With so many companies focused on proudly showcasing their commitment to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) externally, there’s one audience that holds unparalleled potential for driving growth and success: our own employees.
Recent years have seen movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQIA+ advocacy bring DEI to the forefront of the corporate world’s conscience. Today, many companies are eager to outwardly demonstrate a culture of progressiveness and acceptance to consumers and like-minded businesses as a core element of their marketing and communications strategy. This approach has proven extremely successful, especially as Millennials and Gen Z have emerged as a driving force of the economy, bringing with them values forged by decades of previous DEI efforts. However, amidst this external focus, a crucial audience often remains underserved: employees. The importance of bringing these internal stakeholders along on a company’s DEI journey through employee communications is nuanced, but not onerous, when guided by a few key insights.
The DEI movement of today has a long history that originated with the United States civil rights movement in the 1960s, which soon blossomed into an international movement that addressed gender diversity and educational issues in the 1970s and 1980s. Over time, the movement expanded to include a wide range of identities such as sexual orientation, religion, abilities and more. Today, DEI continues to play a crucial role in promoting equality and diversity in our society.
With changing social norms and personal identities, employees increasingly seek workplaces that mirror these shifts. A 2020 Glassdoor study underscores this, revealing that 76% of job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. So, why does internal employee communication so often neglect to highlight DEI in a meaningful way, instead of only during specific times, like Pride Month?
Research has shown a wide range of benefits for companies that promote a culture of DEI, including:
• Higher revenue growth stemming from greater market insights and knowledge
• Increased retention rates
• More opportunities for personal and professional growth
• Enhanced creativity and innovation driven by varied perspectives
According to Vernā Myers, a leading voice for DEI in the workplace, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
As we all know, employee communication is an essential element of every company’s human resource strategy. It has been proven to improve work engagement, trust, retention, reputation, and advocacy. The effective use of internal communication channels to share and reinforce DEI initiatives is exactly the invitation to the dance that so many have been waiting for and is the employer’s opportunity to turn employees into advocates and ambassadors.
The key to successfully addressing DEI through internal communications lies in consistency and frequency. A sporadic mention of diversity and inclusion in one or two newsletters sends the wrong message – a checkbox approach. Transparent and frequent dialogues allow employees to grasp the depth of a company’s DEI efforts and become active stakeholders in the process. This doesn’t mean that every communication needs to trumpet the success of DEI initiatives, but instead, leadership should share new approaches, progress, setbacks, and learnings. Nobody has all the answers, but demonstrating an earnest approach to being the best possible employer is what ultimately wins hearts and team loyalty.
When developing an internal communications strategy that effectively addresses DEI, there are a few key elements to keep in mind:
• Authenticity: DEI priorities must be embraced and driven by organisational leaders at every level. What are the areas that need improvement and what goals you are working toward? Team members need to see that DEI is an integral part of the organisation’s culture, not just a series of occasional initiatives. When leadership is honest about the work that is needed, the wider team is more likely to be active participants on the journey.
• Inclusivity: Be mindful of the language and imagery used in internal communications. We’ve all seen countless stock images of middle-aged white men sitting around a conference table, but take a step back and consider the impact such images have on a diverse workforce. People want to see themselves represented. Likewise, the language used needs to be inclusive and free of phrases, tones, or words that convey any form of bias or stereotypes.
• Accountability: Set goals and communicate the organisation’s progress against them. Show team members the progress being made and where additional work is still required. Lack of accountability risks “diversity fatigue” or, in other words, being seen as all talk and no action. What does this lead to? The greatest risk of all: employee disengagement.
• Diversity: Communications need to represent a diversity of voices, perspectives, and personal experiences. If only one voice is represented, it demonstrates a lack of authenticity and commitment to DEI.
Speaking from my own personal experience as a gay Caucasian man who lives in Asia with his racially diverse family, being able to live and work as my authentic and true self is essential to my personal and professional success. Knowing that my employer sees, understands and supports me for who I am is of the utmost importance to me.
At Sinclair, our Team First culture creates a safe space and allows people to be themselves. We continually communicate this core value within the agency to ensure we uphold our promise to our colleagues. Like every company, we still have work to do and need to remain vigilant, but through open internal communication, the entire team is helping to guide us.