How to make your communication strategy inclusive
Employee engagement | Employee communications | Communications | Employee Experience
As the UK workforce grows in diversity, it is becoming increasingly important – and challenging – to build an inclusive internal communications strategy. Achieving a truly inclusive internal comms strategy takes energy and a commitment to review and evolve as the needs of employees evolve. Here we discuss some of the steps an organisation can take in pursuit of an inclusive internal comms strategy.
Aim to represent
An inclusive internal comms strategy represents the diverse nature of the organisation. It’s about standing in the shoes of different employees and considering how things might appear to them. It’s about considering the different needs of your employees and asking questions like “how do our values resonate with different employee groups?” and “are days of significance across the different employee communities represented in our internal comms?”
Representing the organisation comes from building strong relationships with a diverse group of employees and making a habit of getting diverse input on content. It’s true that in some cases content does require input from certain people or groups and representing your employees does not mean featuring someone from a minority group for the sake of ticking a box. However, ensuring that you communication is balanced and representative overall is crucial to an inclusive strategy.
Consider the communication channel
Varying the type of communication will ensure you engage people across your workforce who respond to different types of communication. It is important to consider how different employees best receive communications. Many businesses have a high proportion of remote workers and workers who don’t sit at a desk all day and in these situations emails aren’t the most effective method of communication. Using channels such as push notifications which are built into our employee engagement platform Amplify, that go direct to an employee smart phone can help all employees receive information at the same time. This can also help furloughed employees, who may not check their emails, feel connected and still receive key information.
Listen to employees
Listening to employees sounds like an obvious point but it can easily slip to the bottom of the to-do list, especially when pressure is on to deliver. However, if we don’t know the needs and preferences of employees how can we ensure communication is both inclusive and relevant? It can be uncomfortable to hear that your strategy isn’t as inclusive as you thought but learning to value feedback and being open to change will enable you to make changes towards a more inclusive strategy.
Assumptions and stereotypes are reinforced over time, based on our own experiences and can be deeply ingrained, even subconscious. When it comes to internal comms we have to make the effort to challenge those assumptions so that the content we create doesn’t just reflect our own thoughts and experiences. This is not always an easy task as we often default to our own experiences. Be brave and review your content, look out for trends such as different groups being overrepresented and challenge your team to include different people next time. It is important not to assume that if we don’t hear from certain employee groups or they aren’t forthcoming that they don’t have something to say. Organisations need to create a way for different employee groups to voice their opinions and contribute to the organisation. An inclusive internal comms strategy can play a key role in creating a culture where all employee groups share their views and ideas.
Analyse your language and your content
Subtleties in language can have a great impact; greater use of overly masculine or feminine words may not always be obvious but nonetheless leave a very clear impression. When I train managers to write job descriptions we use an exercise where they categorise words as masculine or feminine and the majority of words create debate and disagreement. At the end I group the masculine and feminine words together and then ask them to categorise each list, there is always a lot less debate at this point. Individual pieces of content may not contain obvious bias but what happens when different pieces of content are absorbed together and over time? What impression does it give? Bias isn’t just in the language that we use but all our content, visual, verbal, non-verbal and written. Body language can also make a significant difference to whether a message is delivered in an inclusive manner.
Be aware of what is going on externally
Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, what goes on outside the organisation impacts people while at work so responding to political, social, economic, technological and legal influences shows employees that issues they feel passionately about are understood and supported by the organisation. The murder of George Floyd earlier this year has prompted many businesses to move diversity and inclusion up the agenda, the Me Too campaign caused organisations to reaffirm their unwillingness to tolerate sexual harassment. Including external issues within your internal comms creates a sense of inclusion for the employees and stops your internal comms feeling out of touch.
If you'd like some help with your internal communications strategy, we would love to hear from you. Our experience in this area makes us the perfect partner. If you'd like to discuss further, please email me at email@example.com, or call our consultancy team on +44 (0)20 3457 0894,