Inclusion has often been discussed in the workplace scenario with a hiring lens, from a diversity perspective, and steadily is being brought into workplace practices and policies as well. While the progress is slow and steady and is cascading across different segments of an employee’s journey in an organization, one segment that is yet to witness an adequate infusion of inclusion is learning.
As crucial as inclusion is as a culture, it isn’t just conversations and employee headcount that are to be factored in when speaking of an inclusive culture, rather every process and way of working as well, be it infrastructure, technology, or be it weaving the fabric of learning spaces with inclusivity. But what is inclusive learning?
According to a leading UK-Based university, “Inclusive learning and teaching recognizes the entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers a variety of learning needs and preferences.”
With skilling being at the core of the journey into the future of work, organizations have a great opportunity today to recognize that skilling and inclusion aren’t isolated goals. In fact by incorporating inclusivity in their learning systems,organizations will be in a position to equip their diverse workforce with the right tools to ensure they move forward together. Here’s how.
Acknowledging and accommodating different learning styles and preferences
There are seven basic learning styles that are globally acknowledged, namely - visual (spatial), oral (auditory), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social, (interpersonal), and solitary (intrapersonal) learner.
While learning curriculums endeavor to cover these basics, what they often miss out on is being inclusive of some other basics within the curriculum and delivery, such as using gender-neutral pronouns, being non-discriminatory in language, in the mode of communication (for instance, having multi-lingual captions to ensure accessibility across regions), and many such finer nuances that make learning accessible, legible and effective for those at the receiving end. Such efforts showcase the intention to encourage and scale inclusive learning.
Encourage respectful confrontation not conflict
Where there is learning there are questions, where there are questions there are responses, which are often born out of individual perception and experiences, more often than not contradictory to another opinion. In such circumstances, especially within a learning atmosphere, it is crucial to encourage open discussions to respectfully break preconceived notions and also instil a culture that’s accepting of differences, or in other words agreeing to disagree. Creating awareness is the focus here, not agreement.
When creating the course content, it is important to provide a safe space for individuals from different backgrounds, instead of making any one, especially minorities feel discriminated against.
The learning ecosystem must be respectful of differences, while encouraging open dialogue to break and myths and stereotypes and enable each and everyone to be more receptive and understanding of those different from them.
“Leaders play a critical role in creating this awareness by calling out employee experiences of sexist behavior, discriminatory jokes or exclusionary behaviors, and then using these moments to encourage both individual and collective learning,” noted Michelle P. King, Director of Inclusion, Netflix, in an article on inclusion being a practice. She also emphasized that it’s important to note that not all employees will feel comfortable sharing their experiences or missteps, “which is why it is so important for leaders to establish psychological safety by approaching these moments as opportunities to learn rather than to blame. This starts with leaders sharing their own mistakes and lessons learned.”
Weaving in inclusivity through inclusion of diverse instructors
We don’t just need conversations on diversity, we need a wider ecosystem that makes it a reality. How? By ensuring that the courses and learning spaces your employee base is exposed to is one that includes a set of diverse instructors. This requires a well-thought approach and careful selection. In the long term, it goes to show how diversity and inclusion is not a mere agenda, rather a way of living and reinforcing through partnerships and opportunities that employees are exposed to.
A learning experience that stimulates collaboration
Learning inclusivity helps develop a sense of sensitivity as the human mind is already in a mode of being receptive to new theories and ideologies.
Learning when delivered with inclusivity helps strengthen the foundation of inclusion at the very core, and bolsters an individual’s ability of acceptance of diverse groups or perspectives.
In a blog post a few years ago, industry expert Josh Bersin stated that diversity strategies not only improve representation and fairness as an employer but also open up the organization to respect the strengths, ideas and passions of every employee at every level. “What company wouldn’t want to unlock that incredible well of energy among its workforce? Our role in L&D is to help lead this charge. Take some time to think and learn about diversity, inclusion, fairness and unconscious bias in your own programs — you’ll discover that your role as a learning leader is more important than ever.”
Content, delivery and experience have the potential to create a long-lasting impact on the human mind. Through an impactful and meaningful learning experience individuals can develop an aptitude for inclusion, thereby ensuring all organizational efforts to achieve inclusion are responded to more effectively, and parallelly the learning agenda is also achieved with wholesome learning experiences for each and everyone.