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Incorporating Diversity and Inclusion into Communications Strategy

June 30, 2020

Given today’s increasingly diverse workforce, it is not only important but also necessary for organizations to incorporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) into their communications strategies.

 What is Diversity and Inclusion?

Most people understand diversity, as all institutions consist of individuals who are unique from one other. Diversity is multifaceted – whether it be ethnic, racial, gender, socioeconomic, geographic, religious, sexual orientation, cultural, or other differences among people. In the context of the workplace, diversity is the hiring of individuals from various backgrounds, especially those hailing from underrepresented groups.

Underrepresented groups often experience marginalization, resulting from long histories of discrimination and oppression. This point is why the second part of D&I – inclusion – is crucial. While it is important for organizations to avoid discrimination in their hiring practices, inclusion aims to foster a work environment in which norms and behaviors ensure that all opinions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences are equally respected and valued.

Diversity and Inclusion in Communication

Organizations simply having a D&I program is not enough to foster an inclusive workplace; there should also be leadership buy-in and continuous reinforcement of D&I.  To ensure that a D&I program is successful, leaders must incorporate diversity and inclusion into their communication—both internally to employees and externally to stakeholders. Our experts have compiled some tips on how to effectively communicate D&I in the modern workplace.

Communicate the Value of Diversity in the Workplace

Leaders should always send the message that diversity brings about fresh ideas and new perspectives, which can lead to innovation and creativity and ultimately result in better ways of doing things. A study by The Economist found that the majority respondents believe that D&I promotes better talent management, employee satisfaction, collaboration, and corporate reputation.

When organizations consist of diverse employees, they can also better reach a wide-range of audiences. Overall, leaders should communicate that D&I benefits the organization as a whole and tie it to organizational mission, vision, and values.

Ensure Messaging is Inclusive

Because poorly communicated diversity and inclusion messaging can backfire, leaders must ensure that their messaging incorporates inclusive language. Inclusive language aims to avoid any terms that exclude certain groups of people. Communicators should be mindful of who the audience is, avoiding jargon, acronyms, idioms, and other specialized language. The message can become lost if the audience hails from a different cultural or professional background.

Lead Conversations about What Diversity Looks Like

While organizations should send messages about D&I, this communication is stronger when they are leading by example and ensuring that their policies and organizational structures support D&I. Organizations should evaluate factors such as the diversity of their management and whether human resources practices take into account a diverse workforce.

While most people would agree that organizations should have D&I, they can get lost in translation when determining what that looks like in their day-to-day. To address this gap, leaders need to communicate what diversity actually looks like for the organization, as well as any D&I initiatives they are undertaking.

Talk, but Also Listen

Any effective communication strategy establishes a two-way dialogue between leaders and employees. While diversity brings about innovative ideas, some individuals from underrepresented groups may feel hesitant approaching leadership. Leaders must be prepared to have uncomfortable dialogue when necessary and continuously encourage employees to share any ideas, feedback, or concerns through a variety of outlets such as mentors, leadership, direct supervisors, HR, anonymous surveys, and more. Even more importantly, when any employee approaches upper-level management, leaders should actively listen and ask meaningful questions.

Hold All Employees Accountable

While communicating the case for diversity can help an organization develop shared values, creating a truly inclusive environment requires that all employees understand their role in facilitating D&I.

Employees in management positions should actively seek out mentorship opportunities by helping more junior employees develop their talents. Establishing a formal one-on-one mentoring program can help develop a more inclusive culture by involving diverse individuals in more high-level projects and decisions. Hosting mandatory diversity and inclusion training, while also consistently reinforcing and following up on lessons learned, can help employees understand their role in fostering an inclusive environment.

In acknowledgement of and respect for today’s increasingly diverse workforce, promoting diversity and inclusion shapes a positive work environment for employees and ultimately positions organizations for greater success.  Diverse viewpoints lead to more dynamic teams and unique solutions. To learn about how WBD helps our clients incorporate diversity and inclusion into their messaging, read about our Communications Practice.

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