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How to create a D&I learning journey that will change behaviours


For many years, the implementation of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) training in the workplace has been a prominent factor in business success. However, since 2020, it has taken centre-stage at the forefront of social consciousness, and the efforts to build a more inclusive workplace gained momentum.

The data shows this trend, with 64% of L&D professionals globally, and 73% in America, reporting that D&I programmes, focused on fostering inclusive behaviors, are a priority for 2021.

A focus on D&I improves an organisation’s brand and creates a safe and open community for its employees. It also makes an organisation over 20% more likely to be recognised as an industry leader with high-level talent, and 12% more likely to be seen as an inclusive workplace for people of diverse backgrounds.

However, while these statistics show the importance of D&I and the benefits diversity and inclusion efforts can bring, there are still many crucial considerations before deciding on what kind of diversity and inclusion training a company wants to implement. How do we turn statistics into real action? How can D&I content leverage lasting behavioural change and contribute to creating a more inclusive workplace?

At Sponge and Skill Pill, our experience producing D&I learning content has provided us with insights into driving real behavioural change. It has also allowed us to reflect on the key factors that support engagement and change behaviours.

Creating relevance and context for D&I training that will change behaviours

At the heart of digital learning is creating relevance and context. Learners need to understand the importance of content, and how it applies to them and the wider organisation.

This is especially important when thinking about creating impactful D&I training. An easy solution, is to apply traditional compliance methods, to cover legal obligations and basic D&I principles. Yet this inevitably leads to D&I becoming a box-ticking exercise that allows organisations to superficially state that their employees have been ‘trained’, and then close the box on D&I, instead of enabling them to truly create an inclusive culture.

A traditional learning programme might be straightforward and easy to apply, but it will not lead to any lasting behavioural change. To achieve a shift in diversity and inclusion behaviours, elearning needs to provide relevant and applicable learning content.

It is useful for employees to understand concepts such as intersectionality, inclusivity, allyship, micro-aggressions and much more. However, if these are to be actively applied, then employees need to understand why they are relevant. It is the "why" which will help them nourish the sense of belonging.

Therefore, the role of a comprehensive learning programme should be the embedding of these important ideas into a workplace context. This can be achieved by the active engagement of employees, and the inclusion of lived experiences in the training. Employees are far more likely to understand terms such as ‘micro-aggressions’, if they understand how this affects others, how it might occur in the workplace, and how it can be identified and prevented, allowing them to change their own behaviours accordingly.

Anchoring Diversity and Inclusion training in real situations and contexts, allows learners to understand how it applies to themselves, their colleagues, and the wider organisation. This is the first step in creating lasting behavioural changes.

Focus on collaboration

As we try to anchor learning in real contexts, it is important to remember that, at its core, D&I allows individuals to better understand the experiences of others. D&I cannot be taught in a bubble, it must endeavour to make learning a collaborative exercise, champion open discussion and create a safe environment to discuss ideas and experiences.

At Skill Pill, our traditional methods had learners engaging with content independently, an approach which is not entirely beneficial for D&I. To combat this, we introduced our Collaborative Tool, allowing for learning to become a group-based experience. Learning could be consumed communally and virtually, and has become hugely popular given the current global situation.

Working groups and open forums can also anchor learning in real contexts, allowing employees to explain their lived experiences and their thoughts on D&I. Here, it is paramount that learners feel safe and open to express their thoughts, experiences and how D&I relates to them. Crucially, this also needs to include all levels of an organisation. D&I must be a topic that management and leadership actively want to champion.

Creating a collaborative and communal approach to D&I and reflecting on its importance to all employees, is a crucial step in embedding lasting behavioural change.

Joining the dots - create a connected journey

Finally, D&I programmes must focus on the entire learning journey. The content must be connected throughout, if it is to create a culture where talent is valued.

It is important that learners understand how content interrelates and flows. Topics such as neurodiversity, nudge theory, allyship and sponsorship are all important, but they should not be viewed as standalone lessons. Instead, they should fit into a larger journey which allows employees to see the relationship between the topics, and how they interconnect with one another.

For D&I programmes to create lasting behavioural change, learners need to understand the importance of the topics to themselves, other employees and the wider organisation. Employees need to feel comfortable enough to discuss and share experiences, and allow their co-workers to fully understand the significance of these experiences, and the role D&I plays in them.

Finally, learners need to view D&I in its wider context. They must understand how all the topics and ideas interrelate and come together to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. The combination of these factors can achieve full engagement and lasting change.

At Sponge and Skill Pill, we create lasting learning campaigns that support you on your entire D&I journey. With more than 15 years of expertise in delivering learning experiences that embed skills and change behaviours, we are a true partner to global businesses and multinational organisations.