'A Better Version of Ourselves': How Innovative L&D Can Drive Transformational Culture Change

February 5, 2024 | Diversity & Inclusion | 6 min read

There's a saying in management circles: "What gets measured gets managed." The idea is that when we start measuring something — be it team performance, process outcomes, or learning program results — we start paying attention to it. And when we start paying attention, we notice what's working and what isn't. Then, we can take steps to support the parts that work and fix the ones that don't.

It's clear that metrics matter. But some things are difficult to quantify — like the kind of transformational culture change that helps all of us become better versions of ourselves.

Recently, we spoke to a Skillsoft customer, an international financial institution, about the power of this type of change. To publish this report, our customer requested we use only her first name and to omit the organization’s name. This is to remain compliant with internal policies.

As a supervisor of technology learning at this organization, April knows firsthand how powerful effective learning and development (L&D) programs can be. Her team regularly designs and promotes learning campaigns on various topics to support the organization’s mission.

But April also knows that, sometimes, L&D teams get hung up on traditional forms of learning, like formal classes, because the results are more easily measured. In April's view, these conventional forms of learning have their uses, but we need to be more creative if we want L&D to evolve. We need to think big and use our L&D tools and technologies in innovative ways.

"L&D people are [usually focusing on metrics like] learning impact, but I think as we move forward in the L&D space, it has to go beyond that," April says. "It doesn't always have to be about that traditional learning. It doesn't always have to be about a class. Learning is so much more than that."

What does it mean for L&D to "go beyond" conventional approaches to training? Here's one use case that April and her team implemented — and the tremendous results they achieved along the way.

The Black History Month 30 Day Action Plan

During Black History Month, the team set out to create a comprehensive learning program spotlighting Black American achievements and contributions. The initial idea for the project was born partly from April’s belief that L&D can help people understand one another in the workplace and build empathy among colleagues.

Many colleagues work and reside in the Washington, D.C. area but come from a wide array of countries. During Black History Month, April wanted to share the rich history of their host country, specifically American Black history.

She was inspired to do this project for this reason: "so many of my colleagues live in the US for long periods. They sometimes have raised their children here. They've been in this country for 25 years. But they don't necessarily know this country’s history. This is not just Black history. This is American history."

The project was deeply personal for April. “As an African American working at an international organization, Black History month has a special meaning to me. It is an opportunity to increase the awareness and understanding about the rich tapestry of Black culture and its people's contributions to US history and the world.”

With this goal in mind, April and her team designed the Black History Month 30-Day Action Plan. The idea was partly inspired by Skillsoft's 30-Day Habits Calendar. The team built their own version of the calendar, curating content from various sources. For example, one day might feature diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training from Skillsoft's library. Another might feature a YouTube video about the diaspora of African cuisine and its journey into American cuisine. The team created a custom channel to host all the content in a centralized place, using Skillsoft’s learning platform Percipio.

The team shared the action plan across various Viva Engage channels and with several affinity groups, hoping for a modest number of views. Instead, the action calendar took off. Over the course of the month, the action plan received 16,000 views.

"I was going to be happy if we got 1,000 views," April says. "I never expected this project to resonate the way it did. I never set out to do it for the accolades."

But accolades and recognition were what the team received. April and her team won the Vice Presidency Award for Community Builder for their DEI contributions.

April's motivation was supporting the personal growth of her colleagues. When discussing the results of the Black History Month Action Plan — the ones that really matter to her — April points to an interaction she had with an African employee from Mali.

"She said to me, 'I've been in this country a long time. My youngest children were born here. Black History Month has always been something that I respect, of course, but I didn't identify with it — until this year,'" April recounts.

She explained that this colleague had recently been contacted by an African American woman who, through DNA, had found out they were cousins. Their families had been separated 400 years ago by the transatlantic slave trade.

"So when she read the Black History Action Plan calendar, she was no longer reading it from a perspective of, 'This is for people I empathize with, but with whom I don't have a connection,'" April says. "She was reading it for the first time as a continuation of her own history."

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Moving Beyond Traditional L&D

For April, the success of the Black History Month Action Plan speaks not only to the importance of meaningful DEI efforts in the workplace. It also illustrates how L&D leaders can use the tools, technologies, and vendor partners at their disposal to fashion innovative approaches to learning that resonate with people.

"With a lot of learning management systems, what really drives me nuts is that organizations still place so much emphasis formal learning, and learning is so much more than that," she says. "We know that from peer-to-peer learning. We know that from social learning."

Rather than simply sticking with established learning modalities, April brought her own creativity and insights to crafting the Black History Month Action Plan, mixing and matching content and learning experiences to create something truly unique and engaging.

"A lot of times, unfortunately, learning is associated with drudgery," April says. "But people wrote and said [about the Black History Month Action Plan], 'This is so fun!' Even though it was a heavy topic, it was digestible, interactive, and immersive."

The results of the Action Plan may be hard to quantify, but by thinking beyond conventional L&D metrics and strategies, April was able to impact a genuinely transformational culture change.

"What resonates to me is the personal journey of all of us being a better version of ourselves," she says. "That means that we're understanding each other. We understand or have some empathy for each other’s experiences. And I think that is the kind of workplace we all want to be in.”

The organization in this story has elected not to use its name to comply with its internal communications policy.