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Strength in difference: transforming a workforce with diversity training

Channel 4 has a strong reputation for diversity, and has carried that message to living rooms across Britain for over 30 years by delivering iconic TV moments that have changed the way people think about diversity: the first lesbian kiss on Brookside, the first black sitcom in Desmond’s, pioneering content like Queer as Folk, and of course the Paralympics coverage that forever changed views on disability.

Diversity is currently a hot topic for broadcasters with widely voiced concerns that the people on TV, and the people who make TV, are not truly representative of the UK.

To reinforce its position as a leader on diversity, Channel 4 created a 360 Diversity Charter and set itself some challenging objectives. To meet these objectives, Channel 4 commissioned Acteon to create their diversity training.

“Channel 4 wanted a game-changing learning intervention, and we worked closely with them to create it,” says Acteon Partner James Woodman. “Diversity is a complex and sensitive subject, and ‘Born Different’ was created to reaffirm Channel 4’s leadership in this area both on and off-screen. The title of the course links to their reputation for taking risks and pushing boundaries.”

Channel 4 used inspirational campaign-led e-learning to help meet key diversity objectives. At the heart of this success was a focus on learner engagement through innovative learning formats that built authenticity and trust. Acteon worked with Channel 4 to develop these underlying principles that can be applied to any learning intervention:

  1. Focus on the key actions and behaviours that staff need to demonstrate
  2. Align learning with organisational culture and values
  3. Blend your learning offering to produce a comprehensive campaign for change.


1. Focus on key actions

Diversity starts with finding new talent, so a key objective was to steer staff away from using the same networks, contacts and channels that had been relied on in the past. Spreading the net widely helps new voices and resources to be discovered: a message in full alignment with Channel 4’s reputation for fostering emerging talent. ‘Born Different’ invited staff to reflect on their own preconceptions: a risk that pays off if trust is built with the learner and there is a safe space for reflection and experimentation. The post-delivery evaluation found nearly ninety percent of ‘Born Different’ learners felt e-learning was a good way to deliver these messages.

By capturing the spirit and values of Channel 4, 'Born Different' engaged with hearts and minds.

2. Align to culture and values

By incorporating clips from Channel 4 broadcasts, bespoke graphics and animations, Acteon delivered distinctive, multimedia materials that captured the attention of their visually-attuned and production-savvy audience. This resonance with the organisation’s output and brand drives adoption, and was supported by an extensive internal communication campaign. “People can get diversity fatigue”, said Baroness Oona King, Diversity Executive at Channel 4. “But by capturing the spirit and values of Channel 4, ‘Born Different’ engaged with hearts and minds. It was a call to action, and Channel 4 people acted! And that matters, because when we get diversity right we unlock talent – which makes us better at everything we do.”

3. Blend and ‘campaign for change’

To embed key learning messages and drive behaviour change, ‘Born Different’ was woven into an internal communication campaign that used a number of channels to reinforce key themes and messages. These channels included the staff intranet, posters, mini-movies, messages of the day, all-staff emails and desk-drops. This was designed to maintain awareness of Channel 4’s commitment to diversity and reinforce the importance of individual actions. Face-to-face training was also blended into the programme with a series of ‘diversity breakfasts’ that further discussed and explored messages delivered by the e-learning. This was supported by the Acteon Knowledge Centre, a blended learning system that includes administration for face-to-face training alongside e-learning modules, allowing delivery and completion tracking across online and offline channels through a single platform.

Measuring success

Using the Acteon Knowledge Centre, Channel 4 were able to track uptake against milestones in the internal communication campaign, allowing communications to specific groups as the course progressed. By linking training completion statistics to in-house diversity monitoring, Acteon were also able to give a tangible measure of how Channel 4’s understanding of its own internal diversity changed as a result of the course. By creating a culture of openness, and motivating staff to complete their diversity self-declarations, ‘Born Different’ led to increases in the reported representation of two key minority groups, allowing Channel 4 to meet these diversity targets four years ahead of schedule. This data enabled Channel 4 to respond to business need with an updated strategy, allocating resources where they could make the most impact. These figures also give a clear measure of the business transformation achieved through the appropriate and targeted use of blended learning.

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