Inclusivity in a Multigenerational and Diverse Workforce
The workforce is more multigenerational and diverse than ever, making inclusivity and allyship critical priorities for businesses. These characteristics benefit the employees, the organization and, more broadly, society.
“A recurring theme we were finding at D2L was that our teams were having trouble knowing how to have conversations on diversity, inclusion and allyship, especially in a remote work environment,” said Mike Flewwelling, then-VP of customer success at D2L. “Not understanding how to approach or engage in discussions around diversity and inclusion can create a lot of friction within a team. As a leader, I needed to help my team reduce some of that internal discomfort and become more comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.”
Allyship in the workplace refers to a person using power and privilege to support and advocate for colleagues from marginalized groups, including 2SLGBTQ+, women, people of color and the differently abled. At D2L, leaders understood that being a workplace ally needed to be more than just a written policy. Change could only come from the actions of leaders and colleagues, and it was the company’s responsibility to lead it.
We believed that merging team building with professional development would create a greater sense of unity within the department. Positioning this directive down to the team was an easy experience to manage through D2L Wave and allowed us to start building culture one team at a time.Rosanne Holmes, learning and development manager
Outcome-Based Professional Development to Build a More Inclusive Workplace
People leaders at D2L recognized the need to have more honest and open conversations on inclusion, diversity and allyship. To foster such openness, they implemented a purposeful and educational learning experience for their employees. D2L decided to use professional development as a team-building experience by having its entire customer success team participate in Embracing Allyship & Inclusion, a course offered through D2L Wave and PowerED™ by Athabasca University.
“We believed that merging team building with professional development would create a greater sense of unity within the department,” said Rosanne Holmes, learning and development manager at D2L. “Positioning this directive down to the team was an easy experience to manage through D2L Wave and allowed us to start building culture one team at a time.”
As a global company, D2L has employees and customers from diverse backgrounds and with different lived experiences. Leaders at the company knew it was critical to take steps to help the team members better understand each other, and to demystify internal discomfort and biases.
“Our teams and our customer base are more diverse now than ever, and having the ability to have conscientious conversations is extremely important,” Mike Flewwelling noted. “We need to create more awareness of unconscious bias in our internal processes and in our personal lives. It’s not enough to say you don’t support discrimination. You need to speak up and take action against it. You need to be an ally. As leaders, we need to be a driver for those uncomfortable conversations.”
The micro-credential course, offered through PowerED™ by Athabasca University, is designed to help organizations start the journey of dismantling systemic discrimination and building an inclusive workforce. The course provides employees and managers alike with an opportunity to evaluate their workplace and community and create a strengthened capacity to listen to and support their colleagues.
“As companies become more global and have a greater awareness of the importance of being inclusive, we’ve seen an increased demand for diversity, equity and inclusion training,” says Ian Stephenson, manager of professional development and partnerships at PowerED™ by Athabasca University. “We developed this course to provide professional learners and their organizations with a first step toward embracing diversity and building an inclusive workplace. This course focuses on self-awareness, to help people develop their understanding of diversity and build equity and inclusion into their everyday work. We have found that learners are able to reflect on the prevalence and impacts of systemic discrimination and discover best practices for effective and meaningful allyship.”
By using professional development as a team-building opportunity, it also encouraged the department to have ongoing conversations around what it means to be inclusive and to be an ally.
“The experience was very positive,” said Anita Joshi, customer success specialist at D2L. “One of the most important parts of taking the course as a group was knowing that senior leaders were taking the course. That tells us that allyship is being taken seriously. As an employee, I wasn’t just taking it because I was interested in it; we needed to take it as part of our company culture.”
Using Professional Development to Further Conversations Around Diversity
There was immediate interest from employees in taking the Embracing Allyship & Inclusion course as a team. This was a different type of professional development, which staff received well. Rather than a single-day learning session, the course was self-paced over three months. That allowed team members to approach it individually while still allowing for reflection and group discussions.
“The content was really good, and the course format was really engaging,” said Joshi. “The different formats—text, video and discussion—made it accessible and let everyone learn in their own way.”
Social justice, inclusion and allyship can be difficult subjects to discuss and understand. Through D2L Wave and PowerED™ by Athabasca University, these topics were broken down to be easily understandable, making them more accessible and encouraging.
“Being a new employee to D2L, I really liked hearing my colleagues discuss the course content as I was onboarding,” said senior customer success manager at D2L Jamie Ferrazano. “Learning about allyship and inclusion is way outside the box of just ‘new skills,’ and participating in professional development as a team-building activity allowed me to have meaningful conversations with my new colleagues.”
The customer success team found they had a better connection to their colleagues and more trust in their relationships after taking the course. It provided them with an opportunity to see the world from different perspectives and exposed them to different lived experiences, backgrounds and challenges.
“This opportunity allowed us to learn about the history of other nations and how we can build on that learning,” Ferrazano stated. “Throughout the course, I became aware that I was uncomfortable talking about these issues, which is exactly why I needed to be talking about them. I learned there were many ways for me to be an ally and how I could work to normalize those conversations.”
D2L’s customer success team has now implemented team meetings to further encourage important conversations around the topics of diversity, allyship and inclusion, including in-depth discussions led by employees from diverse backgrounds. The team shared the resources they had discussed to ensure everyone was aligned, and deeper dialogues meant that employees who were unlikely to participate or uncomfortable doing so would begin to do so. This engagement shows the value of learning experiences and professional development as team building.
“The D2L Wave platform was simple and easy to execute, and it allowed us to focus on the outcome instead of the vehicle to get us there,” said Mike Flewwelling. “I’m already thinking about what professional development education we can do with D2L Wave in 2023. How we can integrate team building and professional development into our daily operations is something I will look at for the rest of my career. Right now, we’re focused on taking what we’ve learned and applying it internally in order to foster more allies within our organization.”