Now more than ever, people from all walks of life are coming together in the workplace as employees, businesses, and customers cross borders. Globalization and technology has made the world a smaller place in some ways, more connected if you like, and that is bringing different ideas, attitudes, beliefs, and cultures into workplaces around the world.
As I reflect on my own career, I feel lucky that it has taken me many places — across continents, cultures, and industries. I have benefited personally and professionally from exposure to such a diverse and rich mix of backgrounds, people, and business practices, bringing that experience and a global growth mindset into each organization I’ve worked with.
But uniting people from disparate backgrounds, ethnicities, creed, or orientation can present some challenges. Equally, as businesses expand into new markets and customer segments, expand operations outside of their headquarters, and suppliers are located across time zones, a lack of cultural understanding can cause confusion, trigger unconscious bias, or create unintended tension. However, progressive organizations are taking steps to institutionalize diversity as part of their corporate culture by embracing the broad set of skills, ideas, and ideologies to innovate.
In this post, I will look at why corporate and learning leaders should care about diversity and inclusion (D&I) and how to practically implement a cultural diversity education program using microlearning.
The Evolution of Workplace Diversity and Why It Matters
As our partner Culture Coach points out, the concept of diversity has continually evolved over the last couple decades, originally focusing primarily on race and later expanding to include women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. Today, it’s been broadened to include physical characteristics, family backgrounds, military status, and more. On a simplified level, workplace diversity doesn’t have a specific label and should not just be seen as a risk mitigation exercise. It is more about embracing our uniqueness and that we can all come together to work cohesively and effectively while servicing the needs of our diverse customers.
Beyond the scope of recognizing diversity exists and how it is defined, finding a way to embrace and educate employees is top of mind for HR leaders and training departments. And those who have implemented D&I training programs have seen far-reaching benefits. Take EY, for example, the first of the Big Four to assign partner-level leadership to diversity recruiting. Since the change, the number of women in executive positions has increased more than 20%, and programs such as EY Launch have begun, which encourages ethnically diverse college students to pursue careers in accounting. They believe “this minimizes blind spots, and encourage truly innovative thinking.”
According to the management consulting company McKinsey, “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” This shows that incorporating more diversity within a workforce can have a massive impact on a corporation’s functionality, and that maximizing differences of opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds can lead to profound success.
More evidence comes from a Boston Consulting Group study finding that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to the innovation those teams drive.
How D&I Is Nurtured in the Workplace
There is no question that a culture of diversity and inclusion starts internally from the top down. If corporate leadership truly embraces diversity, they will see business benefits in leveraging unique talents to innovate, whether that product, customer, or operational innovation.
Typically organizations set HR or the learning function to the task of implementing D&I training, which is often rolled out in a one-off classroom setting, as an eLearning module that embodies content on cultural sensitivity awareness. These programs aim to educate employees how to not only accept each others’ differences, but to use them as a way to create more meaningful work. Yet, as one-offs and often theory-based, it is hard to imagine this alone will create the mindset shift to change behaviors.
Fundamental behavior change will only come from a continuous learning program that may need a blended approach to successfully instill these values into its employees:
- Mandatory training
- Diversification at the leadership level
- Continuous communication
- Job-specific education
And this is where microlearning comes in.
Microlearning as an Enabler of Your D&I Strategy
Best-practice microlearning is a learning and development strategy that breaks down often complex training content into bite-size, scenario-based challenges and relies on repetitive delivery and testing to improve long-term knowledge retention and change employee behaviors.
Touching on verbal vs. non-verbal communication, cultural understanding, and listening in the format of job-related, challenge-based Q&A scenarios, microlearning stimulates critical thinking about how to best respond or behave in a particular situation. Plus, by keeping training engaging, interactive, and in the flow of work, employees are more likely to participate, which helps them retain information and apply it when presented with a cognitively related situation. This scenario-based approach is well suited to implementing D&I education programs as it supports meaningful behavior change.
How Qstream Can Help
At Qstream we understand that affecting behavior change within an organization can be a difficult task. People are who they are, and it’s difficult to change habits and mindsets. This can be a huge obstacle when trying to revamp company culture and encourage inclusion and acceptance.
Working with our partner, Culture Coach International, or your internal teams, Qstream’s mobile microlearning solution can reinforce a broad range of evolving D&I topics, including diversity terminology, race/gender/disability awareness, the impact of unconscious bias, communication within teams and across cultures, and working on diverse teams.
Contact us today to learn how Qstream can help your organization implement D&I training and reach its full potential.