Creating An Inclusive Workplace Learning Culture

In today’s competitive and very tight job market employee expectations of employers are shifting forcing organizations to do everything they can to attract and retain top talent. Some studies have concluded that the reasons employees are transitioning to new jobs include the expectations of better wages, benefits, career advancement, and flexibility.

When we talk about “better benefits” we immediately think of things like 401ks, medical and dental insurance, family leave, and even help with childcare and eldercare. But there’s another expectation we don’t talk about as much and that’s the opportunity for continuous learning and professional development (PD) programs as they are an important component of DEI

By the Numbers

Consider this, a 2018 survey by LinkedIn found that 94 percent of global workers said they would remain with their employers for longer periods if the organization invested in professional development and learning. 

In 2019, Forbes Magazine found that 87 percent of Millennials considered professional development programs very important. Additionally, they found that a mere 30 percent of employees were satisfied with existing professional development programs; while 70 percent of high performers lacked certain skills important to career progression—most notably in “soft skills.”

In 2022, the most in-demand soft skills employers seek include things like communications, adaptability, problem-solving, and creativity to name just a few. This presents both an opportunity and challenge for employers and as they address learning and PD they have to ensure that programs are continuous and robust. They also have to be inclusive in the design of these programs and initiatives. 

Ensuring Inclusivity In PD

There are myriad ways to design and implement PD programs and establish a continuous learning environment in the workplace. Programs should be structured in such a way that they are accessible to all employees, not just select high performers, and start from the onboarding process and continue through the employee’s entire career arc. It should also be stressed by recruiters to attract talent. Additionally, employers may also offer tuition reimbursement programs for employees seeking to upskill in areas prioritized by employers. 

As employers implement learning programs they should consider the learning modalities for different types of learners within the organization, and be sure to make accommodations for those differences. We all have different learning styles. Some prefer lectures, others prefer self-guided lessons, and some prefer crowd-sourced learning that allows people to develop and deliver content to others via knowledge-sharing platforms. 

There are webinars, on-demand platforms, and of course traditional classroom options for different learning styles. One good tip for program design is to have content reviewed and evaluated by the diversity, equity, and inclusion team for input and feedback. Workplace learning only really pays off if it is equitable and inclusive in design as the goal for high degrees of engagement and positive and measurable outcomes. 

And finally, it’s important to measure the impact of learning by creating meaningful and transparent feedback loops so learners can express their degrees of satisfaction with the programs, while also allowing that feedback to inform current or future learning design. Employers who provide truly inclusive learning and PD opportunities stand to win the future and thrive during the war for talent among companies and organizations. Those that don’t will have a very difficult time both attracting and retaining top talent in this increasingly tight global job market.