Kristen Motzer, Learning Director at LRN, explains how law firms can benefit from diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programmes.
Standard corporate training is not enough to create an inclusive workplace culture. Law firms need to go beyond settling for subpar training and, instead, seek creative ways to both educate and inspire their employees. As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) increases in organisational priority, having a welcoming environment is essential, as workers need to feel a sense of belonging.
An effective DEI training programme can help to achieve this, as it sets out a plan for how to apply learning and communication initiatives and how to help your organisation understand systemic DEI issues, share experiences, build empathy, and reflect on how they can drive change. When all these factors are included within a firm’s DEI curriculum alongside best learning design practices, this can ensure that the material is both effective and meaningful.
The key to achieving a successful DEI training programme is creating a curriculum with an engaging, connected, and inspiring learning strategy. Consider these six factors as you begin designing your curriculum.
1. Microlearning for greater impact
Firms must consistently engage participants throughout the year. Quick one-off training sessions are no longer deemed recommendable. Instead, the new way of approaching learning development is by applying microlearning. This is the process of delivering mini and easily digestible learning bites to employees when and where they need it. This will increase the retention rate, and employees are more likely to apply the training material. DEI topics that focus on improving individual and company-wide behaviour will especially thrive using this tactic, as long as the learning material is reinforced over a period of time.
To see real behavioural change, a range of learning experiences also needs to be applied. For example, videos, infographics, and quizzes should be incorporated in order to keep people engaged.
2. Learning individually and learning as a group
DEI should be perceived as a journey of shared experiences instead of a written on-paper guide. It encompasses a wide range of sensitive topics, many of which will lead to conversation and self-reflection. Therefore, your DEI training programme should assess where it is essential to involve group discussions and aim to encourage asking questions, as learning individually is not enough to change behaviour.
3. Leading by example
Leaders should be active participants in the learning process in order to show that DEI is a part of the firm’s daily operation. Executives and managers need to be representatives for DEI, whether it be through facilitating or leading team exercises, employees need to see that they are directly involved. Change begins at the top; if the leader sets a good example, the rest of the pack will surely follow.
4. Seeing through a global lens
Your DEI plan needs to reflect the international scale of the firm. A way to do this is to remember that cultural differences must be incorporated into learning, even when it may seem universal. Using a global lens means going further than including more people of different nationalities in your imagery.
Even though this is a step forward, this does not necessarily mean the content will be more relatable. Cultural differences must be embraced. The unfortunate fact is that discrimination and racism are everywhere, and how it manifests can vary depending on where you are. This must be considered when developing DEI material, starting with the most fundamental message of seeing our commonalities with one another, then moving forward from there.
5. Keeping it real
Hearing the experiences of real people and using real-world examples for case studies within your DEI curriculum is more likely to resonate with learners. By listening to unscripted stories based on DEI issues, employees are able to empathise by relating to the human experience.
Additionally, the practice of listening to one another encourages the action of being open to forming friendships outside of familiar territory. Therefore, offering guidance on how to apply the information learned during the training. This will ensure the learning experience extends beyond the firm’s office and into the real world.
6. Highlighting the grey areas
In the past, ethics and compliance training often placed actions in two boxes: “do,” and “do not do.” However, DEI is much more nuanced than that. Your curriculum should be focused on understanding systemic issues and what needs to change and encouraging people to reflect on their own perceptions. By equipping people with the skills to navigate grey areas, they are more likely to cultivate a respectful workplace environment. The world is not black and white, this must be exhibited in your DEI curriculum as well.
At the end of the day, the most important takeaway is that employees should learn how to respect the experiences of other people. This can be achieved by ensuring there is a human-centred learning program in place. The goal of a successful DEI programme is to ensure workers feel like they can bring their whole selves to the workplace, without fear of judgement or being in culturally insensitive situations.
Kristen Motzer is a leader in values-based behaviour change and an experienced designer of engaging scalable learning solutions. As a Learning Director at LRN, she oversees the learning design of the company’s library of online and facilitated learning experiences on a variety of ethics and compliance, DEI, leadership, and other topics.