New report from RedThread Research illustrates how organizations can use employee development to advance their diversity and inclusion goals

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High-performing organizations are increasingly turning to employee development—specifically, the idea of learning equity—to advance their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging goals. According to newly released findings from RedThread Research, these companies are more transparent about what development opportunities are available and offer more opportunities to more employees in more roles. The result is a more diverse, capable, and competitive workforce.

While DEIB goals have long been pursued through training, today’s most effective organizations are accelerating progress by focusing on expanding employees’ access to development opportunities.

High-performing organizations have discovered an effective new way to advance their goals for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), according to a report from RedThread Research. By broadening access to employee development opportunities, organizations can improve DEIB while creating a more competitive workforce.

“Broadening access to employee development is the right thing to do for DEIB, and it’s also good for business,” said Dani Johnson, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research. “More access means more employees from a wider range of perspectives will develop the skills they need for the future.”

While DEIB goals have long been pursued through training, today’s most effective organizations are accelerating progress by focusing on expanding employees’ access to development opportunities.    

“DEIB training is foundational. But L&D functions need to stop thinking just about training and start thinking about learning equity,” said Heather Gilmartin Adams, senior analyst at RedThread and author of the report. “They need to think about making the systems of employee development themselves more inclusive and equitable.”

L&D functions are uniquely suited to advance DEIB goals because they reach across the entire organization and can influence expectations for how employees work and interact with one another. This gives them the ability to move the needle on the deep cultural change that DEIB efforts require.

Based on surveys, interviews, discussions, and other research, the new report, “Less DEIB Training, More Learning Equity: Making Employee Development More Equitable and Inclusive,” reveals how high-performing organizations are leading the way in using employee development to reach their DEIB goals, advance careers, and enhance workforce capabilities. At high-performing organizations:

  • 81% of employees said their organization is transparent about development opportunities, compared to 61% in other organizations
  • 84% of employees said their organization offers equal access to development opportunities, compared to 58% in other organizations
  • About twice as many employees reported being enabled to participate in development as those in other organizations

“Learning equity is an area of untapped opportunity to improve DEIB in organizations,” said Gilmartin Adams. “High-performing organizations know this. They’re working toward learning equity much more actively than other organizations.”

As one leader, Kate Shaw, director of learning at Airbnb, explained, “DEIB has to be not just a piece of what you do, but woven throughout everything you do.”

The report includes concrete ideas about the steps L&D functions can take to move their organizations toward more diverse, equitable, and inclusive employee development. It identifies three areas of employee development that L&D functions should focus on, as well as nine obstacles to learning equity and how to address them.

“To improve learning equity, you need to be more transparent about what’s available, provide more equal access to those opportunities, and enable more employees to actually participate in development,” said Gilmartin Adams. “In other words, it’s about more employees being aware of opportunity, being included in the group it’s offered to, and having the means to participate.”

“For example, if you announce opportunities via email, you’re going to miss people,” continued Gilmartin Adams. “If you offer primarily in-person training at your corporate university, you might miss people who are qualified but can’t travel. If you only target people based on their current role, you might miss those in other roles with potential to grow.”

To read the full report, including an infographic outlining the nine obstacles to learning equity and how to address them, visit On Tuesday, June 14, RedThread will host an interactive webinar exploring the study’s findings and the practical implications for L&D functions working on DEIB. For complete access to the latest research in human resources and workforce development strategies, become a RedThread Research member.

About Dani Johnson, Co-founder and Principal Analyst, RedThread Research
Dani has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Before starting RedThread, she led the Learning and Career research practice at Bersin, Deloitte. Her ideas can be found in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds a Master of Business Administration degree and Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University.

About Heather Gilmartin Adams, Senior Analyst, RedThread Research
Trained in conflict resolution and organizational development, Heather has spent the past 10 years in various capacities at organizational culture and mindset change consultancies, as well as with the U.S. Department of the Treasury. She holds a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Princeton University. She has lived in Germany, China, Japan, and India, and was, for one summer, a wrangler on a dude ranch in Colorado.

About RedThread Research
In an HR industry rife with jargon and fluff, RedThread Research connects experience, data, and ideas to provide substance and actionable insights. RedThread researchers are experts in performance, people analytics, learning, and diversity and inclusion, as well as the emerging technologies to support them. Their original research is developed through broad collaboration to curate the best ideas and written in plain language to be as useful as possible. The result is high-quality, unbiased, transformative foresight to help organizations improve people practices and build a stronger business.
To learn more, visit

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