Most learning and development (L&D) solutions on the market today don’t take into account the needs of those behind the digital divide. As today’s workforce becomes more decentralized and more remote, some workers miss out on opportunities to learn and grow within their organizations. This is especially true in this new normal of ours, where a lot of in-person contact is may continue here and there — even with the COVID-19 vaccine.
For companies that want to provide equal access to opportunity for all employees, corporate L&D has to evolve. This includes implementing systems and policies that not only reach those best equipped but also those with limited resources as well. For those struggling with this conundrum, here are three surefire ways to make your L&D programs more equitable and more inclusive.
Don’t Assume That Everyone Learns the Same Way
When going through the motions of L&D program development and implementation, it is easy to assume that everyone will digest it in the same way. However, estimates indicate that 30% of the college-educated workforce fits the current federal definition of having a disability. That number doesn’t include workers without college degrees, and only includes those who disclose that they have a disability. Current estimates also indicate that only 39% of workers with a disability disclose it to their manager, and even fewer disclose it to team members or the HR department.
As such, L&D executives should consider providing sensitivity training to their training teams. This will help them better understand the types of disabilities in the workplace, whether visible or not. This will also help instructional designers and trainers tailor content to meet the needs of all employees. There are even some amazing technologies that can help with implementation.
Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, specifically designed to support dyslexia and dysgraphia, is a perfect example. With the Immersive Reader, employees with reading disabilities can have text read out loud, even in other languages. In addition, for those with a limited understanding of computers, Windows 10 has a voice control feature, which is different from dictation. macOS user, you can use Apple’s built-in system.
Text-Based L&D Is the Most Inclusive
Not everyone uses a computer at work or has access to the Internet. However, most have a cell phone of some type and can receive text messages.
As Arist co-founder and CEO puts it, “text-based messaging is the one technology almost all of us have in common. It has the highest rate of adoption, nearly 98%, according to leading figures. This makes it the most inclusive technology there is.”
Artist’s ability to bridge the digital divide helped it win over more than a dozen Fortune 500 organizations. DuPont turned to Arist to supplement its online learning initiatives. DuPont Sustainable Solutions has even designed courses for onboarding employees, compliance training, sales skills improvement, health and wellness programs and refresher training. The training comes in bite-sized chunks over a period of days.
Artist refers to these text-based quick bites as microlearning. In its simplest form, microlearning is a delivery format where users receive short-form content over an extended period. When comparing microlearning to traditional learning, research has found that 82% of users regarded microlearning as user-friendly, compared to less than 25% for traditional learning.
For employees with language or learning barriers, microlearning is more digestible.
“Not only is text a more inclusive technology, when paired with microlearning methodologies, but it also becomes an extremely effective way to eliminate other barriers to learning as well,” added Ioffe.
Make Reasonable Accommodations
Accessible, inclusive L&D initiatives boil down to making reasonable accommodations for employees. L&D professionals will need to evaluate all facets of this, whether non-tech, low-tech or high-tech. The Office of Disability Rights defines reasonable accommodations under those parameters.
Non-technical accommodations include things like slowing the pace of training or providing extra assistance. Low-tech accommodations are typically low-cost and are already available in the workplace or easy to acquire, like speech-to-text technology. And high-tech accommodations are those that involve customized equipment, technology, devices, or sophisticated software. Knowing the workforce’s needs you are training will help you prioritize the things that qualify as reasonable accommodations.
In the end, no matter how big your budget is or how much time you can dedicate to tools and technology, it is important to remember that L&D is all about people. As trainers, educators, and coaches, the primary responsibility for L&D professionals is the development of people. Remembering that will make all the difference.
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