Diversity and Inclusion: The Role Communicators Need to Play
Last updated on December 19, 2022 at 06:30 pm
Employees are starting to demand change. One of the main reasons people quit is because of bad work cultures. A bad culture is often the combination of many factors, including work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, psychological safety, workplace values, and so on. Comms professionals have the chance to lead your company through diversity and inclusion efforts to create a safe, welcoming, and equitable company.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get the real work done. However, it’s essential to understand that diversity and inclusion must be led by employees and supported by leadership. Statements and actions can feel hollow if they don’t represent the change employees want to see. So, what can you, as an internal comms pro, do to advance DEI at your company so it’s a movement, not just a moment?
Tip 1: Communicate to employees first
Show employees their feelings and reactions matter and are your priority. When companies choose to make their statements around DEI, the Black Lives Matter movement, and systemic racism in the media first, they are saying to their employees, “We care more about the public perception of our company than we do about aligning with the voices and values of our employees.”
This is not a way to generate trust. And trust is essential in encouraging employees to bring their authentic voices to the workplace and this critical conversation.
Tip 2: Create an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for DEI
An ERG is an employee-led group that creates safe spaces for transparent conversations about issues important to your people. Some companies have already created ERGs where diversity is celebrated. If you haven’t helped advocate for employee resource groups at your company, it’s time to consider it. These safe spaces are an important step in building psychological safety for your employees, and they give them a chance to lead the DEI movement at your company.
This is the time to shift that focus and identify opportunities in the workplace and the community where your company can end systemic racism and inequality. Make sure your ERGs include employees of all races, cultures, sexual orientations, ages, jobs, and at least one executive sponsor. (Don’t forget your frontline workers!)
If you don’t have an executive specializing in DEI, find an outside resource who can support this effort. One of the most important things we can do within our companies is to acknowledge our shortcomings and correct them.
Tip 3: Be transparent and bring the data
Some employees may not realize how non-diverse their company is and why that matters. Communicators can work with HR to gather data beyond who makes up the workforce.
- Look at your suppliers, business partners, and board members. Are they all accounted for in your DEI plan?
- Ask for employee feedback on their perception of diversity and inclusion in the business today. This data is critical in understanding what your employees value and identify as priority changes. If you want to build trust, acknowledging opportunities to be better and bringing examples and data to your communication is key.
Internal communicators have a responsibility to bring the voices of all employees to the executive team and hold them accountable.
As diversity advocate Vernã Myers said:
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
When you bring your diversity, equity, and inclusion plan together, make sure it is clear and actionable. Too often, these plans are all talk. We do not always give them the budget, resources, and leadership sponsorship required to accomplish. Embed your plans in the company culture to abolish inequality in the workplace. It’s critical that you make sure messages reach all employees directly and that they can easily share their feedback. Unfortunately, conversations about DEI often stay within the corporate office. So, it’s key to include your remote and frontline workers in this movement.
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