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Professional Development with PowerED

How to promote allyship at work

PowerED™ by Athabasca University partnership helps D2L transform how employees think about allyship, systemic discrimination, and diversity

As technology makes the world smaller and more connected, workplaces have become increasingly diverse. This makes allyship and inclusion more critical than ever.

But knowing how to have productive conversations about diversity and allyship can be a challenge, especially with a multigenerational workforce and staff of different backgrounds and experiences.

“Our teams and our customer base are more diverse now than ever, and having the ability to have conscientious conversations is extremely important,” explained Mike Flewwelling, former vice-president 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.”

“It’s not enough to say you don’t support discrimination.”

– Mike Flewwelling, former VP customer success, D2L

As a leader, Flewwelling wanted to help his team reduce that internal discomfort. They turned to their professional development platform, powered by D2L Wave, to help the team find and register for PowerED™ by Athabasca University’s micro-course, Embracing Allyship & Inclusion.

“It’s not enough to say you don’t support discrimination,” Flewwelling said. “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.”

Through the course of the training, the team’s 39 staff members learned just as much about themselves as they did about each other.

What is allyship?

Allyship in the workplace refers to a person using their power and privilege to support and advocate for colleagues from marginalized groups, including 2SLGBTQIA+, women, people of colour, and those with different abilities.

PowerED™’s micro-credential is designed to help organizations start the journey of dismantling systemic discrimination and building an inclusive workforce.

“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,” explained Ian Stephenson, interim manager of professional development and partnerships at PowerED™ by Athabasca University.

Professional development as team building

Right away, there was strong interest in the course, Flewwelling said, especially given the format—self-paced learning. That allowed team members to learn individually while still allowing for reflection and group discussions.

For senior customer success manager Jamie Ferrazano, who at the time was new to D2L, taking the course was a fascinating part of onboarding with his new company and getting to know co-workers.

“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,” Ferrazano said.

“The experience was very positive,” added Anita Joshi, customer success specialist. The content was strong and the multimedia course format was really engaging, she said. But even more important was knowing that everyone in the company was taking the course, including senior leaders.

“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.”

– Anita Joshi, D2L

“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.”

Changing workplace culture

After the training, the customer success team found they had a better connection to their colleagues and more trust in their relationships. It provided them with an opportunity to see the world from different perspectives and exposed them to different lived experiences, backgrounds, and challenges.

“I became aware that I was uncomfortable talking about these issues, which is exactly why I needed to be talking about them,” Ferrazano said. “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 also implemented meetings where staff can have important conversations around the topics of diversity, allyship, and inclusion.

“We’re focused on taking what we’ve learned and applying it internally in order to foster more allies within our organization,” Flewwelling said.

This article was adapted from a D2L Wave case study. Read the original.

Banner image: The Gender Spectrum Collection

Learn more about Embracing Allyship & Inclusion.

  • June 20, 2023