The modern workplace is more diverse than ever.
- More women are claiming positions of leadership, accounting for roughly five percent of Fortune 500 company CEOs in the first quarter of 2017 and 20 percent of board members in 2016, when as recently as 1995 there were no female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list, according to the Pew Research Center.
- The number of workers identifying as "gender-nonbinary" is on the rise. As many as 12 percent of millennials—the demographic now dominating one third of the workforce—identify as transgender or gender non-conforming by GLAAD’s latest measure.
- Three-quarters of Americans say that it’s very (49 percent) or somewhat (26 percent) important for companies and organizations to promote racial and ethnic diversity in their workplace.
As the #MeToo movement and gender-neutral inclusivity debates have dominated headlines, diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies have been accelerated to the forefront of every workplace dialogue and communications agenda.
A prominent figure guiding these dialogues is Jaime Klein, Founder and President of Inspire Human Resources, an HR consultancy firm that specializes in workplace D&I policy. Is this week’s episode of the Communications Academy podcast, we sat down with Jaime to learn her most valuable tips for building a comprehensive D&I policy.
First thing's first: What's the difference between diversity and inclusion?
Before jumping in to our takeaways, an important clarification must be made. The dialogue surrounding workplace diversity has been muddied by a conflation of the terms "diversity" and "inclusion.” Where diversity can be understood as a celebration of differences between people, inclusion refers to creating a supportive and respectful environment that increases the participation of all employees.
In Jaime’s words, “diversity is getting the right people in the door. . . . Inclusion is about people feeling comfortable when they get there.”
At Inspire Human Resources, Jaime’s team of experts help companies realize that both are imperative for creating more successful, profitable organizations with happier employees, and that internal communications have a critical role to play.
To ensure that your internal comms are facilitating a space for honest, inclusive, and informed conversations, be sure to:
1. Educate Your Employees
Older generations in today’s workforce may not be fully educated on some of the topics surrounding the diversity and inclusion discussion--they simply weren’t talked about in the workplace throughout most of their careers. It’s key to educate these employees and help them understand how to mindfully participate in the inclusive culture at their organization.
Jaime recommends using the Genderbread Person, a multigenerational teaching tool for breaking down the concept of gender into identity, attraction, expression, and sex:
“The Genderbread person is [an] expression. It’s how you present gender through your actions and your clothing and your demeanor and your name, and how this marries or doesn’t marry social expectations.”
2. Don’t Rely on One-Sided Communications
Successful D&I campaigns demand conversation.
Understanding on the part of employees requires listening, dialogue, and the space to ask questions. A great way to do so is with a weekly open forum or communications platform in which you can host these conversations. Having this opportunity to be candid and human with colleagues is incredibly valuable when normalizing historically sensitive conversations surrounding things like gender, race, identity, and privilege.
As Jaime notes, it's very powerful to have the space to say “‘I just want to do the right thing and I’m sure I’m going to trip over some of this, but just know that I just want to be as supportive as I can.”
3. Use Inclusive Language
Using inclusive language in your internal comms means avoiding words, phrases, or tones that reflect prejudiced views of particular groups. The diversity-attuned dictionary is expanding every day, and it’s important to stay on top of emerging standards.
Striving towards gender-neutrality, for example, might include the slight shift away from referring to a group of people as “guys,” despite the cultural normality of the term, and instead replacing it with “team.”
Having employees add their pronouns to their email signatures or social profiles is another easy way to avoid gender assumptions and encourage the normalization of the identification process for everyone.
Targeting these unconscious or unintentional biases is tricky, but regularly evaluating your efforts to use inclusive language can go a long way towards a successful D&I strategy.
4. Get Leadership to Commit
Paramount to D&I becoming a core aspect of your company culture is a visible commitment from company leaders--a personal initiative to build an inclusive workplace beyond corporate talking points, jargon, and empty promises.
This trend has been growing publicly in the past few years to the point of redefining the status quo. In the spring of 2017, a group of CEO’s spearheaded by Tim Ryan, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner from PwC, formed the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion, which now has more than 700 CEOs of the world’s leading companies.
That being said, internal action still needs to be made. Leadership needs to engage directly with their employees on the sensitive issues, as employees will take special notice of how they communicate.
5. Utilize Employee Engagement Surveys
Work proactively to constantly improve your policies.
Sending out engagement surveys that capture employee opinions on your current policies are a great way to identify gaps in your D&I strategy, celebrate where you’ve been successful, and determine where to focus future efforts.
Pro Tip: Don't generalize employees. Segment your surveys according to parameters like gender, generation, ethnicity, or geography in order to identify issues pertaining to specific groups.
For more tips on building an effective D&I policy, listen to our full-length interview with Jaime Klien in the podcast below:
What's the best way to educate my workplace on D&I? How can I get leadership to commit to my new agenda? How can I measure employee satisfaction with current policies?
To find the answer to these questions (and more!), download our free guide and learn the actionable steps needed to improve your D&I policy!