5 Ways Internal Communications Can Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
At Brilliant Ink, we believe diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) affect the experiences of all employees at every step of the employee lifecycle. And yet, as communicators, we don't always feel comfortable stepping up to lead and drive DEI efforts inside our organizations.
That's why we recently teamed up with our good friends at the Advanced Learning Institute (ALI) to host a half-day master class, "Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Internal Communications," where experts from our team and beyond discussed best practices to foster inclusion and belonging at work.
After just four hours, participants gleaned a wide array of lessons and insights, and I'm going to do the rest of you a huge favor by summarizing five of our top insights and takeaways:
1. USE YOUR WORDS!
Brilliant Ink’s very own Farida Habeeb, Ph.D. shared her wisdom on how we as communicators can use language as a force for good, ensuring that ALL language used inside the company is inclusive – not just DEI-related news or announcements.
As Farida pointed out, using inclusive language is a great way to show — not just tell — your organizational values. And while there’s no magic formula for nailing inclusive communications, communicators should focus on three general principles:
- Person-first language: Person-first language honors the individual for who they are, rather than reducing them to what they have. (Ex. Person with visual disability vs. Blind person)
- Self-identification: Inclusive communications strive to use words that reflect a person’s choice in how they talk about themselves. (Ex. Asking someone their pronouns)
- Active voice: Active voice puts the subject, or actor, of the sentence in the role of performing the action. (Ex. Police injure dozens as Black Lives Matter protests continue vs. Dozens injured as Black Lives Matter protests continue.)
Many of Farida’s tips are captured in Brilliant Ink’s DEI Style Guide, available for download here.
2. Stop focusing on external measures of progress.
One of my most trusted thought leaders in DEI is Dorianne St. Fleur, whose presentation highlighted some key things companies are still getting wrong when trying to move the needle on DEI. Specifically, Dorianne encouraged organizations to look beyond external measures of progress, such as investing in Black-owned businesses or recruiting more BIPOC candidates.
Instead, it’s just as important – if not more so – to ensure your INTERNAL culture is inclusive, fair, and equitable by examining your environment, pay equity, systems and processes. In Dorianne’s words, if you really want to make change that lasts, “you must clean up inside your house before you invite people in.”
3. Be thoughtful about the stories you choose to tell.
The day ended with a panel discussion brimming with key insights. Kamna Narain is an internal communications consultant and coach who also happens to be a woman of color with a disability, and she reminded us to be thoughtful and authentic when spotlighting employees internally:
“I HAVE BEEN THE PERSON WHO GETS TAPPED ON THE SHOULDER DURING DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH, AND EVEN IF IT’S A VERY WELL-MEANING REQUEST, MY DISABILITY IS NOT WHAT I WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR.”
Instead, be sure you are sharing stories that celebrate the skills and contributions of your people, and engage with them regularly to build authentic relationships all year long – not just during a particular heritage or awareness month. Check out more brilliance from Kamna in our recent “Ask the DEI Expert” profile!
4. Provide extra support for ERG/BRG leaders
Edward Ford, Senior Director of Client Engagement at Medidata, has long been involved in his company’s Business Resource Group (BRG) for Black employees, BEAM (Black Employees at Medidata), and shared some insights on how best to support BRG and ERG leaders.
While some companies have taken to compensating these leaders, Edward said that he’s encouraged by his organization exploring other kinds of support: “We’re building an entire career development support system for our BRG leaders, including a career assessment and funding for additional learning opportunities, to show we’re investing in them as leaders and value the time and effort they are contributing.”
5. Help leaders see themselves in the work
Lydia Hemphill, Associate Director of Employee Communications at BioMarin, shared some valuable guidance on how to engage reluctant leaders in your organization’s DEI journey. She highlighted this video created by Accenture as a tool to help leaders see themselves in the work of DEI and relate to employees from all backgrounds and experiences.
The Latin root of communications is “common ground” and, as communicators, we have an opportunity to bring people together. Empathy can be the first step to making a change. Because, after all, it’s not about supporting one group over another, but about creating workplaces where everyone feels a sense of belonging and isn’t burdened by feeling “othered.”
LET’S MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT
Whether it’s through using inclusive language in our communications, being more thoughtful on how we spotlight employee stories or helping our audiences see themselves in the work, we all have an opportunity as communicators to move the needle in meaningful ways and make a difference.
We’re grateful to ALI for partnering with us for this important event. If you’re looking for additional resources and learning opportunities, be sure to check out Brilliant Ink’s Workplace Diversity, Antiracism and Allyship Resource Center for communications samples, best practices and beyond.
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