For many business leaders, it’s a challenge to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are considered and consistent across all business activities. Ultimately, it’s important for all departments to feel like they are making a difference and to understand that they can make an impact. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal but moving forward should be.
The Learning & Development team can lead the creation of an authentic DEI culture in your organization by ensuring DEI-thinking is carefully woven throughout learning experiences and content. When DEI is your priority your teams will feel more welcomed, included and listened to, which in turn will boost engagement and lead to more successful learning experiences.
As an L&D team, you play a critical role in how you tell stories, showcase inclusivity and keep a check on potential bias. It’s important to acknowledge the influence that your L&D team has and to carefully consider how L&D colleagues can bridge gaps across your organization.
What are the main things we should be considering when building inclusive learning programs?
1. Is accessibility always being considered?
Considering your learners’ accessibility needs is crucial to ensure equity because each learner will have individual needs. When we accommodate those individual needs so all learners can access the learning, we create equity. Learners may have accessibility needs for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, disability, illness or accident, and neurodivergence.
Some learners may not consider themselves to have a disability, but will have certain limitations that affect their experience. Many learning and development teams follow The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to remove many of the barriers that people with accessibility needs face when navigating digital learning. Some questions from WCAG you might consider:
- Is this course accessible without the use of a mouse?
- Are captions provided for audio content?
- Is there a proper heading level structure for screen reader navigation?
Your organization may also have their own DEI guidelines and all materials should be designed with these in mind. We can support you with this if you feel this is an area that you need to nurture or improve.
2. Are we representing all people?
Everyone should see themselves in the learning. So it’s important to share a variety of perspectives, images, and people throughout the learning experience. We must consider the audience in two ways; we are educating the learner on the topic they’re taking the course for and exposing them to stories, names, faces and cultures they may not be as familiar with in their daily/working lives.
Some questions you might consider:
- Are you ensuring that your stories are truly reflective of your staff’s lived experiences?
- Are you authentically showcasing diversity? This might be through the content, photos, videos or graphics.
- Are your stories teaching your audience as well as showcasing diversity?
3. Is the imagery used inclusive?
It is not enough to just include representative imagery. Images should help challenge stereotypes. Many learners are visual learners and we can’t just rely on language and/or conversations to enhance our DEI culture.
- Is the imagery truly reflective of your diverse internal audience and external customer base?
- Are there ways you can consciously improve the range of imagery?
We understand that purchasing images or hosting photoshoots can be challenging when budgets are tight. We encourage you to look out for free resources or rely on carefully shot smartphone photography when you can. There are many charities and organizations offering up free image libraries to support DEI-conscious organizations. For example, The Centre of Ageing Better has a free ‘Age-positive image library’ with some truly great images.
4. Is there any accidental use of bias or stereotypes?
When you review and replenish your learning content it’s important to be mindful of unconscious bias. Best practice is to bring in a diverse set of reviewers to review your learning experience and content with a DEI-lens.
- Have you included stereotypes of certain groups without realizing?
- Are you using outdated terms of reference?
- Have you used fair, inclusive and simple language?
We encourage you to get a second opinion or ask other team members if you’re unsure.
5. Have the right people been consulted?
With any learning experience and learning content, we'd make sure the relevant subject matter experts (SMEs) and members of the learner audience are involved in the design. It’s important too to consult a range of people to ensure the content is relevant to a diverse audience. This is essential for inclusivity so that you don’t create content with just one audience in mind.
There are many other important factors to consider when creating an inclusive learning program. There will always be long-term and short-term goals, but it’s important to remember that every little step or action makes a big difference.
If you'd like chat about how your L&D team can create more inclusive learning, get in touch with the team today.
How L&D Can Build Inclusive Learning Programs (Harvard Business)
Using The Privilege Of Power For Inclusive Learning Design (Kineo, eLearning Industry)
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