Current events have sparked a renewed debate around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Still, with a predominantly remote workforce, new challenges could get in the way of effective communication, writes Praveen Kanyadi is Co-founder & VP Products at Groupe.io.
Diversity and inclusion have been hot topics on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda for years. In the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, more than 69% of executives felt diversity and inclusion related to the business was an important issue. Given we are amid a pandemic suffused by global-civic unrest, this figure is likely much higher now.
How much of this debate and dialogue translates into action is evident from the workplace’s ground-level reality? Despite diversity inching into the hiring process and some strides being made in this area, there is still a long way to go. There has been a lot of lip service towards the issue, amounting to little being done. A lot of this could be attributed to the lack of awareness of D&I’s impact on financials and productivity.
Diversity and Inclusion at the Generational Level
DiversityOpens a new window Â is not just about hiring people from versatile backgrounds â€“ it signifies a paradigm shift in culture. The zeitgeist of this year and the ensuing decade seems to be revolving around acceptance, self-love, and unity in diversity at a global level.
Generation Z, a color and gender blind, albeit vocal generation, is at the forefront of this movement along with Millennials. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they have officially overtaken the combined Generation X, baby boomers, and older cohorts in terms of the population.
What makes these facts and figures even more critical is that the U.S. Census Bureau also reports that those under age 40 are more diverse than their older cohorts, with almost half identifying as part of a racial or ethnic minority. With millennials predicted to make upÂ 75% of the workforce by 2025Opens a new window , D&I can no longer be an afterthought in the workplace.
Improving D&I requires a strong commitment at every level of an organization. It has evolved from an inconspicuous corner of an HR checklist to becoming a CEO-level issue world over.
How D&I Helps Organizations
The moral implications of incorporating D&I are well known, but what is the business case for diversity? Various workplaces have a more comprehensive array of skill sets, better problem solving, and more innovation. Employee retention, job satisfaction, well-being, commitment, and less organizational turnover are other advantages of D&I in the workplace.
An engaged workforce results in approximately aÂ 22% improvement in the bottom-lineOpens a new window . Diversity and inclusion cannot remain a fad triggered by increasing civic awareness. It is practical and offers organizations measurable advantages from a business point of view.
Features of a Diverse and Inclusive Communications Strategy
Internal communications have a significant role in creating workplace equality. One of the internal communications roles is to give every employee a voice, a platform to express themselves, and an overall sense of belonging during their tenure. The communications team also has the responsibility of creating awareness amongst employees towards inclusive attitudes and behaviors.
Many components need to be kept in mind while drafting a diversity and inclusion-based internal communications strategy.
1.Â Create a yardstick for inclusive language in all communications
Creating a protocol for communicating within the purview of inclusivity goes a long way in building clarity around the issue.Â Being extremely specific and lucid about boundaries of acceptability in day to day communication within the workplace is the way to go.
Elucidate what types of words and phrases are biased towards gender, race, culture, and other groups. Creating a reference document of best practices is an excellent way to assist and sensitize employees towards making inclusive language second nature in their work life.
Doing this in action for many tech companies means starting from square one â€“ analyzing all documentation and even source code to replace insensitive terms with neutral and more socially acceptable alternative terminology. IBM and MicrosoftOpens a new window are currently making headlines for their efforts, on the heels of similar rallies by Twitter, GitHub, and more.
2. Share a communication road map for different platforms
A digital transformation is underway in almost all organizations worldwide. Employees use multiple digital channels to communicate with each other regularly. Comms professionals must leverage these multiple communication pathways, be it email, intranet, employee apps, or enterprise social platforms, to convey diversity-related information and protocol to the workforce.
Reaching out to a diverse, multi-generational workforce can be rather challenging. What works for some may not work for others, especially in a remote setting. It’s important to find those engagement points for different employees and magnify them virtually, just like eBayOpens a new window did for their virtual summer internship in the wake of the pandemic. They leveraged technology strategically (Slack channels for mutual interest and Zoom fireside chats, to name a few) and created an engaging summer program for young minds focused on company culture.
Using all digital communication channels will go a long way in keeping almost the entire workforce in the loop. It also helps with keeping employees more engaged. Engaged workers feel more comfortable in expressing themselves, which is an important factor in building inclusiveness.
3. Change visual and other communication methodology
Most written communication is accompanied by other elements like images, videos, and infographics.
Bring diversity into the mix while using images for your internal blog, intranet messages, and company-wide emails. Be mindful of the kind of people being featured in the organization or product videos and strive for fair representation while creating graphics of any kind.
Ensuring that most, if not all, employees feel represented starts with your choice of words and graphics used in internal communications.
4. Walk your talk with authentic communications
Talking tall about being progressive is not enough. It is important to follow it up with cohesive action. One of the best ways to start is by building partnerships with multicultural professional associations or initiating a mentorship program internally or externally to cultivate a culture of inclusion. The Trade DeskOpens a new window , for example, participates in a mentoring program with the Mosaic Project, a non-profit service that serves children of diverse backgrounds. Through this mentorship program, The Trade Desk helps prepare students for careers in their field, where they are significantly underrepresented.
Translating well-laid plans into reality in such ways is very important for brand credibility. If not, employees will feel that your company is inauthentic in its words, and communication after that will fall flat or have little to no impact on your workforce.
If you cannot reach your D&I goals, it is important to analyze and evaluate where the plan went wrong and realign with a new process. Either way, making a concerted and sincere effort in this direction goes a long way in showing that you mean business.
Promoting D&I in a Predominantly Remote Workforce
By now, remote work has infiltrated every nook and cranny of the corporate world owing to the pandemic. Telecommuting is opening the doorway to equal opportunity and rights in a new normal.
In many ways, remote work has changed the playing field by mitigating factors that evoke filters in interactions. For example, when you are no longer in the same physical environment as your colleagues, most communication occurs digitally. Therefore, interactions are stripped of the visual characteristics that emphasize the differences between individuals, giving room for more inclusion and neutrality within a team or workforce. Also, introverts who might have been hesitant to come forward in a group might find an outlet to express themselves more efficiently within a remote team.
With work and productivity taking center stage in a work-from-home (WFH) setting, everything else such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or disability take a back seat, and people are less likely to clash while collaborating.
To Wrap Up
Remote work also promotes diversity and inclusion by being both location and time zone independent. Recruiting people who live far away from your office is no longer an issue. Employees can be brought in from rural areas and different countries as well. This will add more value and enrich the business in terms of talent, ideas, diversity, and productivity.
The onus is on organizations to keep the spark alive around this critical issue. While the myriad advantages of diversity and inclusion are coming to the forefront, communications teams will continue to play a major role in enhancing and retaining this metric in the years to come.