diversity and inclusion (D&I) training has been put into question recently. We know that D&I training is an important step to creating sustainable inclusive environments, but it can’t be used as the sole method to improve D&I in your organization. Embedding D&I training into a learning ecosystem focused on retaining and sustaining new knowledge, skills, and attitudes will provide a more agile approach to your inclusion initiatives.
The fundamentals of how, when, and where we learn have changed dramatically in recent years. In many aspects of our personal lives, we are faced with a myriad of new learning tools (YouTube tutorials, for example). And yet, those of us tasked with designing and implementing D&I learning initiatives are reluctant to apply these new tools. Learning takes place over time, needs to be reinforced using different modalities, and requires opportunities for application, feedback, and long-term performance support.
An inclusive and effective learning ecosystem:
- Embraces digital and social learning
- Focuses on, and empathizes with, end users
- Delivers a personalized learning offer
- Facilitates and supports learning communities on and offline
- Is outcome focused and supports performance
Learning ecosystems 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 – 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 what tools, content, courses, or resources will be well utilized. Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day! Effective ecosystems can be both simple and complex.
2 – 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?
3 – 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.
4 – 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?
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 applications).