Inclusive learning organizations harness diversity in the workplace to achieve organizational goals.
Inclusive learning is an important part of a modern learning culture in the workplace. An inclusive learning organization successfully leverages the diversity in its workforce to channel the creativity and innovation arising from multiple perspectives to achieve organizational goals. So, how does an organization become an inclusive learning organization?
What is an inclusive organization?
Successful organizations often have a diverse workforce with a good mix of human differences. Several factors such as age, gender, abilities and cultures account for human differences. Scott Page, in his book The Difference, asserts with evidence that having different ages, skills, disciplines, and working and thinking styles around the table enhances creativity and innovation. He claims that diversity trumps ability.
However, diversity alone might not benefit an organization. To make diverse people work in a unified manner, there is a need for the organization to embrace inclusion. Inclusion is all about operationalizing diversity in ways that allow the utilization of its potential. In other words, diversity is about people and inclusion is about how organizations strategize diversity to further their goals. Maintaining an inclusive workplace is good for business because people with different cultural backgrounds experience life differently and bring different perspectives. Inclusive organizations recognize diversity as a driver of innovation.
In an inclusive organizational environment, different voices are respected and heard; diverse viewpoints, perspectives and approaches are valued; everyone is encouraged to make a unique and meaningful contribution. In such an environment, people with multiple backgrounds, mindsets and ways of thinking can work together effectively and perform to their highest potential to achieve organizational objectives. Inclusive organizational culture would allow the people in the organization to advance their individual actions flexibly, yet consistently, towards achieving organizational goals.
What is an inclusive learning organization?
Peter Senge, in his book The Fifth Discipline, describes a learning organization as a group of people working together collectively to enhance their capacities to create results they really care about. An enterprise learning organization, therefore, facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself to remain competitive in today’s business environment. An inclusive learning organization facilitates learning based on the unique proficiencies and abilities of its diverse people and their needs across different jobs and work settings to make them productive contributors to its goals.
Learning at the workplace is not the same as before. Thanks to the Internet, we can find any desired information easily and quickly today. So, merely acquiring knowledge would not count as learning anymore. People need to learn how to apply their own unique perspectives arising from the knowledge they acquire to advance organizational goals. An inclusive learning organization transforms the benefits of multiple perspectives emerging from its diverse workforce into improved performance outcomes. Enabling such inclusive learning would differentiate an organization from its competitors.
With increasing automation in the workplace, repetitive manufacturing and service jobs are getting phased out. Rote-learned skills, therefore, are not the requirement of the day. Rather, higher-level thinking skills, sense-making skills, and skills that help create unique insights are the priority. These are the kinds of skills machines aren’t good at, but at which humans excel. Such skills cannot be codified easily, and humans would still be required to perform these tasks. An inclusive learning organization enables such thinking skills in people and taps on their diverse perceptions. It adapts workforce planning and development strategies to ensure alignment with future skill requirements to remain competitive in an ever-changing environment.
Inclusive learning should be an integral part of organizational culture today. Without new learning, the same practices would get repeated in a cultural status quo, leading to the same results. Even with new learning, organizational culture needs to be constantly monitored and modified to reap the benefits of the learning. To that end, an inclusive learning organization typically maintains knowledge management structures for creating, retaining, and transferring knowledge within an organization. These processes can be better managed by adopting modern learning technologies.
Technology also facilitates adaptive learning to suit individual differences. In an inclusive learning organization, learning is personalized to suit each member’s unique needs and learning style because there is no one-size-fits-all answer to learning and development. Those who learn visually are provided with video-based learning resources, but this also proves to be an engaging medium for most others. Learning content is also doled out in bite-sized chunks in a “just-in-time” fashion so that employees can consume to their capacity, be it small or large. An inclusive learning organization thus helps to create a modern learning culture and stays in tune with the times.