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July 6, 2020

How an LMS Can Foster Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

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Business leaders should already know the benefits of workplace diversity and inclusion. Besides it simply being the morally correct move, researchers have been highlighting the financial advantages of diverse workplaces for years. Back in 2015, McKinsey & Company published a report that found, "companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians." Moreover, a Harvard Business Review study showed companies with above-average diversity have higher innovation revenues.

Poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou explained, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." The time for simply knowing better is over. Company leaders need to be strategic, compassionate and action-minded to actually foster workplace racial diversity.

Tools for change

Many company leaders have good intentions for creating diverse and inclusive work environments, but progress falters during execution. Companies seriously committed to improving racial representation need robust tools, paired with empathetic leadership, to create lasting organizational change.

We don't pretend to be scholars of the systematic racism that has held Black people and other minorities back in the business world. But knowledge is power, and we know establishing a culture of learning and understanding is one of the most impactful solutions you can provide. We are the experts at empowering organizations to turn their initiatives into reality through learning. Companies looking to truly create change can tap a robust learning management system (LMS) to break down the barriers to achieving workplace equality. Here's how:

Recruit people of color

Common issue: Hiring managers and recruiters are failing to expand their networks and tap minority talent. In fact, researchers at University of Wisconsin conducted a study that found "Black-sounding names" received about a 14% lower callback rate than otherwise identical job applicants with "White-sounding names." And even if internal hiring managers are following specific guidelines aimed at finding diverse talent and avoiding discrimination, outsourced recruiters might not follow the same standards.

LMS use case: Train your hiring managers and recruiters to recognize unconscious bias. Then teach them how to reduce unconscious bias during the hiring process and beyond. Show them how to look for untapped talent, such as attending career fairs at historically Black colleges and universities or starting an internship program within the Latinx community.

Then store all this training, including related resources such as infographics, recorded presentations from diversity consultants and cultural sensitivity courses, inside the LMS. This will ensure your internal HR team and outsourced recruiters have access to the same training and expectations. Consistency is key here. Deliver the same impactful training to anyone who will hire on behalf of your company right now and in the future.

Nurture minority career paths

Common issue: Minorities are especially underrepresented in leadership roles at work. Black CEOs make up just 1% of the Fortune 500, even though 13.4% of the U.S. population identifies as Black or African-American, according to the most current data from the U.S. census. If people of color can't fill more leadership roles, top-down change becomes even more difficult.

LMS use case: Create a personalized learning path in your LMS as soon as a person of color joins your team. Companies need to show they value the presence of minorities and there's no better way to do that than supporting career growth. Learning paths can be especially useful to nurture and retain minority interns or entry-level workers.

Don't reserve learning paths exclusively for people of color. In fact, creating learning paths for all employees illustrates what objectives anyone needs to achieve before taking on new responsibilities or earning a promotion. Clarifying this process can reduce the chance of favoritism or requiring minorities to achieve additional objectives just to receive a promotion.

Create an environment for collaborative learning   

Common issue: Companies need to communicate the importance of racial diversity to their employees, partners and customers, but lecture-style training doesn't foster the open dialog needed for these situations. Moreover, some of your minority employees might want to share their thoughts and experiences, but haven't found a safe space within your organization to do so.

LMS use case: Utilize your LMS to foster a positive collaborative learning environment. This is an informal style of learning where participants gain knowledge from each other, work together to solve problems and actively try to understand new concepts, instead of reciting facts.  

LMS features, like forums and comment sections, empower people to virtually share their thoughts and ideas before, during and after training. The virtual component is especially useful for facilitating collaborative learning among a distributed workforce. LMS administrators can even monitor dialog to ensure it's constructive and respectful. Administrators can also create and deliver polls through the LMS, so learners can anonymously answer surveys. Create surveys to gauge if your workers or partners feel included, represented and valued. Then act on those findings.

Measure diversity training initiatives

Common issue: Just because diversity training and resources are available, doesn't mean employees and partners use them. Some companies offer cultural sensitivity and other related trainings, but don't have insights into which learners completed training and which learning materials proved most effective.  

LMS use case: Leveraging an LMS with robust analytics and automation can further empower your cause. LMS administrators can view course completion rates and set up automatic reminders for any learner who hasn't completed training. Plus, administrators can see which diversity courses learners found more useful and create related resources. They can also use learning data to identify knowledge gaps. Just like any business initiative, your diversity training efforts need to be actionable and measurable.

The bottom line

Business leaders need to be deliberate and strategic if companies are ever going to improve racial representation in the workplace. The responsibility to educate your workforce on diversity and inclusion shouldn't fall on minority shoulders, but you should give them the space and opportunities to be heard. We have to do better. We have to be better. The good news: with current resources and tools, progress has never been more possible.

Discover more ways to leverage learning technology and inspire workplace change. Connect with an Absorb representative to take the next step.