The Importance of Inclusive Language in Learning and Training Content

Delight employees and increase customer satisfaction by using inclusive language in your learning content.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could reinforce your company’s values while you help your employees feel belonging and satisfaction at work? What if that satisfaction radiated out to your customers, ensuring they have a great experience every time they interact with your business?

It’s possible! Using inclusive and accessible language in your learning content builds trust and helps create a safe environment where everyone can bring their full, authentic selves to work. When employees feel represented, they feel empowered and valued. Empowered employees are more loyal and satisfied and, in turn, give great experiences to your customers.

The cost of being inclusive is low, compared to the cost of excluding employees or customers. The impact of not being inclusive ranges from higher employee turnover to expensive lawsuits. Even in the best-case scenario, your business could lose potentially valuable contributions of employees who don’t feel valued or represented don’t feel encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas.

The Meaning of Inclusive Language

So, what exactly is inclusive language? 

Inclusive language demonstrates respect and empathy for others and allows people to see themselves in your content in an accurate and relevant way. In practice, it looks like using words that don’t exclude people, intentionally or unintentionally.

Inclusive language is intentional. We all have biases and we don’t want them to come through in our content. For example, it’s better to say, “Employees can take up to 4 hours per week to attend religious services” instead of, “Employees can take up to 4 hours per week to attend church.” This simple change includes places of worship, like a temple or mosque. You could try to list different places of worship, but that is tedious and you may still miss something.

Using inclusive and accessible language in your learning content builds trust and helps create a safe environment where everyone can bring their full, authentic selves to work.

Tips for Writing Diverse Content

There are many excellent resources on inclusive language (see references at the end), but here are some of our favorite tips:

  • Develop learning materials that are representative, portraying all kinds of people
  • Explain why policies exist. For example, if employees are not allowed to wear long earrings, explain that long earrings can get caught on equipment. Without explanation, this policy could appear to arbitrarily target the self-expression of certain employees
  • Avoid using gendered language
  • Avoid using words and phrases that are culturally-specific
  • Create training materials in the learner’s native language
  • Ensure materials meet or exceed accessibility guidelines
  • Hire diverse teams. If the team creating the materials is inclusive and diverse, the materials will naturally reflect similar inclusivity and diversity. Use inclusive language in external communications and job descriptions to attract qualified, diverse candidates

Above all, remember to give yourself the grace to get things wrong. If someone is brave enough to provide feedback about your content, listen. It takes courage to speak up and courage to change. Inclusive language is fluid and changes over time. Making mistakes is part of the process. 

Plus, valuing your employees means keeping an open dialog with them to ensure the content is effective and meets them where they’re at.

References:

More on Inclusive language: 

https://online.rider.edu/online-bachelors-degrees/liberal-studies/guide-to-using-inclusive-language/ 

Content Guide: 

https://content-guide.18f.gov/our-style/inclusive-language/ 

Diversity Style Guide:

https://www.diversitystyleguide.com/ 

Guidelines for inclusive language:

https://www.linguisticsociety.org/resource/guidelines-inclusive-language