Is technology a double-edged sword for inclusion?
Article by Nic Girvan, global head of digital training at PDT Global – which provides diversity and inclusion training for large multinationals around the world.
We all recognise that there is an inclusive way to behave, a need to keep our assumptions in check – and that engaging with difference could be the key to unlocking excellence. Intellectually (whilst consciously focused) we’re OK – but instinctively (when our autopilot kicks in) our subconscious may be impairing our good intentions before we even thought about having them.
With such business importance placed on the need for inclusion and belonging in the workplace, one has to ask – can inclusion training really be the answer to changing culture and creating inclusive working environments?
It can – but not in the style you would expect.
I guess it couldn’t sound more incongruent to suggest that in order to improve human behaviour we turn to technology; and yet that is exactly what organisations should do. In order to shape that behavioural change, we need digital solutions that support participants both intellectually and instinctively.
Because, let’s not kid ourselves, even if staff buy into the value of inclusion training, helping them break free from the ever-demanding day job for an eight-hour training event isn’t easy. When you add in remote workers, diary juggling for a training session could be a logistical nightmare. But it doesn’t need to be when digital learning is embraced.
Digital learning turns your PC, laptop, or smart device into your classroom. It can be accessed when you need it, where you need it. It can be started and stopped as your diary allows; it can be revisited, replayed, and accessed in whatever language you require it to be. In short, digital learning means you can drive inclusion development globally and at scale – for 40-60% less employee time than a traditional classroom setting.
Let’s say you have just been placed on a project with a colleague you struggle to work with. Sure, an expertly facilitated class around how to like more people would be a great support… in six weeks’ time. But right here, right now, a short introspective microlearning experience around inclusive team working would give you the headspace to devise a plan of action to get the best out of your colleague and yourself – now. Research shows that, when compared with classroom training, microlearning is 17% more efficient when it comes to knowledge transfer and 50% more retainable than its classroom counterpart?
Thanks to a combination of andragogy (the art of teaching adults) and psychology (the workings of the mind), digital learning can provide that pause moment to slow down our internal saboteur and kick-start our more deliberate thought. This can be done through digital nudge theory.
It’s coming up to the performance review season. As you click on to the portal that holds the company appraisal templates, a 30-second video begins to play, highlighting key unconscious biases that may be influencing your thoughts as you prepare your feedback.
Organisations already embracing digital nudges have found that employees have become so conditioned to expect these inclusive reminders that, even when they aren’t there, the individual begins questioning their own inclusive practice. That’s how digital training assists your instincts and brings about behavioural change.
Technology has achieved things we never thought possible, and digital has the same unlimited potential for corporate inclusion development. But therein could lie the problem.
It’s not just training that is going digital – organisations are facing digital disruption on all fronts. The traditional ways of doing things are changing like never before. Digital specialists are springing up everywhere.
Problem solved then – just go and hire some of these new digital specialists. But if your organisation doesn’t have an inclusive environment, it’s not that simple. What tends to happen in ‘traditional’ organisations is that these new digital experts are put behind a figurative glass wall, thrown a few cushions and hammocks, and left to get on with whatever it is they do (which the rest of the company is probably not too sure about). Sometimes these technology gurus are even given their own floor. But think it through…
If your digital experts don’t get to see and understand what’s going on in the wider organisation – and the wider organisation isn’t learning from them, or not even seeing that it needs to learn from them – then what do you think is going to happen when a new piece of technology is integrated into the business?
Chances are, that new technology that has cost tens of thousands of pounds is not going to work correctly first time. Even if it works, the rest of the organisation is unlikely to use it to its full potential if managers and their teams don’t really understand it – and if the digital specialists don’t have a clear picture of how everyone else works.
Embracing technology is one thing. But don’t forget the people.