By Katie Brenneman
A lot has changed in the past two years. The pandemic has increased our reliance on remote technology, protests have reinvigorated social justice discourse, and developments in AI technology have ushered in a new era of corporate work, where complex algorithms help us complete our daily tasks.
These developments have changed the way we work forever, but not everyone has been able to keep up to speed. In particular, those who lost their jobs during the pandemic may return to the workforce to find an entirely new workplace culture.
Employers can help everyone feel accepted in workplace culture by investing in education for employees. This might involve e-learning programs that teach hard skills like coding, inviting guest speakers who help employees understand diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, or offering flexible hours for folks who wish to attend university.
But some managers or executives still aren’t convinced that access to education is important. So, here are a few additional reasons why businesses should invest in education that improves workplace culture for all.
Understanding DEI Initiatives
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the hottest trend in corporate management at the moment. While some folks see it as little more than a symbolic commitment to justice, the reality is that successful DEI initiatives have improved workplace culture and conditions across America.
However, DEI programs still have their blind spots, as Lily Zheng, speaking to the New York Times, points out. Zheng recognizes that DEI initiatives have a class problem and that many successful DEI programs are not available to folks working in blue-collar professions. This means that DEI programs form a knowledge gap between white-collar and blue-collar professionals and may create disunity between management and employees.
To overcome this barrier, managers and executives must recognize the power of their position and start advocating for greater access to education for all employees — regardless of whether they work behind a desk or on a construction site. By advocating for employee education, managers and executives can improve workplace culture, increase the effectiveness of DEI initiatives, and create a more harmonious workplace where folks are headed in the same direction.
Soft Skills for Harmony
We’ve all received an email that appears to be disrespectful or rude. More often than not, the person who wrote the email did not intend to be offensive — they simply lacked the soft skills necessary to write a polite email that meets our cultural expectations. Most of the time, moments like this are easily forgotten or resolved with quick intervention. But workplace friction can be prevented altogether if employers commit to teaching employees the soft skills they need to be successful in a professional environment.
Of course, employers don’t need a training program to teach folks to say “hello” when they arrive in the morning. But, programs which teach employees less intuitive soft skills like cultural competence are vital in the current corporate climate where diversity is cherished. This can prevent faux-pas in the office like cultural appropriation of fashion and can encourage a growth mindset in employees who may be working with people who look different from themselves for the first time.
Self-Worth and Advocacy
Education does more than improve an employee’s ability to complete tasks. At its core, education should also improve an individual’s self-worth, and give them the skills and confidence they need to engage in self-advocacy. This is sure to improve workplace culture, as employees can be forthright about their feelings, and can help managers make more accurate decisions.
Self-worth and advocacy can also improve the mental health of employees. Well-educated employees are more likely to have the vocabulary they need to express themselves and overcome the stigma around mental health. This means that employees who are struggling can seek help, and are more likely to receive the support of managers who, through education, understand the pressures that their employees may be facing.
Education plays a vital role in all positive workplace cultures. Access to education helps employees feel valued and gives them the skills they need to find success in a professional context. Employers who provide further education may also benefit from greater engagement with DEI initiatives, as educated employees are more likely to self-advocate and proactively raise important issues that management may have missed.
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, and activism-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.