It is important to regularly refresh your training materials to make sure your courses provide a safe environment that resonates with a diverse, hybrid, and multi-generational workforce. Above all, your training materials should not exclude employee groups.
Employees care about your commitment to development and your approach to diversity and inclusion. Updating your training content is a good way to align with your organisation’s culture and strategic goals and retain and develop diverse talent.
We have come a long way in tackling a range of biases. To illustrate this point, a riddle told to kids in the 1980’s:
“A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon (doctor) says ‘I can not do the surgery because this is my son’.
How is this possible?”
Can now easily be solved with: “it’s his other dad.”
If you experience difficulties getting people to attend courses it may be time to review your training materials.
The very term ‘soft skills’ is problematic so here’s our advice for making training more inclusive:
Planning and preparation
Get your colleagues on board with your intention to review and challenge language, giving sound reasons as to the business case e.g. how it aligns with strategic objectives, workplace trends, employee engagement.
Be clear in your intention when discussing with others. Bias is difficult to eliminate but you can disrupt it. When you work in a multi-generational workforce, you will encounter different views on the nature of gender bias and language. Be prepared for challenges and build your case with factual evidence.
Consider course titles and marketing
We anecdotally note far more women on Assertiveness courses than men, whereas more men than women attend Negotiation courses. Review course attendance to see whether groups of employees are underrepresented. Test to see whether changing the course title, marketing, and imagery attracts a wider audience or your target audience.
Make sure that you get managers on board with training plans and communicate the relevance of training. Make it easy for employees to balance their everyday work commitments with training by offering short bitesize courses.
In training materials, are you citing research and models developed by diverse people? An important influence on our work is Elisabeth Kubler, whose stages of grief model is referenced in our Managing Difficult Conversations training course. Attribute the women and men behind the work you do.
Avoid making generalisations when talking about gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or people with disabilities. If you are unsure about the correct term to use to describe people belonging to a certain group the best thing to do is to ask members of the group.
Check you’re using words that don’t suggest gender bias e.g. landlord, businessman, chairman, manpower, maiden name, salesman. There are many are useful resources such as this one to ensure the language you use is neutral. Use them to review writing but don’t rely on them completely.
Test the language you use for the content and marketing. Bring together a working group of employees, including some from groups who face barriers in the workplace, to help road test language.
It’s important to use gender-neutral pronouns in your language like “they” or “them” to avoid excluding employees who do not identify as “he” or “she”. If you do use gendered pronouns ensure male pronouns are not used as the default.
Critically review your use of imagery – try to find images that represent a diverse workplace and avoid consistently using imagery of men in authority roles. Consider too how women are dressed and avoid overtly feminine imagery eg. high heels, dresses and make-up.
Sometimes it’s easier to look for gender-neutral icons instead of real-life photographs.
Keep a record
In a time-pressured team, it can be difficult to make time to review training materials. Make sure you keep a record of when each course was last run and reviewed and build in time to your work plan to review on a yearly basis.
Updated 23 March 2022