At many firms, there can be a gap between rhetoric and action when it comes to inclusion. Companies promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE+I) as a part of their core values, but that doesn’t always translate to their employees of diverse backgrounds feeling valued and welcomed. Inclusive communication in the workplace is essential.
Workplace Inclusive Communication
The word inclusion can carry numerous meanings, but in a broad sense, it’s about welcoming and developing individuals with varied backgrounds and beliefs. Inclusivity is the practice of providing equal opportunities to those individuals who are often excluded or marginalized. Employees desire to feel connected to the organization’s mission and goals and seek opportunities to make an impact, and they’re more likely to be committed and engaged to their organization when they feel included.
These concepts are particularly relevant when an organization is going through a change. As such, when companies undertake a new endeavor, inclusivity should be at top of mind for any project-related communications.
Developing Inclusive Content
Storytelling can be powerful in articulating real-life examples of project benefits, risks, and challenges as solutions are realized. When developing workplace inclusive communication, recognize the diversity and experience of others before crafting content with real-life examples, and consult and include a diverse set of perspectives in your brainstorming and project communications drafts. Ensure the stories show the person’s lived experiences and emphasize the solution.
Individuals who are marginalized or have disabilities don’t need to be distinguished from the general population; they’re independent and have diverse social circles. Rather, communications should portray people in their professional roles as they relate directly to the project. When drafting content for your project communications, you should eliminate demeaning attitudes and use language that is free of bias. Be sure to use inclusive language, and don’t rely on insensitive tropes or stereotypes. (If you are curious about your communication style and if it has traces of unconscious bias, take the Project Implicit Test from Harvard University!)
Inclusivity Includes Intersectionality
Individuals don’t represent a homogenous group, and project communications should consider this intersectionality. Each employee embodies a diverse set of demographics including disability, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, race, religion, immigration status, and age – and each should be valued and considered by adopting an intersectional approach to convey society’s diversity accurately. Considering this intersectionality in communications brings focus to being more intentional in communications and attaining more effective results.
Choosing a Communication Medium
Matching the medium and audience is essential. Consider a communication mode that will be accessible to everyone and one that doesn’t exclude specific groups of individuals. You may want to consider more than one type of communication medium in order to effectively reach a broader audience. Is your project newsletter the best medium to deliver the project updates you had in mind for the target audience? Or is it an engaging video or deck presentation? While project videos and animations can be visually appealing, they may exclude employees who are neurodiverse or who are visually impaired.
With the increase in remote work opportunities, many individuals rely on virtual communications to receive information. Consider turning on the closed captions (CC), recording the meeting with the transcript function enabled, and using a transcription service that translates the speaker’s language into the receiver’s preferred language.
Simple improvements in communications can promote inclusivity. Individuals with impaired vision can find reading graphs with textures or small font challenging. Large text with color contrast and ample white space could assist those with decreased vision or color blindness. Including an image description or alternative text for graphics can allow individuals with assistive devices to read the file. Additionally, considering the content structure and choice of language can significantly bridge the gap between the message’s intent and an individual’s understanding.