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Start Here: Powerful Principles for Communicating on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Organizations across the globe are taking a fresh, honest look at their efforts to end racial injustice and build truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. Without question, effective communication strategies are critical to the success of those efforts. But where to start? Here are some foundational principles and inspiring examples to consider as you recharge your own communication efforts to drive sustainable, measurable change.

Know Your Starting Point

Do you have a clear and accurate picture of how your organization stacks up in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion? If not, start with a thorough audit that takes a realistic, candid look at workforce demographic data, employee perceptions about inclusion and equity, and programs and policies that may be contributing to a lack of diversity at leadership levels and higher turnover of underrepresented groups.

Get Clear About the End Game

Are you clear about your organization’s philosophy, long-term goals and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion? Given recent events, you may be feeling pressure to communicate quickly on the topic, but don’t push forward with communications that aren’t aligned with what the company can actually deliver. Reactive, short-term fixes that are not tied to a broader strategic plan will breed cynicism and rarely lead to substantive change.

Keep It Real

Are your executives supportive of transparency when communicating about the organization’s progress on diversity, equity and inclusion? Sharing the good and the bad – keeping it real – is key to maintaining credibility in today’s environment. This is particularly important if the company has been doing D&I work for many years but doesn’t have great results to show yet.

Uncover Your True Supporters

Do you know which leaders and influencers feel passionately about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace? While it’s important for the CEO to be a champion for these efforts, it’s even more impactful to have a diverse bench of leaders from across the organization who truly “get it” or are willing to be vulnerable in learning and helping others do the same. These impassioned partners are vital to your communication efforts.

Use A Change Management Lens

Have you been approaching diversity, equity and inclusion as a communication campaign or as a change effort? The answer should be both. Ultimately, this is a movement. One that takes time and requires change management to overcome resistance, shift mindsets and behaviors, and revise programs, policies and processes.

Don’t Forget About the Manager

How are you involving people managers in the movement to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace? Research shows that the employee experience is largely determined by immediate supervisors. Invest in engagements, resources and accountability tools that help this critical group make the shift themselves first and then equip them to drive behavior change with their employees.

Make It Seamless

Are you pushing out solo messages on diversity, equity and inclusion? Look for opportunities to weave news and updates related to DE&I progress into your ongoing, business communications as a standard practice. Rather than its own initiative, aim for diversity, equity and inclusion to be ubiquitous in your day-to-day operations across the organization.

Track Your Progress

Are you communicating regular progress updates on diversity, equity and inclusion goals to your teams? This underscores the value your company places in the effort and sends a message up, down and across the organization. Highlight DEI successes and positive impacts to business performance to illustrate how one drives the other. Aim for as much transparency as possible and provide detailed data as far down as the front-line manager level, since we know that what gets measured gets done.

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