In a world where providing learning opportunities is the No. 1 strategy organizations use to increase retention, the case for learning and development (L&D) has never been stronger. It is also vital to offer diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs as a part of your training offerings to truly build a culture of belonging for your employees. Providing learning opportunities is critical for attracting and retaining top talent. One of the most vital steps in embedding DEI into your workplace is developing actionable and meaningful learning journeys.

What Makes a Learning Journey Effective?

Let’s define what a learning journey is and what it isn’t. Learning journeys combine conventional and casual training offerings to upskill on current and new skills centered around professional development. They are not one-off moments where employees participate in training and never return to the material. Effective journeys provide learning that continuously drips out to maximize retention and boost engagement. Learning journeys are also not a “free for all” in which employees access their learning management system (LMS) and are unsure of where to start. Learning journeys must be carefully curated to align with organizational and employee goals.

Effective learning journeys are not just about the “what,” but also about the “how.” We know that people have a lot on their plates, and the ability to carve out hours of the day is limited. By providing employees with self-directed learning, you grant them the autonomy to learn when it works for them, increasing the likelihood that they’ll keep going. Effective learning is also versatile — providing employees with content that includes videos, articles, knowledge checks and even games can help decrease the effects of the “forgetting curve” and increase the application of the material. After all — why invest in a learning program if your employees don’t want to use it?

What Is the Role of L&D in DEI?

Learning is an inseparable part of high performing, engaged workplace cultures. Employees constantly seek opportunities to grow themselves and their careers and rank the lack of development opportunities as a top reason for leaving their jobs. With personal development heavily influencing employee satisfaction, L&D must be at the forefront of your organization’s DEI strategy. One of the most effective ways to embed DEI throughout your workplace is to consider the wide range of themes that promote cultures of belonging and inclusion. This approach can help minimize the impact of DEI fatigue on influencing learner engagement. From more “obvious” topics like allyship, interrupting bias and how to use pronouns to skills such as active listening, inclusive feedback and empathy, the potential to weave DEI into your L&D program is endless.

An additional approach to embedding DEI learning is to include it within performance reviews. By making DEI a mandatory part of career development, you communicate that DEI is a non-negotiable part of your organization’s culture and that employees at all levels can become more inclusive. By offering employees multiple avenues for reaching these DEI goals, such as microlearning, ERG participation, or workshops, your learning ecosystem is more likely to see active engagement and encourage employees to commit to ongoing learning opportunities.

How Can Learning Journeys Enhance DEI Efforts?

One of the biggest takeaways that 2020 brought to the workplace is that DEI can no longer be a separate piece or a “check-the-box” exercise in improving workplace culture. For organizations to thrive and be employers of choice, they must integrate DEI into everything they do. One of the best ways to transform your culture is to make learning a top priority. Because L&D is in the thick of learning every single day, they may have a false sense of where the rest of their organization is on their DEI journey. As much as we’d like to think our company doesn’t have a DEI problem, most organizations have a bell curve of employees that range from either being fatigued or reluctant about DEI to being true champions of inclusion. As such, your organization must reach and engage both sides. By creating learning journeys segmented as foundational, intermediate and advanced, your employees can begin a pathway aligned with where they are, making the learning more impactful and stickier.

L&D has an immense responsibility — preparing employees for today and tomorrow’s workplace. While this task can be daunting, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Having a direct impact on your company culture is one of the most tangible benefits of prioritizing this work. The most innovative companies are those that understand where their skill gaps are and curate the resources to help fill those holes. People want to work for organizations where they feel connected to the culture and can see a path for continual growth and opportunities. Learning — and especially achieving your DEI goals — is a lifelong endeavor, and it can take several iterations before we get it right. With an effective L&D strategy in place, you can arm your employees with the tools to take your organization to the next level.

To learn more about how L&D can improve your company culture, check out this free guide, “Why L&D is the Key to Achieving Your Company Culture Goals.”