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ATD Blog

Diversity in Learning: 4 Tips for Building an Inclusive L&D Culture

Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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How we learn tells us a lot about who we are. Now, with organizations everywhere making greater efforts to build diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments where everyone feels valued, it’s time for L&D teams to examine how their learning culture supports these goals.

In this roundup post, we’ve collected 4 tips from trendsetters for building an inclusive L&D culture and supporting diversity goals through learning.

1. Bryan Cave: Nurture the Next Generation of Leaders

For Kelli Dunaway, director of L&D at law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, L&D plays a crucial role in nurturing the next generation of leaders.

“Right now, our L&D team is partnering with our inclusion and diversity teams on our leader sponsorship program. This is really special, and really powerful.”

“This is a 12-month program in which we pair high-performing lawyers of color, LGBTQ lawyers, and women lawyers with some powerful rainmakers within the firm. We then host monthly training sessions and help them to build the business case for why they should make partner.”

“We’ve had some great results through this program, and it’s been a real game-changer.”

2. Toppers Pizza: Harness the Power of Collective Storytelling

Joe Dunlap, director of L&D at Toppers Pizza, has a clear strategy for supporting diversity goals through L&D: Tell great stories together.

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“Our diversity and inclusion strategy is about engaging our entire workforce to share their stories. When people hear about the struggles or challenges one of their peers is going through, based on their race, their age, whatever this may be, that’s a personal experience for them.”

“We’re encouraging people to share their stories so that we can all grow as an organization. This seems to resonate more with people, because they can see that they’re working with people who have been through a real variety of experiences.”

3. ASPS: Don’t Shy Away From Uncomfortable Discussions

Some DE&I discussions can make people a little uncomfortable. But for Cassandra Lux, director of education at ASPS, L&D teams have a key role to play in facilitating important discussions—even when things get a little awkward.

“Internally at ASPS, we have our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion taskforce, which is focused on honest dialogue and conversation. With our podcast series, we’ve also released a season on diversity and inclusion, including an episode focusing on how to be an ally in the workplace.”

“We heard from our leaders about their career experiences, which involved some raw and frank discussions. These aren’t always comfortable discussions to have, but they’re crucial. We want to continue our efforts to focus on this area, because it’s something I’m really proud of.”

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4. WEX: Recognize the Power of Names

Reflecting your DEI commitments in your learning materials means re-examining your basic assumptions. For Jess Almlie, vice president of learning experience at WEX (benefits division), this means recognizing the power of names.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to reflect our commitment to DE&I goals in some shape or form. So, we’ve tried to have regular conversations within our team about what that looks like, especially in our learning resources.”

"One specific example is—when we are creating external or internal training, and we’re telling stories involving people—we’re making sure the names we use are names that could be used in different parts of the world, not just names that come traditionally from our Upper Midwestern United States roots. That’s been a shift for some of our folks.”

“It’s a little thing, but it helps us to open our eyes a little bit more.”

Implement These Tips Today

L&D teams have an increasingly important role to play when it comes to supporting DE&I goals. We hope these four expert tips help you build a more-inclusive L&D culture at your workplace.

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