5 steps to a communications strategy that supports inclusion
The conundrum: Not everyone feels comfortable sharing data, employees must be allowed to opt out of sharing personal information, yet meaningful data can’t solely rely on the opinions of a handful of people.
To get extensive buy-in, it’s paramount to create a culture of trust, openness, and authenticity. Some organisations offer fantastic solutions for improving their employees’ health, but they aren’t taken up in big numbers. It’s an issue of trust.
To build trust, the way you communicate with employees must be authentic. Organisations should align their workplace to their internal brand. For a start, be visible and accountable: engage in two-way communication with your employees and be committed to taking action.
If one of your aims is to be seen as diverse and inclusive, you need to prove it. Whether that’s amplifying the work of internal diversity networks, leading by example, organising workshops on unconscious bias, or using technology to help write balanced recruitment adverts.
How to create a communications strategy that supports inclusion:
1. Understand your current baseline
Diversity and inclusion is a bit like an orchestra. Building diversity is about bringing in all the different instruments. Building inclusion is about creating a performance in which every instrument contributes at the right time, in the right way.
But even in the best orchestra, a musician may play a note wrong, miss a cue, drop the beat. And every time a new musician joins, or one leaves, the orchestra has to readjust to stay in tune.
The same is true of inclusion. It requires continual readjustment. And the key to making those adjustments is to keep checking in with employees.
Before creating any strategies or policies to address inclusion, stop, and listen to your employees. Run polls. Hold focus groups. Understand your demographics, know what colleagues value and want, and discover the issues that need to be addressed for your business.
Listening effectively is the launchpad for effective communication.
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2. Ensure leadership is on board
Inclusion requires change, whether in mindset, behaviour, policy – or all three. For change to be effective, it has to be supported at the top of the organisation. That support has to be visible, and it has to be communicated. To do that, think about leaders as spokespeople.
Ensuring leadership teams are equipped to communicate and model inclusion is a critical step in building an inclusive workplace. Leaders set the tone for a workplace culture that values and embraces difference.
3. Set expectations
With leaders on board, it’s important to set explicit expectations for managers about supporting inclusion within their teams and how to do it. This should share the mindset you want them to have, and the actions you want them to take, as well as directing them to support, resources, and training.
Both your organisation as a whole, and individual teams, need to build a culture of inclusion. At team level, this is led by managers who need to understand why inclusion matters, their role in creating it and how to handle barriers to inclusion.
4. Involve everyone
Building inclusion requires inclusive communications that reach everybody across the business.
D&I is applicable to everyone and organisations need to connect with all their employees, especially those who don't think D&I is relevant to them. Only then can an organisation drive sustainable change, championing inclusive culture and acting as allies.
Establish a tone of voice that is friendly, warm, and invites everyone in. Ensure that your external and internal visuals and communications reflect the diversity of your workplace. Ensure that everyone is represented.
5. Celebrate difference
A simple and positive way to show all employees that they are welcome and valued is to celebrate the things that matter to them.
At its heart, inclusion is about welcoming people whose experiences, understanding, and aptitudes may be entirely different from our own. That openness, and willingness to take on different perspectives, is challenging and rewarding.
The workplace is no longer a static, office-based environment that caters to the largest common denominator. If companies want to stay competitive and attract a diverse, highly skilled workforce, they must use technology and data. What's more, they’ll be creating an enviable experience for employees that will drive their business forward.
In partnership with Buck
Buck is a global, integrated HR consulting, benefits administration & technology services provider.