Why inclusion in training is vital

Joanne Lockwood argues that inclusion and training is a business necessity and that L&D must ensure it meets the needs of all learners

The professional landscape is constantly evolving, and businesses are now sourcing talent from all corners of the globe. To thrive in such a diverse environment, it’s vital for organisations to give equal weight to both training and inclusion, yet many are grappling with the challenge of melding these two crucial elements, resulting in missed opportunities and diminished productivity.

Disrupting traditional thinking

There’s a pressing need to dispel certain myths about inclusion. Notably, inclusion isn’t simply about catering to a minority. It’s about reshaping the very definition of ‘normal’. A striking Workplace Insight study reveals that more than two-thirds of UK workers feel they don’t belong in their organisations highlighting the urgent call for a radical shift in training methodologies.  Moreover, inclusivity is more than a moral imperative – it’s a business one. Countering the notion that inclusive training is just a ‘tick-box’ exercise, McKinsey illustrates that companies with inclusive training practices significantly outperform their peers in profitability and performance.

Inclusion isn’t simply about catering to a minority. It’s about reshaping the very definition of ‘normal’

The advantages of inclusivity

Inclusive training programmes have grown in importance in recent years, as companies strive to establish a supportive and embracing atmosphere for employees from all occupations. By championing diversity and inclusion in training initiatives, organisations can ensure that every team member has access to essential tools and resources to excel in their role. Furthermore, inclusive training can elevate a company’s appeal in a competitive job market and is likely to attract a broader talent pool.  The long-term benefits, including bolstered productivity and reduced turnover, make this investment undeniably worthwhile. Despite the clear advantages, the path to implementing effective training and inclusion initiatives is fraught with obstacles, including limited resources and expertise.

The importance of inclusivity in training practices

The ascent of workplace diversity is clear, yet the journey towards true inclusivity in training practices remains challenging.

The concept of the ‘sticky floor’, highlights the barriers that prevent individuals, especially from marginalised backgrounds, from advancing in their careers despite having the necessary competencies. Digital transformation, whilst offering its own set of advantages, amplifies the challenge of inclusivity. Online training platforms, which were initially praised for democratising learning and providing access to a wider audience, can unintentionally marginalise diverse groups if not meticulously crafted with inclusivity at its heart.

Exclusion not only tarnishes our immediate learning experience but also impedes long-term career trajectories. Yet, the solutions can often be simple. At a recent in-person workshop, a participant named Lucy, who relied heavily on a cochlear implant and lip reading, encountered significant barriers to her learning. Throughout the day, the sheer effort of lip reading, especially when speakers didn’t directly face her or spoke simultaneously, left her feeling exhausted and left out. The facilitators adjusted their approach, they ensured that speakers faced Lucy directly and introduced regular breaks to help her refresh.

In another virtual training environment, Priya, a delegate with a back condition, needed regular intervals to stand and stretch. Initially, her actions might have seemed unusual to some, but once her needs were understood, the session was punctuated with brief breaks. This adjustment benefitted everyone, as many appreciated the respite from constant screen engagement. Both these examples highlight the importance of inclusivity in training; it’s not just about content delivery but also about recognising and accommodating diverse needs to enrich everyone’s experience.

The way forward

Here are some key takeaways for L&D:

1. Use a tailored training approach: The era of ‘one-size-fits-all’ training is behind us. Organisations need a bespoke approach, understanding the nuances of different groups. Insights, like those from CIPD can offer crucial guidance.

2. Drive forward with a feedback-driven mechanism: Inclusivity flourishes where feedback is valued. Organisations should nurture a culture where diverse group feedback is actively sought and acted upon.

3. Harness technology for inclusion: With AI and Machine Learning on the rise, personalised training modules are within reach. Pioneering companies like Accenture are harnessing technology to redefine inclusive training experiences.

As we chart our path forward, it’s essential for organisations to critically reflect on their approach to diversity, inclusion, and overall organisational culture. While achieving diversity is a significant milestone, the true endeavour lies in ensuring that every team member feels valued, acknowledged, and, most importantly, included. It’s about fostering positive people experiences, nurturing inclusive leadership, and driving culture change.

The next chapter in training and organisational development beckons us towards an authentically inclusive future. This isn’t about tokenistic representation; it’s about creating a workspace and training where every individual feels intrinsically valued. Such a forward-thinking environment will actively identify and challenge biases, extend unequivocal support to underrepresented groups, and propagate a culture grounded in mutual respect and understanding.

Joanne Lockwood, CEO at SEE Change Happen

Joanne Lockwood

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