31st March sees the 12th annual International Transgender Day of Visibility – a day designed to celebrate the success and resilience of our transgendered and gender-nonconforming friends and colleagues, as well as to raise awareness of the prejudices and challenges they face. (The discrimination is significant and deeply troubling, by the way, but that’s not for this blog).
There are, of course, similar days for many other minority groups throughout the year – all of which are worthy and should be marked in some appropriate way. (We humans are a diverse and fascinating species and we really should seek to actively celebrate the differences and bring out the best in our people for the good of our businesses and our communities!)
But I digress… the upcoming Transgender Day got me to talking last night with the wise and open-minded MD of a forward-thinking recruitment company, and we talked about how inclusivity and diversity affect Internal Comms and employee engagement.
First, a couple of interesting stat's about diversity in business:
According to Glassdoor, two-thirds of active and passive job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating future employers and job offers. The same survey revealed that well over half of employees think that their company should be doing more to increase diversity in its workforce.
And this isn’t just fluffy, feel-good, being-nice-to-people-for-the-conscience stuff! According to Market Watch, companies with diverse staff are better positioned to meet the needs of diverse customer bases (makes sense!), with the cash flows of diverse companies well over twice that of those who keep things “monochrome” and uniform.
Here’s an eye-opening copy & paste for you:
“Diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets than those who do not actively recruit and support talent from under-represented groups.”
And so to the engagement and comms piece…
Pretty much any employer worth its salt has an I&D policy of some sort and under some name. But how well do we live by these and implement them in our everyday duties? Does our internal comms strategy follow the rules and guidelines that we set ourselves when we put those policies in place?
It’s a simple question to ask each time: is this comms accessible to all and as engaging as possible? Here are a few quick pointers that should help you answer that with a "yes"...
Vary your visuals
Images and video are, quite rightly, an increasingly popular and important method of internal comms. Images can convey complex information more simply, directly and efficiently than the written, or even spoken, word. They can even overcome language barriers. But are you using images that represent all of your people? And beyond? Don’t just think about the standard protected characteristics here, but consider the shapes and sizes in your workforce, think about attire, tattoos… Have you fallen into the trap of mistaking “professional” for “corporate and non-inclusive”?
Ace the accessibility
Keep the language you use simple and appropriate for all of your audience. No-one is impressed that you know how to use an online thesaurus or that your word-of-the-day has five syllables. (It is not conducive to conviviality and could lead to a predilection for Trichotillomania amongst your people - see what I mean!)
Avoid an over-use of acronyms that some may not be familiar with, or unnecessarily technical terms. As a top tip: ask yourself if a new starter would understand your message. (There could actually be new starters out there, after all!)
Never use in-jokes in en-masse comms. At best, you’ll come across as weird and unfunny. At worse, your audience will get that you’re excluding them from your inner circle.
Captions & subtitles are always a good idea with visual comms. Not only are they a lifeline for those that need them for reasons of impairment, but also because over 80% of people tend to watch videos with the sound off.
Listen more than you talk
Please remember that comms should always be two-way. What better way to be inclusive than to involve? This applies to the large-scale comms, where you need to give your audience the chance to interact, feedback and respond, or the more intimate. Knowledge is power. And no-one learned anything worth knowing with their ears closed. The more you know about your audience (of one, five or five hundred), about how they’re thinking, perceiving and feeling, the better you will connect and engage and the more included your people will feel.
Watch your language
As well as the abovementioned acronym-avoidance and tech-speak-awareness, watch out for common language (and even terms of affection) that may make some feel excluded. “Guys” and “lads”, for example, may not be well-received by those that aren’t, or don’t identify as, male. Similarly, be careful of being over-familiar (not nice for the recipients or those that aren’t getting it!) or using humour that could offend or be misinterpreted. And, needless to say, as per the bit in bold, watch your language! You don’t have to be stuffy and corporate in your comms, but few will appreciate expletives or obscenities, four-letter or otherwise.
Almost none of us would say we’re prejudiced or deliberately biased, but unconscious bias is very real and lies within all of us. It rears its ugly head even more when we’re under pressure, against the clock or stressed. If we can see, acknowledge and face our own unconscious biases, we will be more inclusive leaders and better communicators.
In short, inclusivity in your comms is crucial to maintaining and celebrating the diversity in your business. We live in a colourful world of colourful people. Black & white comms just won’t cut it.