Diversity in the workplace can be a great thing, but working with a diverse audience – more specifically, training a diverse audience – comes with its own unique set of challenges.
This is especially true when companies experience hiring booms or shifts in culture that require dozens (or even hundreds or thousands) of employees from different backgrounds to be trained simultaneously.
Trying to determine which technology is best for older and younger generations can be difficult if the age range is broad. Employers attempting to create cohesive courses for workers from different countries may run into cultural roadblocks.
But that doesn’t mean that companies should ignore the value of diversity in training. According to the American Sociological Review, companies reporting the highest levels of diversity in their organizations bring in nearly 15 times more sales revenue than those with lower levels.
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But companies that want to embrace diversity need to know how to develop training materials for differing groups in the right way, especially when it comes to eLearning.
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The Biggest Challenges With Diversity
It’s important to understand that first and foremost, diversity is beneficial. According to McKinsey, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians and gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.
Having a diverse workforce allows organizations to choose from various skillsets as well as levels of expertise and experience for any number of roles.
Workers from varied backgrounds also offer a multitude of perspectives and opinions that can improve workplace processes throughout the company, and are often easier to cross-train across departments.
However, the broad range of backgrounds, cultural understandings, experiences and even language barriers can all present challenges when it comes to creating course materials that reach everyone equally.
Differences in race, country of origin, language and speech, education, age, and sex and gender can interfere with:
- Communication – This can include various spoken and read languages along with knowing how to appeal to subgroups who speak different dialects
- Technology – Older generations may have difficulty keeping up with technology whereas younger generations are more comfortable
- Work ethic – Workers in other countries or locations around the world may have different standards for what constitutes as a full work day (In France, for instance, workers tend to put in longer hours but work fewer days)
- Culture – Some culture may find certain images, slang, idioms or symbols unfamiliar or even offensive depending on the context
- Social requirements – Some workers may find it more helpful to engage in group settings while others may need to have their own space to process information
- Tolerance – Men or women may feel discriminated against if they are underrepresented in course materials (e.g. always using “he” to refer to a worker in situational examples)
However, developing separate coursework to address each of these issues isn’t always helpful or cost effective. The good news is that there are ways to embrace diversity in your training materials without sacrificing quality.
How to Create Diverse eLearning Courses
The best way to alleviate some of the burden is to embrace eLearning’s adaptability. Unlike traditional coursework, eLearning utilizes technology that’s easily changeable to suit a variety of needs.
Use translation software and services. There are many different forms of translation software, tools and services that allow courses to be quickly and easily translated into any number of languages to fit the needs of a global workforce. (We’ve also written about translating eLearning here.)
Make courses available 24-7. You can also get around the issue of timing (some workers may be in different time zones or simply want to work at the office later than others) by allowing course materials to be accessed around the clock.
Offer both group and solo learning. Online forums, videos and other mediums allow for workers to complete assignments individually or with others, which can improve engagement for those with various learning styles.
Easily change images or replace text. The benefit of eLearning being mostly digital is that things can be changed quickly, if need be. If an image doesn’t work for one group or it may be perceived as offensive, you can effortlessly swap it out with something more suitable. (Here’s how to know if something is culturally insensitive.)
Create both simple and complex courses. Gamification and other media-heavy learning modules may be perfect for younger generations, but those needing something simpler (say, a PDF or a slideshow) can also access the same course materials in a more convenient form.
eLearning courses can also be mass delivered, so if you hire a thousand workers who all need to go through the same training, you won’t have to worry about finding classroom space or making sure everyone is hearing the same lesson at the same time.
With eLearning, the flexibility to adapt and change to your audience can help overcome the challenges that come with a diverse audience.
Tips for Embracing Diversity
Of course, the technology side of eLearning can only do so much. There are still some best practices that employers can follow when creating diverse training materials.
Communicate the importance of eLearning. Not every employee will be starting with the same level of expertise or backgrounds, so all coursework should have clear learning objectives. If workers know exactly what they’re supposed to be achieving, they can work at a pace that fits their background while still accomplishing the objective.
Ask for regular feedback. Sometimes you won’t know if a lesson, image or media type isn’t working unless an employee tells you about it. Having a regular feedback process as a part of your training is important to identify problem areas as they appear.
Provide additional technology training. Some employees may be less familiar with the technology that you use for your course, so it’s important to have explanations available for those who are less tech savvy than others. It may be tedious for younger workers to sit through lessons on how to operate technology they use on a daily basis, so if possible, give them the chance to skip it.
Hire employees that are open-minded. Change is never easy, but some people are more stubborn than others. If possible, look for candidates that already value learning and have an open mind about technology and learning in new and varied settings.
Use a variety of lessons and methods. Don’t settle for just one type of lesson, like having employees watch the same video. Take advantage of the flexibility of eLearning by providing visual, audio and interactive elements to your course to cover as much ground as possible.
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While it can be difficult to train many different types of workers from multiple backgrounds at the same time, it’s not impossible to do it (and to do it well).
First, it’s important for employers to understand the challenges that come with a diverse audience, as well as the benefits that diversity brings into the workplace. Knowing that the end results of creating a diverse eLearning course will be positive can help temper any frustrations that may come up throughout the process.
Second, employers should strive to use eLearning to its utmost advantage by creating course materials that embrace differences rather than steer towards conformity.
Using technology to make courses available 24-7 or to translate languages not only makes the training easier for workers, but it also shows them that you’re willing to accept them for who they are and that you’re happy they’re a part of your company.