With more than 84% of U.S. employees reporting that they discuss politics in the workplace, it’s clear that “politics at work” being taboo is a thing of the past as we move into 2023. And with over half of workers saying they wouldn’t consider a job at a company if they didn’t agree with its values, the pressure is on for business leaders to speak out on social issues and support their employees. It’s no secret that this can be tricky for leaders, especially in the divisive political climate of today. What does it look like to have a successful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE+I) communications strategy and support employees in 2023? To help businesses begin to think through their communications strategy when it comes to DE+I, we’ve crafted three quick considerations.
Tips for Building Your DE+I Communications Strategy
1. Define your process, but make it flexible
When thinking about creating a process for your DE+I communications strategy, it’s easy for businesses to fall into one of two extremes.
Because these are often sensitive issues, sometimes we see businesses wanting to consult every possible person on every single aspect of a communication to make sure they’re looped in and not offending anyone. The intention behind this is positive, and in general, we do advise more reviews than not when it comes to DE+I communications, but sometimes we find that too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to significant delays in a company’s response, doing more harm than good.
The other side of the coin is an inconsistent or light process with rapid communication. While on paper this may seem like the way to go, in practice we’ve often seen it fail for a few different reasons. With little to no process, communications can sometimes seem haphazard to employees or lacking thought or intention. Employees may bucket these types of communications as “checkbox diversity” efforts, thus backfiring and undermining the whole intention.
So, what’s the answer? Business should establish a flexible process or framework that is widely known and followed by leaders – but can also be adapted and changed as necessary. A popular solution that we’ve seen businesses have success with is creating a framework that forks at planned vs. unplanned communications. With planned communications that may be consistent throughout the year, teams are able to be more intentional with reviews and timing. On the other side, for unplanned communications that may be responses to current events or situations, leadership may need to skip a few review cycles to ensure that employees feel action is taken without too much delay.
2. Communication formats aren’t one-size-fits-all
Sometimes when we think about inclusive communications, the first thing that comes to mind is a company-wide email. One factor that we have seen stifle DE+I communications is the idea that leaders need to have a perfectly crafted message with the exact right words in order to be impactful. In reality, though, employees just want to feel heard.
Businesses with leading DE+I programs aren’t always sending out the perfect messages in response to events, but rather just creating safe spaces for employees. Often this can look like advocacy group leadership sending out a quick response after a crisis letting folks know that they’re holding a forum where leadership can be present and give employees the chance to process. This can also look like one-on-one conversations, company-wide town halls, or anything in between. The bottom line is: don’t let crafting the perfect wording prevent or delay you from supporting your employees.
3. Evaluate what’s working and adapt
And finally, remember to always get feedback, listen, and quickly adapt when necessary. What employees expected from leaders even three years ago when it comes to DE+I is rapidly changing, and leaders must be willing to pivot, even if the company has always done things a certain way.
Employee engagement surveys are often looked to as a good measure of how employees are feeling, but they shouldn’t be the sole source of that information, especially when they’re often only sent out once a year. We know what isn’t measured isn’t managed, so when it comes to your DE+I communications strategy, ensure you are tracking everything. What do email engagement rates look like? What do attendance rates at town halls or advocacy group forums look like? Is this improving over time? Check in with employees and listen first-hand to what they feel is working and what’s not.
Whether your organization is just beginning to build your DE+I communications strategy or fine-tuning it, Clarkston is committed to helping our clients better embrace diversity, achieve more equitable outcomes, and create a more inclusive culture. Interested in learning more about our DE+I consulting services? Let’s chat!
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