VisionSpring, Inc. is a WBENC-certified diversity, equity &inclusion (DEI) consulting firm offering fully integrated strategy development, employee resource group (ERG) strategic consulting, training, eLearning and continuous learning solutions. For over 20 years, the company has passionately worked with its clients to help them in their DEI endeavors by functioning as an extended part of their team.

Following is the conversation that Manage HR magazine had with VisionSpring’s co-Founders and Partners, Erica Colonero and Robin Pedrelli. They explained how their company is creating communities of practice that bring together the shared thought leadership of its internal consultants, clients, and partners.

Please elaborate on how VisionSpring has established itself in the Diversity and Inclusion space.

Erica: We have each been doing this work for over 20 years. This is our passion. This is where we want to leave our legacy. There are a lot of consultantsjumping into this work because they suddenly see a market for it. They don’t have the breadth of experience or history, or knowledge to really approach this work effectively.

Yes, this is how we make a living, but we believe in the work that we do. That is evident in the way we build relationships and serve our clients. We have worked with some of the same clients for over 20 years, and not only have we developed professional relationships but also personal relationships.

Robin: I think what’s important to us and our clients is we customize our services based on their needs. We don’t try to upsell or push a one-size fits all approach. We can help them with all aspects of their DEI strategy depending on where they need the support. That may include helping them build their DEI roadmaps beginning with an assessment phase to identify current strengths and opportunities, crafting their 3-5 year DEI roadmap and creating an implementation plan. The relationship does not end there. We are able to leverage our instructional design experience to develop a learning map and training curriculum to begin the change management process internally.

What are the pain points that clients face today in their Diversity & Inclusion efforts?

Erica: For years we have been encouraging our clients to address equity and privilege. Those topics, for many, were taboo. After the death of George Floyd clients were ready to have the conversation. Yet, we were in the middle of a pandemic andneeded to figure out how to do this effectively in a virtual environment. In response, we converted all our classroom-based training to virtual classrooms and also launched an eLearning portfolio.

Robin: Our philosophy is to approach privilege and equity from a positive standpoint; to remove the associated guilt and anxiety so participants feel inspired and empowered to use their privilege to influence positive change.

Can you explain to us how does training fall into an overall change management process?

Erica: Building an inclusive culture is a complex change management process that requires a clear and compelling business case, the commitment and active engagement of key stakeholders, and effective large-scale training focused on awareness building and behavior change. Training is a necessary and fundamental element of a comprehensive, well-integrated strategy designed to sustain culture change.

It’s our philosophy that behavior change requires systemic organization-wide engagement, commitment over the long-term, and a willingness to invest in the process. A one-and-done approach to training will result in little more than a temporary shift in awareness. To be effective, learning must be a well-thought-out element of your overall change management strategy and learning and development must be ongoing.

How do you differentiate your eLearning from others in the market?

Robin: While traditional classroom training is often considered the ideal choice for addressing topics such as diversity and inclusion, eLearning when deployed as part of a comprehensive training and development strategy, has some obvious advantages.
Robin Pedrelli, co-Founder & Partner
Erica Colonero, co-Founder & Partner
Effective, meaningful eLearning courses enable our clients to cost-effectively and efficiently build awareness, engagement, and capability and can help accelerate culture change. VisionSpring’s eLearning is much more than a glorified PowerPoint - our eLearning is engaging, interactive and designed with the learner in mind.

Our approach to eLearning incorporates:

• A learner-centered design philosophy – all our eLearning courses focus on building awareness and skills in an interactive and engaging way
• Content Expertise – all of our training focuses on DEI and leverages our experience in the market
• Effective use of scenarios and interactive exercises to transfer new knowledge and skills to everyday work
• Different learning formats to engage all learners

It’s our philosophy that behaviour change requires systemic organization-wide engagement, commitment over the long-term and a willingness to invest in the process

eLearning can be limiting, especially when we are addressing topics related to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Much of the learning comes from dialogue and interaction.

How do you solve this?

Robin: We don’t recommend eLearning as your only source of DEI curriculum but can be extremely effective as part of an overall learning strategy. Each of our eLearning modules comes with a toolkit with follow-on tools and resources so companies can engage in dialogue to discuss what they learned and how what they learned applies to their work situation, team, or organization.

VisionSpring’s Inclusion Learning Loop™, a member-based learning community, provides your clients’ entire company access to an extensive library of D&I resources. Please elaborate.

Erica: We’re so proud of the Inclusion Learning Loop. We launched this resource with the goal of providing our members with cost-effective DEI tools, resources, and continuous learning solutions. Each month we create new tools, training, conversation starters, micro learnings, etc. on a variety of DEI topics. To date, the resource houses over 1,000 tools members can use to support their DEI strategy.

How do you enable organizations to sustain momentum and cost-effectively keep D&I an organization-wide priority all year long?

Erica: It is really important to have a strategy and plan with learning and development. You cannot expect to host one training, check the box, and be done. We work with our clients to create a learning map that lays out training and development across the year. This doesn’t always have to be traditional classroom-based training. We build in articles, self-reflection exercises, ice breakers that teams can use, scenarios, and videos to support learning.

Can you provide us a sneak-peak as to what lies ahead for your firm?

Robin: We’ve seen an influx of small to mid-sized organizations looking to address DE&I. We recognize that every company, every industry, every culture is different, so it’s really about understanding their unique business case, helping them gain leadership support and sponsorship, and developing a strategy with goals and objectives that they can implement and measure themselves against. We also recognized that small businesses employ close to 60 million people. If we’re truly passionate and committed to creating real change, we need to ensure small businesses have the tools and resources they need to address DE&I. Although the end goal is the same, small business need to take a different approach than larger companies. We’re streamlining a process for SMBs to effectively create and rollout DEI strategies in a way that works for them.

Erica: Whether you are a small company or Fortune 500, we are committed to providing community, support, and advocacy to our clients – to creating connections that will enable them to break down barriers in their organizations and sustain real change.