Powering diversity & inclusion through communications

As companies increasingly embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I), communications has an integral role to play, both, within an organisation and externally. Communications can make an organisation’s D&I endeavours relatable and authentic, thereby building trust and respect with its employees, customers, investors, regulators, trade partners and society at large. D&I messaging has been shown to improve an organisation’s reputation.

Setting communication standards 

As an organisation looks to become diverse and inclusive, the way it communicates to its stakeholders must also evolve. Setting standards in vocabulary, both for written and verbal communication, that reflects its ethos is critical. There is need for a protocol that guides employees about boundaries of acceptability in day-to-day communication within the workplace. The protocol should dissuade usage of phrases and words that are insensitive and biased against an individual or groups basis their gender, sexual dispositions and cultural beliefs. Usage of gender-neutral words should be encouraged. For e.g. commonly used terminology like chairman can be replaced with chairperson or manhours with hours. The guide can also help employees eliminate usage of stereotypes and reduce subconscious bias. 

Promoting dialogue

Communications can help an organisation effectively articulate the need and benefits of D&I and the company’s strategy thereof. Employees should be encouraged to share ideas, feedback, or concerns through tools like surveys and direct engagement. Bringing experts to talk about the importance and benefits of D&I can further help raise consciousness and acceptance amongst employees. Talking to and listening to employees can help build shared values. Communication professionals can leverage multiple communication channels, be it email, intranet, employee apps, or enterprise social platforms, to convey diversity-related information and protocol to the workforce. Written communication is typically accompanied by images or videos. Employees should feel that they are well represented in all multimedia communication. 

Making employees ambassadors

Employees can become ambassadors if they are provided with an opportunity to voice their own experiences of D&I issues that matter to them and can help crystallisse the organisation’s D&I journey. These experiences can help the organisation build a culture not just in letter, but in spirit. Employees can also build credibility for the organisation when they speak to external stakeholders or express themselves on social media. 

Marketing D&I, effectively!

Tools such as the company’s website, intranet, corporate film, annual report, social media channels and literature reflect on the company’s reputation.  The usage of appropriate prose and visuals that can relate to any individual or groups of individuals, while being sensitive to gender, sexuality, beliefs and sensibilities can strengthen a brand’s imagery. Now more than ever before, consumers are scrutinising brands on how inclusive they are. Removal of stereotypes in the company’s advertising and branded content can also help create a positive impact with consumers. 

Encourage participation in community events

Increasingly, we are seeing companies participating in external events or topical days. For e.g. many companies organised events to mark Pride Month, encouraged employees to take part in a Pride March or incorporate the rainbow flag, symbolic of the LGBTQI+ community, into their branding. Similarly, we have seen extremely high participation of companies to mark International Women’s Day and showcasing their commitment to diversity. Organisations can encourage employees to participate and express their solidarity to causes close to them. 

Walk the talk 

Regularly communicating progress on the D&I journey can help an organisation lead conversations and drive positive business impact in the long run. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Piyal Banerjee
With over seventeen years of brand and corporate communications experience across top Asian markets including India China, Malaysia, and Singapore, Piyal Banerjee currently leads external communications for IPM India Wholesale Trading Pvt Ltd (A country affiliate of Philip Morris International).

In her previous role, she lead the Consumer Technology vertical for Genesis BCW, managing a varied portfolio of some of the biggest brands across multiple sectors like FMCG, Technology, Corporate & Start-Ups. In addition to this, she was also heading - "Step Up" - a unique offering focused on start-ups in India.

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