As digitalization keeps evolving and in a manner have started taking control over the workplace, onboarding programs are moving ceaselessly from traditional data over-burden to approaches like virtual reality training, gamification, simulations, and many more ways that spread out data throughout some period. As we all know, employee onboarding is a vital process of getting new hires into the fold by providing them with all the rational training and providing with the tools which will get them ahead and be successful. Truth be told, a very much planned onboarding program has appeared to build consistency standards and increase profitability levels at a much faster pace.
At times, people misunderstand the actual meaning of gamification, it is about taking components from computer games to make an interactive, hands-on training module. An effective gamified measure comprises connecting business objectives with advancement, continuous criticism, progress following, accomplishments and rewards, and consummately timing the conveyance of data to forestall data over-burden. Probably the best illustration of gamification in regular day to day existence is the utilization of loyalty points just like how it is at any retail store. In employee onboarding training, such elements make the employees learn at a fast pace and finish the course on time with effective results.
How gamification can be implied easily, here are a few tips/points:
Virtual tour New employees have to know what the organization is about, the goals and objectives, how working takes place. Quite possibly the best approach to develop it is by exhibiting the organization’s set of experiences and culture. Employees will see the internal activities and how it’s become large in the long term and the one who feels an association with the organization is bound to stay. They will likewise be compelling brand delegates for your clients and customers, which means expanded benefits.
Quests Using gamification quests is another fabulous method to improve new employee onboarding inside the organization. The thought behind it is that they can be applied to any training aspect. Exploring from the underlying issue to sorting it out and lastly solving it whole, has its rush. This is a typical strategy used to build their commitment and retention.
Progress and rewards From the earliest starting point, any little accomplishments that employees achieve has to be rewarded. Rewarding for the completion of training doesn’t propel employees to push more earnestly during the onboarding stage. What works anyway is to reward them all through the onboarding training period so they feel valuable to the organization. And while the training is ongoing, the management can track one’s progress and evaluate based on the same.
New employee onboarding is a chance to make an extraordinary first encounter for fresh recruits and set out a guide that guarantees long haul achievement. Gamification can likewise help empower consistent learning and commitment by making the training program all the more intriguing, giving better occasions to communicate with new employees and review their performance and give feedback. The correct training program won’t just enormously improve maintenance and efficiency yet also cut down turnover costs as well.
AtIndusgeeks, we create high fidelity learning/training simulations specific to your needs and work with you to ensure that the outcome of your program is higher. Our solutions are available on desktop, mobile, tablet, and browser-based, making it accessible anywhere and everywhere. #MakeanImpact
Without face-to-face contact, it can be challenging for a trainer to engage learners. A robust virtual classroom platform has tools that effectively nurture and support engagement, giving the facilitator a variety of viable options to involve participants.
Top Considerations When Choosing Αn Enterprise Learning Solution
Discover all the criteria you need to consider for delivering effective and impactful virtual training.
The ability for a trainer to appear on a webcam and share his or her screen with viewers is basic to all virtual classroom platforms, however that can quickly become stale. True learning requires interactivity. Industry experts note that engagement is the key to effectiveness, and to engage participants, a full set of features and options is a must. To them, the platforms that stand out are those that include chat, annotation, polling, breakouts, and feedback, among other features.
A facilitator can build interactivity by having participants raise their hands, answer questions in a chat box, respond to polls, and take short quizzes. They can enable authentic communication among workers in different departments and/or geographic locations. They can foster collaboration among co-workers by assigning them to smaller breakout rooms where they can complete assignments together, and then regroup everyone to wrap up and share insights.
Top-of-the line virtual training platforms enable facilitators to more easily read “non-verbal” communication cues in a digital environment, allowing them to gauge how a session is progressing and who might need some extra attention They can leverage platform features to learn who raised their hand, how many people participated in a chat, or who added ideas on a shared whiteboard. This helps the trainer establish meaningful connection with participants, better understand their perspectives, and gain insight as to whether everyone is absorbing the training material.
Finally, a top-of-the-line virtual training solution is designed to make the trainer’s job easier. Facilitators would rather steer clear of software that presents hassles or is difficult to use. The best virtual training solutions are designed with options that streamline course presentation. One example is persistent session rooms, which allows trainers to set up their room(s) in advance. By activating this feature, they can reuse the session room each time they run that same course, which saves a lot of prep time.
Sophisticated virtual training platforms allow trainers to control the level of participant activity in their virtual classrooms. Some think this is unnecessary. They caution that disabling the chat function “because it’s distracting” is counterproductive; trainers should actually actively encourage chats and discussion.
Yet there are certainly instances when a facilitator may want or need to do so. Although chat tools are important for engagement, people sometimes use them for backchannel conversations that are not relevant. Facilitators can establish ground rules and suggest that participants use a private chat for offtopic messaging and troubleshooting, however, they may value the option of disabling group chat during certain sessions.
There are other legitimate reasons trainers might want to control participant activity in a robust virtual classroom. Network latency can create delays, and overlapping audio can make it difficult for participants to understand what is being said. A facilitator may request that participants keep their microphones muted when they are not talking, however oftentimes not everyone complies. Having the ability to systematically mute all participants can improve the audio quality of a presentation.
Barring participant activity may also be desirable when a company is delivering a large scale learning event or webinar to hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of listeners. In such cases, it can be overwhelming if everyone is engaging in separate chat conversations.
Chat and audio are not the only functions that a facilitator might want to control. Some virtual trainers might want to filter certain activities. For example: In a large virtual classroom, asking all participants to do an annotation exercise can become unwieldy. In a robust virtual classroom, the trainer could ask only those participants whose birthdays fall in the month of August, for example, to annotate their reactions on a slide.
Security And Privacy
In the early days of the pandemic, a popular online meeting platform fell victim to insidious hacking where interlopers infiltrated business meetings and took over the screen with inappropriate material. The platform addressed the problem by adding features such as password protection and waiting rooms that organizations could deploy in order to control access and refuse entry to unwelcome visitors.
Similar security and privacy considerations exist in virtual training platforms. Sensitive corporate data or planned rollouts that the company wants to keep secret could be copied or stolen during virtual training sessions. The best virtual training platforms have measures in place to protect against such disasters.
Legally and ethically, learning environments should be safe spaces. Participants must be able to speak freely and share stories without worrying about sabotage. While not all sessions require top-level security, trainers can protect their virtual classrooms from malicious intruders by making sure their platforms have state-of-the-art security and privacy features in place.
Learning Experience Platforms (LXP): How to Expand Your Knowledge … This software is where you store, deliver, and track your training content and … an outstanding eLearning platform that serves thousands of learners annually.
Moving instructor-led training online takes more than just setting up your webcam.
Virtual instructor-led training is becoming more vital than ever. However, there are ways to ensure effective online delivery and optimize engagement when converting your training from a physical space into a digital one.
Shannon Tipton teaches, consults, and helps organizations think differently about workplace learning. She is the founder of Learning Rebels, has over 15 years experience in corporate learning leadership, and specializes in converting instructor-led training from in-person to virtual environments.
Her goal is to help trainers think differently about training so you can deliver it in a way that adds business value. In this post, Shannon shares her methods and advice for how to successfully move your training online.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
What is VILT?
ILT, or instructor-led training, is typically live training conducted in a physical space where the trainer and all participants are in the same room. VILT, or virtual instructor-led training, is when this training moves into a virtual space.
Examples of VILT include digital training programs, virtual conference classes, or a webinar. In most cases, it’s where a trainer leads one united learning session with participants joining in online, from a variety of different locations.
If you’re considering moving your training online, you should think about what you’re hoping to accomplish from that training. Can you feasibly reach yours and your learners’ goals through an online training session? If you can, then what type of VILT best suits that training goal?
“A webinar and a virtual training event, for example, are very different. […] Now, if there is something that’s just knowledge based, where I’m just giving you information and I’m hoping you’re going to use that information, that becomes a webinar.”
Shannon strongly believes that most training goals can be accomplished online, but it’s up to the trainer to reconfigure the learning objectives and find a virtual space that best serves their purpose.
Finding the right VILT tools
In order to successfully facilitate online learning, trainers need to equip themselves and their students with the right tools.
Shannon reflects on the available virtual learning tools – some of which even replicate what trainers use in the physical classroom. These include breakout rooms, whiteboard software, screen sharing, collaboration space, and more, that trainers can build into their VILT.
Finding ways to incorporate these tools is how VILT becomes more effective. Without motivational and engaging ways to develop and share knowledge, learners switch off far quicker in a virtual environment. Shannon suggests that if you can’t invest in the correct tools, then shifting your training online might not be a suitable solution for your learners.
“If you don’t have access to those tools, and you’re just looking at WebEx meeting, then do not try to convert your training. Because then what happens is, you’re just, you’re just talking, and maybe you’re using the chat feature, and nothing’s going to get accomplished by that. So you have to be sure that you have the right tools in place to hit the objectives that you want to hit.”
How to successfully lead VILT
Like any training, it’s important to hook learning participants with an interesting topic or enthusiastic trainer. After all, if the trainer isn’t interested, then why would the learners be?
Shannon’s tip is to encourage conversation and interaction from the moment training starts, just like in a physical classroom. As learners enter the virtual space, they’ll be joining an already energetic group. This should help establish a greater level of interest, than if they entered to a wall of silence.
Once you’ve hooked learners, the key is to keep them engaged. This can be interpreted in two ways. The first is to be engaging as the training’s presenter.
If you’re conducting training via virtual conferencing software, then participants can see you and read your body language. So, just like you would in a physical space, it’s important that you maintain a good energy level. Shannon points out that trainers should take notice of their physical behaviors and accommodate them for the small screen.
“It’s not about being funny, or over the top with your energy, nobody’s asking you to do that. But just be aware that your mannerisms and your tone of voice and your facial expressions all need to fit on a little space.”
The second way to maintain learner’s engagement is through interactivity.
Shannon’s method to achieving this is by keeping training fast-paced. She states that something new should happen every minute, whether that’s a slide transition in PowerPoint, a screen annotation, or a tone of voice shift as you change topic.
Then every four minutes, you should ask your learners to do something. This could be leaving a comment in the chat, using the whiteboard feature, or answering a poll, for example.
Finally, there should be a larger activity every five to ten minutes. This can be anything from using breakout rooms to a mini-pop quiz.
Following a structure like this helps trainers design a course that is primed for interaction as the speed keeps learners on their toes. But it also creates a rhythm that should propel learners through the training without them losing interest.
How long should virtual training be?
This design also optimizes training courses. With a fast-paced lesson plan, there’s little room for time-wasting. Online learners have little patience for waiting around, and, unlike training in a physical space, it’s easier to cut out the less valuable moments.
This is often why virtual trainings are much shorter than in-person ones. But Shannon highlights that this is a good thing. Trainers shouldn’t be trying to convert their eight-hour-long in-person training days into an eight-hour-long online session.
“If you have to do a longer VILT program, you have to make sure that your breaks are more frequent, and that they are longer. Because, people are staring at this computer screen – you’ve got eye strain, you’ve got brain strain, you’ve got cognitive overload, [and] there’s a lot of things that are happening in the environment that we have to take into consideration. So if you are doing longer training during the course of a day, then your breaks need to be more frequent, and they have to be longer.”
The optimum time for virtual training is around 90 minutes, but Shannon believes that you can go up to two and a half hours, if you build in a long break. Her solution for those who need more comprehensive training is to break it up over several days.
How to build your own learning assets into virtual training
Learning assets like graphics can be vital to training, but Shannon notes that they must always have a purpose. Every training asset you use should align with the greater goals and learning strategy to provide value to the learner.
Shannon uses multiple channels to engage with her learners, not just virtual conferencing software, and utilizes their file sharing features. Incorporating smaller pieces of supporting content, like graphics or videos that you’ve created, can be effective learning tools for participants who prefer learning in different ways.
Sharing short videos is one of Shannon’s recommended ways of reinforcing topics and new ideas. She suggests sharing a five-minute video at the end of the training session to wrap up the main ideas. This gives people an opportunity to comment and develop their thinking further.
How to find your virtual training voice
Shannon believes that a big part of dealing with any changes to training is your mindset. Approaching challenges with a can-do attitude is a necessary step to begin solving problems and trialling what might work.
“You’ve got your growth mindset and your fixed mindset – where are you? Do you find yourself saying a lot of ‘I can’t’, ‘I shouldn’t’, ‘I won’t’, ‘they won’t let me’, and finding yourself in this negative, fixed mindset place? Sometimes it’s just a little shift. Rather than, ‘I can’t’, it’s a ‘Why not?’“
Her advice to virtual trainers is to ask for forgiveness, not permission, and persevere when the inevitable setbacks happen. With the right knowledge and tools, Shannon believes that anything is possible in the virtual environment and encourages trainers to continue adapting.
To hear more advice from learning and development professionals, or for useful resources about how to design virtual training, visit the TechSmith Academy.
As cliché as it sounds, we learn something new every day. At BizLibrary it is one of our core values to be “Smarter Every Day.”
As learning and development professionals you’ve surely already studied how adults learn, but you may be struggling to ensure the principles of adult learning theory are applied to your training through effective techniques.
This article will guide you to make practical changes to your organization’s training program based on adult learning theory.
What is Adult Learning Theory?
Adult learning (andragogy) is the practice of educating adults to develop their knowledge or skills. Adult learning theory contains five key assumptions about adult learners, and using the ideas put forth in this theory can help organizational L&D professionals create more meaningful learning experiences for employees.
Principles of Adult Learning Theory and Their Application
Malcolm Knowles, the father of adult learning theory, makes the following assumptions of how adults prefer to learn. By understanding these principles of adult learning, you can design a workplace training program that enhances the learning experience and maximizes its effectiveness.
1. Adults and Self-Concept
As a person grows older, they shift from being more dependent to independent. Therefore, the way they want to learn shifts from being instructor-led to more self-directed. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their training to fully engage with it.
Allow the individuals in your organization control over the subject matter they will be learning and how and when they access it. Use off-the-shelf content within a flexible platform, like anLXP or an LMS, to allow for exploratory learning whenever an employee can schedule time in their day.
BizLibrary features robust searching and filtering capabilities which help quickly narrow down the topic an employee is searching for to find the right video for every situation. The BizLibrary Recommendation Engine suggests content based on a learner’s assignment, recent learning activity, and profile preferences, just like your favorite TV or movie streaming services.
Another great way to incorporate the self-concept assumption is by offering a soft skills assessment to your learners. During this assessment, employees will find out which of their soft skills could use the most improvement, which allows them to be a part of the planning of their training initiative.
Take our soft skills assessment to see which soft skills you can improve, and then take it to your teams to identify their soft skill gaps.
2. Experience of Adult Learners
As a person matures, they accumulate a growing reservoir of experiences that become an increasing resource for learning. Adults gain more from training when they can pull from past experiences and validate what they’re learning based off what they already know – this adds greater context to their learning. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.
Instruction should be task-oriented instead of promoting memorization– learning activities should be in the context of common tasks to be performed by employees. They need to solve problems and use reasoning to take in new information.
At BizLibrary, before we write even one word of a new lesson, we need to know what employees DO on the job to get needed results, including knowledge and skills that allow them to perform as needed. Conducting a skills gap analysis can assist L&D professionals in determining the experience level of the employee and what kind of training they need. To produce the desired results, look for the following information:
How [job title] performance impacts desired business results.
What [job title] needs to do to impact desired business results.
What knowledge and skills does [job title] need in order to perform these tasks?
Does [employee or candidate] already possess any of the skills or knowledge needed for [job title]?
Conducting a skills gap analysis can help you to better personalize each employee’s training based on their prior experience. BizLibrary helps to address this through curated learning paths separated into beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill levels for topics such as communication, leadership and management, customer service, and performance management.
3. Adults’ Readiness to Learn
Adults become ready to learn as things arise that they need to know in the moment. Adults want to learn what they can apply right away, which makes training less effective when it’s focused on the future or unrelatable to current situations. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
Create personalized learning and development plans. It’s not always reasonable and often ineffective to make all employees follow the same learning path. These should be based upon what is most relevant to the individual or group of employees in a similar role for them to be successful. Using an online learning platform, you or your managers can create playlists that are customized to each employee’s needs.
Beyond assigned or recommended training, a curated content library like The BizLibrary Collectionwill allow employees to find training videos on specific subjects in the moment of need.
Most microlearning lessons take 10 minutes or less, so training is available at the tips of the learners’ fingers, whether they want to brush up on negotiation skills right before a big call with a potential customer, take a lesson on how to have difficult conversations with an employee, or anything in between. BizLibrary clients love the fact that our content is accessible from any type of device, at any time, for exactly these kinds of needs.
4. Adults’ Orientation to Learning
Adults’ perspectives change from procrastination to immediate application of learning as they grow. As a result, their orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem-centeredness.
Since adults prefer to self-direct their learning, training offerings should allow employees to discover and retain knowledge for themselves without depending on others. However, learners should be offered guidance and help when mistakes are made, or a solution to a problem requires others’ input and feedback.
With an online learning library containing advanced search and filtering options, learners can quickly find a lesson or course that will help them address the issue at hand. These off-the-shelf videos make it quick and easy for an employee to find the right topic, take in the information, and apply it to the problem they’re working to solve. With professionally curated video libraries, employees are able to learn in the moment and keep productivity high.
5. Motivation to Learn for Adults
Adults move from extrinsic towards intrinsic motivation as they grow and mature. Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment, while intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you. Basically, they will learn if they want to learn. They want to be able to ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” and have a satisfactory answer.
Motivating employees to high performance takes more than a nice paycheck and a “good job.” Each employees’ motivators are different and must be learned by their manager. Some tips on helping employees become intrinsically motivated to learn are:
Autonomy in learning: When employees have choices instead of being instructed to do something it gives them a sense of control and their intrinsic motivation increases.
Relatedness: Encourage social learning with group work to make employees feel connected. When employees feel a sense of belonging, they experience more meaningful relationships and improved performance.
Competence: Employees need to feel that they are equipped to meet challenges in the workplace. Managers can cultivate competence by giving tasks that may be challenging and then providing feedback and information on how to complete the task.
Use Science and Adult Learning Theory for a Stronger Training Program
Adult learners recall information best when it is relevant and useful. Therefore, it is imperative to know the reason for learning a specific skill. As they possess a mature mindset, adults are often better at creating solutions to real-life issues as opposed to simply memorizing information. Problem-solving, immediate application, and performance-based tasks are all part of the backbone of adult learning.
When it comes to corporate training and employee development, there’s a lot of information out there. Deciding what strategies are right for your organization can be tough, especially when you’re confronted with dozens of opinions from hundreds of sources.
In this ebook, we’ve researched, read, and analyzed the science behind adult learning and summarized a few practices that science tells us are the best methods for employee development.
Hey there. You should know that our resources for HR and L&D professionals are pretty great. Our monthly newsletter is packed with so many insights and strategies that some would even call it « legit. »
This year, just about everything that HR people do was significantly affected, with very little time to prepare and a constant need to communicate with employees and understand their issues.
Josh Bersin, global industry analyst
HR has always been at the heart of business and critical to its success, but in a year like 2020, they’ve been among the real heroes who have emerged. CHROs are now taking a clear seat at the leadership table, with their insight, advice, and decision-making essential to business continuity and to supporting the workforce.
For a deeper look at the “state of the union” for HR and learning at the end of 2020, along with a review of 2021 trends, Strivr CEO Derek Belch chatted with analyst Josh Bersin in our recent webinar. They talked about the evolved employee experience, the new definition of “going to work,” and the importance of power skills and diversity training.
Here’s a recap of what we heard.
The current state of HR: an evolved employee experience
In the last year, the employee experience has changed radically, as many office workers have adjusted to remote work, and those on the floor at physical stores and plants have taken on new operational protocols in the time of a pandemic.
HR leaders have had to tune in closely not just to how employees perform under pressure, but how they’re feeling in terms of their mental health, physical health, and even things like their home internet speed.
A lot of companies are using diagnostic tools such as surveys to achieve this. While a lot of organizations have traditionally performed annual employee surveys, now they’re happening far more frequently. Bersin shared the example of Hyatt, which sends an employee survey daily to take feedback on the experience employees are having both in the workplace and remotely.
Companies are also realizing they have to update policies that normalize “going into the office” for everything. While at first remote work seemed like a temporary fix, now, leaders are realizing that we’re clearly evolving toward a permanent hybrid model of work. Continuing into 2021 and beyond, people will be in the office, sometimes, for some things, but not always.
Bersin’s workforce predictions for 2021
What else should we expect from HR, learning, and development in 2021? Bersin leaves us with a few highlights.
The mainstreaming of digital transformation
“Next year is the year when digital transformation will seem normal, and people will be more comfortable with it,” Bersin says. “It will no longer feel like a project sponsored by a consulting firm, but instead will be about humanizing it and sanding off the edges, because this year, everybody basically did digital transformation at record speed.”
More relevant digital tools
Along the same lines, Bersin predicts a rapid adaptation from the tech market to support our increasingly remote and hybrid ways of working. Many big companies are already exploring Virtual Reality for training both the essential and remote workforce.
“The economy feels like a horse pacing the barn, just itching to get out and get going,” Bersin analogizes.
In other words, with such positive transformation occurring in companies over the last nine months, he expects a jumpstart on hiring and unemployment to start ticking down again.
The importance of “power skills”
2020 has shone a light on the priority of teaching employees stronger soft skills — though Bersin prefers to say power skills. Included in the list of power skills are attributes such as patience, empathy, listening, caring, and forgiveness. In particular, power skills are critical to getting through tough conversations with employees and with customers.
These are really important skills, and every single company I talk to is focused on coaching and training its leaders to improve in these areas.
Equally critical in the learning sphere is a focus on training for diversity and inclusion. We’ve seen the role of diversity manager grow in importance, and existence, year over year. Yet, Bersin acknowledges that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not simple HR fixes but major cultural changes that require purposeful, ongoing training initiatives. 2021 will certainly see continued focus in this area.
More attention on L&D in general
Bersin says, “We’re beginning to realize that creating great capabilities in the company isn’t simply about buying a piece of software and turning it on. It’s a hands-on, consultative responsibility.” The role of L&D as central to this effort, as L&D leaders look to tools such as Immersive Learning to create both onsite and remote opportunities to instill company culture and teach valuable skills.
The skills of the future
As we transition from the current state of HR and L&D into all the rich possibility 2021 holds, Bersin expects the employee experience to continue to evolve in the direction of flexible work, more sophisticated digital tools, and increased opportunities for learning.
At Strivr, we are building the skills of the future with an Immersive Learning platform. Explore the resources below to see how, or chat with a Strivr expert.
Like many organizations in 2020, Ansira’s leaders have been trying to improve their approach to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Public conversations about systemic racism, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the globe spurred executives at the 100-year-old marketing services firm to take a hard look at how they were addressing DEI — and what more they could be doing.
“George Floyd’s death in May, and the social unrest that followed, left us wondering ‘what is the appropriate response?’” says Robb Farrell, AVP of learning and development for Ansira in Dallas.
Leaders across the company agreed that they needed to address the micro-inequities and unconscious bias that might be permeating the Ansira culture — and they all made public commitments to doing better. “It has been one of my proudest moments at Ansira,” Farrell says.
Lunch is not enough
At the time, the company had no formal diversity training in place. However, Farrell had overseen a diversity training program in his previous role at computer security company McAfee. “It had a tremendous impact on the organization,” he says. “People there are still talking about it.”
Unlike many diversity training programs that focus on actions leaders can take to engage employees of historically marginalized or underrepresented groups — take them to lunch! Invite them to speak in meetings! — this program focuses on self-awareness and the differences between intent and outcome. “Even if you don’t intend to be biased, if someone has a different perspective on your actions, you need to pay attention to that,” Farrell says.
Farrell reached out to Steve Young, senior partner at Insight Education Systems, a management consulting firm based in New Jersey that provides leadership, diversity and inclusion consulting services, to create Ansira’s new program. They launched the first of three sessions for 250 Ansira leaders and managers in August.
The course, called MicroInequities: Managing Unconscious Bias, establishes the link between diversity and its influence on leadership effectiveness. The course helps leaders understand how the messages they send are interpreted, and how that drives (or disables) commitment, loyalty and business performance.
Helping managers link diversity to business performance is critical to the success of diversity training — and why these programs so often go wrong, Young says. He notes that many white male leaders still think of DEI as “charitable work” that is all about helping women and people of color to advance — even if they aren’t the best people for the job.
“If you want DEI efforts to work, you have to get out of the realm of ‘doing good deeds’ and focus on making it an impetus for the business,” Young says.
The business case for diversity is clear, but getting leaders to change their core behavior continues to be challenging, in part because most biases are unconscious. If a leader isn’t aware of their biased behavior, they have no incentive to change.
Young addresses this obstacle by helping learners to recognize how subtle, often unwittingly delivered messages set the tone for exclusion and the perception of an employee’s value and performance. The messages are overt, but the meaning is often clear, he says: “The root of good leadership is how you send messages.”
He points to one exercise, in which a leader introduces two team members to a group of clients. The leader describes one using positive terms about their performance and the other using tactical terms describing what they do — i.e., “Bob is an amazing problem-solver who can get any job done” and “Jane is our marketing lead who will walk you through the project plan.” While both descriptions are accurate and neither is negative, the second sends the message that the speaker doesn’t value Jane as much as they value Bob.
That exercise had a big impact on Kimberly Henderson, assistant vice president in the strategy department at Ansira. “It made me think about how I use speech and tone when I communicate,” she says. She admits that she is often in situations where she is introducing her team to clients, and she may speed through the last few introductions to get things moving, but she now wonders what impact that might have on her people. “It made me aware that even if my intent is to hurry things along, it might still have a negative impact,” she says.
It also caused Henderson to think about how she engages with one of her team who has cerebral palsy. “I never caught myself treating him differently, but the training makes me pay more attention to my words.”
I couldn’t help but notice …
That is the kind of impact Young is aiming for in his program, which is interactive and story-driven. “It’s more of a conversation than a lecture,” he says.
In the training, he doesn’t dictate what learners should do or say. Rather, he focuses on a more “Socratic” approach. “You never want to accuse,” he says. “You have to let people do their own self-analysis.”
One way he achieves that is by encouraging leaders to use the phrase “I couldn’t help but notice … ” when talking to peers about biased behavior. He shares the example of working with a female CEO who, while attending a CEO conference, was asked who her husband was — instead of what company she led.
At first she wanted to accuse him of bias, Young says. But that would only put him on the defensive. Instead, she said, “I couldn’t help but notice you assumed I’m a spouse and not a CEO. Why did you make that assumption?”
“It forced him to do his own self-analysis,” Young says. It caused the man to explore his own biases in a way that an attack on his character wouldn’t have.
The course explores many other common unconscious behaviors, actions and assumptions that get in the way of creating a truly diverse environment.
Farrell points to a powerful example is the course about empathy, and how empathizing with people who experience prejudice is not a requirement — or even very helpful for creating change. “Empathy can actually be a barrier,” he says. If someone feels empathy for the obstacles women and people of color face in the workplace, they may think that is enough, but it doesn’t change anything. “We need to use data to find inequities, then look for solutions.”
Training is the first step
Early feedback on the training at Ansira has been overwhelmingly positive, with leaders admitting that they recognize biases in their own behavior and reporting they are applying the tools they have learned on the job every day.
Henderson says she has adapted her own behavior and reports seeing changes in many of her peers. She is hearing more inclusive language from senior leaders and notes that her department head has created a safe space to have conversations about racial inequity in the workplace and how the company can close that gap. It has also changed the tone of conversations related to diversity and equality, she says. “There is less bickering about what happened, and more focus on understanding why something is happening and how to fix it.”
Farrell has seen similar changes, including one leader who came to him for help after recognizing bias in the make-up of his own team. “It is starting conversations we weren’t having before,” he says.
He has also received a flood of volunteers from leaders who want to take a more active role in ongoing DEI efforts. “Training was just the start,” he says. “We want DEI to be part of our DNA.”
Farrell’s team is now deploying additional DEI virtual learning courses, which are accessible to 1,200 employees across the company. They are also conducting diversity assessments, establishing employee resource groups and setting KPIs to measure progress and identify problems in the way the company hires, promotes and supports all of its employees.
“Our leaders want to handle this issue responsibly,” Farrell says. “Our hope with the training is that we can recognize how big an issue this is and take a solutions-oriented approach to change.”