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Walking the Line – Communicating the Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity and Inclusion are hot-button topics in corporate America today. Our social media feeds are flooded with posts highlighting inequality, sexism, and racism in our communities and workplaces. However, the narrative around Diversity and Inclusion within organizations is changing. Companies are beginning to recognize that teams with greater diversity out-perform, out-earn, and out-innovate their non-diverse counterparts. Diversity is not just a buzz word or a box to be checked. Instead, creating diverse and inclusive workplaces is the only way forward both socially and economically.

Building an Effective Communication Strategy

Professionals working in Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources are ready to move forward with policies and programs to increase the visibility of the benefits of internal culture shifts. However, they often face the difficult task of getting fellow employees to subscribe to a new way of thinking and conducting business. The key to garnering this buy-in from individuals within an organization is a strong communication strategy. It is especially important when discussing diversity and inclusion, as the topics at hand can be triggering and create strong reactions in those involved.

Know Your Audience – How Do They Communicate?

The ability to effectively communicate with an audience is crucial when addressing issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental abilities, and socioeconomic status. Every person can be triggered depending on the subject matter and context of these conversations. What makes these identity-based discussions upsetting, challenging, and complicated is not the identities themselves but rather what they call attention to — power relations and struggles between privileged and underprivileged groups. To achieve real equity, inclusivity, and representation, organizations have to drive home the message that diversity and inclusion are everyone’s business. Employee engagement is critical to the success of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. Internal memos and email communications, sharing stories of diverse employees through internal resource groups, newsletters, and webinars are all great ways to keep employees up to date on an organization’s commitment to equity and inclusion.

Executive Buy-In – Communicating with Leaders

Diverse representation in leadership is essential for all organizations. Gender diversity is associated with avoidance of securities fraud, better monitoring of management practices, ethical firm behavior, and higher accounting-based performance and stock market returns. Having diverse representation in leadership is a powerful way to drive change in an organization, but if a corporation does not have diverse leadership, having the non-diverse leaders champion the cause is a great way to gain visibility for the proposed policies and programs. It is also vital to introduce a well-written and well-researched business plan. An effective Diversity and Inclusion business plan should impart the knowledge that improving business performance via ethical means will play a significant role in future-proofing the organization. Internal advocates and champions for Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are crucial when it comes to communicating company-wide cultural changes. These advocates can emphasize the importance of participating in training, internal resource groups, storytelling and discussion forums, and mentor-mentee relationships.

Removing Biases

Biases, both unconscious and conscious, are a hindrance to the progress of Diversity and Inclusion efforts across all organizations of all sizes. Companies around the world are doing many things to remove these biases, from automating processes to reforming recruiting and interview practices. Google is leading the charge with the adoption of a policy focusing on “Culture-add” instead of “Culture-fit.” Putting the “focus on how a candidate would add to Google’s culture, not simply how they might fit” is an excellent start in bridging cultural and generational gaps. Progressive companies are also doing away with resume reviews altogether to ensure no biases get in the way when hiring a new associate.

Diversity of Thought

Part of the challenge in implementing diversity and inclusion policies is the broad spectrum of characteristics that make up diversity. The definition goes beyond the traditional way of thinking, focusing on women and people of color. A genuinely inclusive environment is friendly for all people regardless of background. Luckily, we live in a time when the community is more accessible than ever. An organization can engage with their customers, in real-time, and get feedback on policies, procedures, products, and more by utilizing social media. Arguably, the most critical form of communication for any business to keep a pulse on how they are perceived is social media. Consumers regularly engage with companies via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In any industry, it is essential to consider how your business impacts and intersects with the unique cultural fabric and challenges of the cities and countries you work in. The best way to gauge this is to ask the individuals living and working in those communities.

Continuing the Discussion

Succeeding in being a truly inclusive and equitable organization for employees of all backgrounds is a difficult job that will never reach a natural conclusion. As the world evolves, our policies and procedures will need to change alongside it, as will our communication tools and strategies. Diversity and Inclusion professionals must effectively communicate the social and economic benefits associated with having an inclusive workforce. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, we all need to embrace our differences and come together to innovate and offer products and services that meet the needs of our ever-changing, diverse population.

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