At NovoEd, some of the greatest results from our customers’ course experiences are the human connections that are cultivated based on their shared learning. In stark contrast to the standard (*cough* hyper-boring) “e-learning” experience, we enable a collaborative learning experience that not only supports real learning on high-impact skills, but is also a powerful tool for teaching one of the hardest behaviors and mindsets to learn in our modern workplace: inclusion

0As a white male Learning Experience Designer and professional, I must continuously work to gain awareness to understand how my identity and perspective show up in my life and work. This is why I’m also excited to work at NovoEd, a company with a staff and a customer base representing a variety of personal backgrounds, with technology that enables effective diversity and inclusion training experiences. 

It is immensely rewarding to partner with our customers – Fortune 1000 enterprises, executive education providers, training firms, and social impact organizations – on conducting learning design experiments to disrupt the standard model of training on critical topics such as diversity and inclusion.

Diversity Training Needs to Change Mindsets and Behaviors

Does this feel familiar? You’ve been assigned your company compliance course on diversity and inclusion. After watching a few videos and answering some multiple-choice questions, you now have greater expertise in dealing with complex situations of bias and discrimination, right?

According to the recent article “Does Diversity Training Work the Way It’s Supposed To” by Harvard Business Review, it depends. Diversity training will have different impacts on both attitudes and behaviors depending on the groups you belong to:

inclusionFor women “the training prompted these women to be more proactive about their own advancement.” If you’re a white male, however, there is “little evidence that diversity training affected the behavior of men or white employees overall—the two groups who typically hold the most power in organizations and are often the primary targets of these interventions.”

It’s fair to say that diversity training that doesn’t change the mindset and behaviors of the dominant groups in the workplace is ripe for disruption. Simply watching videos without real conversation or application is a recipe for subpar learning experience. 

Conversely, in-person diversity training can also result in extreme reactions from white people who shut down the conversation due to “white fragility.” Being confronted with the realities of historical and systemic oppression that they benefit from can be jarring to white people. This blog by Robin DiAngelo (Author of White Fragility) describes how challenging it can be to have an honest conversation about racism. She asks,

“What would it be like if you could simply give us feedback, have us graciously receive it, reflect, and work to change the behavior?” Recently, a man of color sighed and said, “It would be revolutionary.”

Experiment to Revolutionize Diversity Training:
2 Micro-Experiments

As suggested in the HBR article, one of the best things you can do is experiment which “can help organizations gain insight into what’s effective and what’s not without reducing the benefits from the training programs themselves.“ At NovoEd, we believe it’s time to experiment. In our social approach to learning, we’ve discovered using teams or groups has resulted in a 16X increase in course completion rates. (download the research brief)

Experiment 1: Stop Quizzing and Start Connecting

Those who have experienced intense conversations during in-person diversity training know they can be emotionally challenging and difficult. However, these conversations are also the key to real discovery and behavior change. It is the sharing of different perspectives and experiences that opens eyes, creates “aha moments,” and reveals real vulnerability that results in a deeper connection between participants.

According to this white men’s leadership study, it is these intense conversations that allow us to strengthen our relationships. “Conflict tests our values and our plans, and it provides crucial information to followers about the trustworthiness of their leaders…”

So how do you do create human connection online?

Instead of an isolated “click-through” online learning experience, NovoEd enables real conversations between learners to enable perspective sharing in a safe space. In one of our customers’ course experiences, the best dialogue came from a discussion prompt around the question: “What doesn’t apply?” Learners took stereotypes of their own identities and shared how it specifically doesn’t apply to them. As they shared, other learners reacted and found commonalities and connections.

And while we did see connections happen, there was also plenty of room for discomfort and conflict. In order to increase awareness of bias in everyone’s life, participants openly shared about the biased assumptions decisions they had made in their lives. Some of these reflections were painful to recollect and share, but they are a crucial step in making real behavior change.

Experiment 2: Prompt Learners to Practice Behavior Change

At NovoEd, we believe real learning happens when it is practiced and applied. So how do you get dominant groups to “practice” being more inclusive to other cultures in the workplace? 

In one course experience, Unconscious Bias, which we co-designed with CEMEX, learners were asked to complete daily tasks during the Week of Awareness. As opposed to a single action plan or reflection, learners were tasked with simple  “micro behaviors” to try, which could ultimately negate negative “microaggressions,” which can permeate a non-inclusive workplace.

Some of these prompts included:

  • Recognizing surprises: when you create a snap judgment about someone, that ultimately turned out to be untrue
  • Engaging in mindfulness: a simple, 5-minute meditation can result in less “rapid-fire” judgements that can result from implicit bias
  • Connecting with someone different: having a conversation with someone outside of your affinity group to learn new perspectives

The results of these activities were astounding as learners shared their reflections with the community, and discussed their real behavior changes. In one case, an employee described the recognition of their own bias while interviewing a candidate with a disability, and became more open to hiring them.

The video below previews the course experience, which was divided into two major themes: increasing awareness and taking action. Click below to learn how CEMEX is taking on Unconscious Bias in their organization.

A CEMEX course like Unconscious Bias results in real behavior changes that standard diversity trainings seek to achieve.

These are just two ideas to disrupt your standard diversity training. But there are many more ideas out there.  We encourage you to experiment in your Diversity Training experiences, with the hopes that you find an approach that results in real learning and lasting behavior change.

You can hear more about the CEMEX approach to learning for diversity and inclusion in a conversation between Kevin Mulcahy, Partner, Future Workplace and Beatriz Tumoine, CEMEX’s HR Planning & Development Corporate Director.  View the webinar recording.

If you enjoyed this content, be sure to also check out our Cognitive Diversity article.