I’ve recently watched an interview with a leading actress in a popular period drama. She was saying how she never imagined she could ever be part of such a big production because of the color of her skin, which was a few shades darker than what you would consider English high-class society a century ago.
I will not debate here the need for historical accuracy in a fictional streaming series. Still, her statement made me question what it really means to be inclusive, both in entertainment and organizational environments.
However, the issue of genuine inclusivity isn’t a theoretical concern but a stringent necessity.
The meaning of inclusion
Inclusion is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who are at risk of being excluded otherwise. Generally, inclusion benefits minority groups, regardless of the individual factors that lead to them being categorized as a minority.
In the example I’ve mentioned before, casting a leading actress of Indian origin as a lady of the English upper class is an obvious effort of inclusion. It’s aimed both at acting professionals who shouldn’t have a poorer choice of parts because of their ethnicity, and at the diverse public who can more easily find characters to identify with.
Barriers to overcome in an inclusive training environment
Unconscious biasUnconscious bias is dangerous, especially due to its hidden quality. Most people don’t want to have any bias or prejudice. However, in reality, it is there and tends to come out at unexpected times.
The best way to deal with this is by acknowledging it and trying to find the root cause. Generally, this is a personal self-introspection exercise, one that should be of curse encouraged. However, some organizations might need to develop learning programs specifically to deal with this issue. For example, clashing cultures that lead to serious problems that affect morale and productivity.
Lack of trust
A lack of trust is a serious issue when it comes to the success of a learning intervention. Often, employees are enrolled in various programs and are not entirely sure why they are the target audience. That can lead to a feeling of being discriminated against – as if they have been found lacking in some areas and sent to learn how to improve.
Spoiler alert: if that’s how the process works, they won’t be willing participants. It’s crucial to let people have a say in their learning path and always explain what’s in it for them at the end.
Language barriers are quite strong. In a globalized economy, workers come from different backgrounds. While translation tools are getting better and better, there’s a lot they can’t achieve yet when it comes to conveying meaning.
There’s no magic solution to overcome all language barriers, but it’s important to be mindful of them. Whenever possible, have linguistic specialists assess the materials used for learning.
Also, allow time and space for questions and clarifications and nurture a positive learning environment where people won’t be afraid to ask questions.
The content format can be a form of exclusion if it’s not diverse enough to accommodate a variety of learning preferences. Furthermore, when it comes to neurodiverse employees, L&D departments should focus their efforts on providing the best experiences tailored to particular needs.
To accommodate all learners and give them equal chances of success, the content should be available in multiple formats and display functions like captioning and audio narration. Creating inclusive learning means thinking of all learners and addressing their individual needs.
Learning is universal. People are naturally programmed to acquire new information and make logical inferences based on what they already know and have experienced. However, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially in today’s dynamic corporate environment. L&D practitioners need to be aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of truly inclusive learning experiences.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.