Improving Diversity and Inclusion at Your Company Through Better Communication


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Why Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace is Important

The business world considers diversity and inclusion efforts to be more critical than ever.

It’s why 81 percent of global organizations said that improving all aspects of “D&I” was high on their agenda, according to the recent Let’s Get Real About Equality report from Mercer. The firm also found that 66 percent of senior executives are actively engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Now, ask yourself: Why is that? There are two reasons.

  1. Making the workplace more equitable in every way is simply the right thing to do.
  2. It’s good business.

Sundar Pichai QuoteA 2019 survey of 234 companies in the S&P 500 found 63 percent of the diversity and inclusion managers had been appointed or promoted to their roles in the previous three years, according to Time magazine. So, organizations clearly are addressing the issue.

There are many compelling arguments to make on why diverse, inclusive organizations thrive in today’s world. (And we’ll be discussing them shortly.) But the fact that it improves the bottom line stands out as a driver of C-suite decision-making.

And the companies having the most success are the ones that understand the vital role of strong internal and external communication in those efforts.

But before we get too far, let’s first frame our discussion. It’s important to understand that we’re talking about diversity and inclusion. These values are two different ideas that people sometimes mistakenly use interchangeably.

We like the way Gallup, a leading researcher of workplace issues, distinguishes the differences. Gallup defines diversity as representing “the full spectrum of human demographic differences – race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status or physical disability.” On the other hand, “inclusion refers to a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging.”

It’s so much more than eliminating bias in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion work together to foster a company culture of respect where everyone feels welcome, their voice is heard, and they’re empowered to do their best work.

But how do organizations infuse those diversity and inclusions values into everything they do? Without clear communication, these fundamental workplace principles won’t become part of the corporate culture.

That’s our belief at Dynamic Signal, the leader in Employee Communication and Engagement platforms. We’re committed to helping the world’s top companies become more inclusive through the foundation of communication.

We’re going to take a closer look at the power of communication in building more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

15 Diversity and Inclusion Statistics that Matter

  • Companies in the top quartile for executive-level ethnic diversity financially outperformed their rivals in the bottom quartile by 36 percent. Source: McKinsey
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. Source: McKinsey
  • Companies with more diverse management teams have 19 percent higher revenues due to innovation. Source: World Economic Forum
  • 23 percent of Millennials say they will start/deepen their relationship with a brand based on the diversity of its leadership team, diversity policies, or behaviors, while 17 percent will stop/lessen it. Source: The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019
  • A study analyzing data from 201 high tech firms found that unequal racial diversity in upper and lower management made organizations less capable of making good business decisions. But a 1 percent increase in racial diversity alignment in management increased productivity by $729 per employee. The figure rose to $1,590 per employee for Fortune 500 firms. Source: Forbes
  • Less than half (42 percent) of U.S. organizations publicly document commitments to racial or ethnic equality. Source: Mercer’s Let’s Get Real About Equality report
  • 52 percent of respondents of color say that they will not work for a company that fails to speak out about social injustice. Source: Edelman

Malcolm Forbes Quote

  • 79 percent of organizations say that women have access to the roles that are more likely to lead to executive advancement. But only 52 percent of organizations say women are equally represented in people-manager positions. Source: Mercer’s Let’s Get Real About Equality report
  • There are an estimated 1 million LGBTQ workers in the U.S. Source: Associated Press
  • In 2019, 3 percent of employees reported having a disability. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • About 13.4 percent of the U.S. population is Black, but they occupy only 3.2 percent of senior leadership roles in large corporations. Source: Forbes
  • Only five Fortune 500 companies have African American CEOs. Source: Fortune
  • 64 percent of workers in entry-level positions are white. But in the top executive ranks, 85 percent of posts are held by whites – showing the promotion gap that minorities face. Source: CNBC
  • The wages between Black and white workers show a gap roughly as large today as it was in 1950. Source: New York Times
  • One pulse survey of Diversity and Inclusion leaders found that 27 percent of them report that their organizations have put all or most initiatives on hold because of the pandemic. Source: McKinsey

The Broader View of Diversity and Inclusion

The COVID-19 coronavirus has turned the world upside down and completely changed how business gets done. (More on that in a moment.) But one thing the pandemic has especially done is brought into sharper focus the racial disparities that have always existed – and largely ignored – in our society. Simply put, people of color have suffered so much more during the crisis.

As The Brookings Institute recently wrote, “Race gaps in vulnerability to COVID-19 highlight the accumulated, intersecting inequities facing Americans of color (but especially Black people) in jobs, housing, education, criminal justice – and in health.”

The most vulnerable were already suffering the worst. Then came one senseless death after another at the hands of law enforcement – launching the rise of a national outcry against social injustice. The tremors have been felt in the American workplace, too. Employees expect their places of work to meet their stated values on supporting fairness and respect.

That helps explain the soul-searching that’s occurring among organizations concerning diversity.

Bill Gates QuoteNow let’s think about inclusion. The pandemic has completely altered the idea of what it means to have an inclusive workplace. After all, with lockdowns and more employees working remotely, “together apart” has become a way of life for employees. Work has become something you do, not someplace you go.

That makes creating an inclusive environment – often through digital means – more complicated and more critical than ever.

“Even as workplaces have become more inclusive, we also in some ways have become less inclusive as we’re all working from home,” said Margenett Moore-Roberts, Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer at Consultancy Management Group (CMG) during a recent webinar.

Think about all the different people and roles within organizations.

  • Office workers
  • Frontline workers
  • Remote/WFH employees
  • Contactors
  • Partners

Never has the workforce been so dispersed, so separated, so disconnected.

That’s why communication is essential. Organizations need to cut through all the noise in people’s lives, get their attention, and make them feel like their part of something important that’s larger than themselves.

People need information, purpose, inspiration. They need to know that they matter.

Communicating Your Company’s Diversity and Inclusion Values

Your company’s core diversity and inclusion values need to be consistently, clearly and forcefully communicated. They need to be on a stage, under a bright spotlight, for everyone to see.

A well-designed communication strategy brings attention to these values with a steady cadence of reminders about what makes the organization different, unique, and the keys to success. It’s not just words, either. It’s also examples of how the company is living those values.

But first, how do you get those in front of everyone?

It begins at the top. Executive leadership must set the standard for why diversity and inclusion are core values. But the simple act of being able to communicate with everyone is the bedrock foundation of an inclusive workplace.

There are many ways that leaders and internal communicators try to engage with their employees.

Traditional Internal Communication Tools

Organizations have typically shared need-to-know information with their employees through the predictable channels.

  • Email
  • Intranet
  • Company website
  • Town Hall meetings
  • Digital signage
  • Printed signs
  • Mailers and newsletters

Everyone has their preferences about how to get work-related information. For office workers, maybe it’s email. For frontline workers, perhaps printed materials are the best way to convey must-see messages.

Each of these communication methods has benefits. But all of them also have limitations when it comes to reaching the entire workplace. That’s why companies are turning to a new way of engaging their people with information that truly matters.

Internal Communication Tool for Today’s Employees

In our personal lives, information comes directly to us – usually on our mobile devices. We get alerts from news sources that we trust through user-friendly apps. Employees also expect their places of work to communicate with them in the same way.

Josh Bersin QuoteThat’s why digital Employee Communication and Engagement platforms, like Dynamic Signal, have become the modern way for organizations to connect with their people.

Here are some specific examples of how Dynamic Signal helps build a more inclusive workplace for many leading global companies. The platform:

  • Reaches every employee in real-time, wherever they are, and on the devices that they prefer – whether through a desktop app or mobile app
  • Enables organizations to measure the reach of their content, so they can understand who received the information, and then optimize their efforts to make sure that everyone is “in the know”
  • Gives leaders the confidence that the entire organization is hearing their essential messages, so every employee is aligned around company objectives and purpose
  • Enables employees to provide instant feedback through Quick Pulse surveys and comments, so leaders have an accurate understanding of workforce sentiment
  • Speaks to employees in their native languages, so everyone feels more included and respected
  • Empowers people to become persuasive brand ambassadors by sharing externally the great things that are happening at their companies

The platform captures that broader vision of what inclusion means in the workplace. It becomes the communication hub for the organization and the primary vehicle of making the entire workforce feel as if they’re a valued part of the organization and that they matter as individuals.

That’s critical when organizations are desperately trying to maintain business continuity during a difficult economic environment – like now.

Consumers Care about Diversity and Inclusion

One of the primary takeaways from an unprecedented 2020 is that people expect more from brands. They’re paying extra close attention to how companies behave during the COVID-19 pandemic and growing movement for greater social justice.

For instance, they want to know if companies live up to their responsibilities of being diverse and inclusive in the workplace. Or are they just paying lip service to those principles?

Jesse Jackson QuoteWhen brands disappoint them, there’s a price. Some insightful research about consumer behavior indicates that the public now holds organizations to a higher standard.

Here are some examples from Edelman, the firm that is perhaps best-known for its annual Trust Barometer and has done amazing work examining society’s demand for greater equity.

  • 60 percent of survey respondents said brands must take a stand and speak out against racial injustice publicly.
  • 56 percent say brands have a moral obligation for demanding action, and 52 percent say they “owe it to employees.”
  • 60 percent of respondents said that they would buy or boycott a brand based on if and how it responds to the current protests.

Here’s the real bottom line for businesses. Consumers are watching.

Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

The impact of diversity and inclusion reach across the entire organization and into the marketplace.

Profitability: Studies have shown that greater diversity and inclusion results in financial success. McKinsey found in its recent report, “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters,” that the business case for gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership is strengthening. “The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability,” McKinsey said.

Productivity: Employees are more engaged when the workplace is more inclusive. Employee satisfaction is higher. Organizations with higher employee engagement see 17 percent greater productivity, according to Gallup.

Recruiting and talent retention: Every company is searching for the best talent – and looking to keep it. Diversity and inclusion practices are proven ways to attract top people and reduce turnover. Glassdoor found that 93 percent of employees posting reviews on its site mention company culture, and 73 percent of job seekers won’t apply to a company unless that company’s values align with their own.

Innovation: When a wide range of people with varied backgrounds and experiences work together, the result is greater creativity and better decision-making. But just having that diverse mix of people isn’t enough. Everyone needs to be included and have their voices heard for organizations to reap the benefits of diversity.

Improved brand reputation: As we’ve already noted, consumers are watching how organizations act. And they’re rewarding good behavior with their business. Potential employees are paying attention, too. LinkedIn found that 72 percent of recruiting leaders worldwide believe employer brand has a significant impact on hiring.

Diversity and Inclusion Going Forward

We live in a tumultuous time. It sometimes can feel like everything is changing almost by the hour. But one thing will never change. The success of every organization depends upon its people.

That idea is the beating heart of diversity and inclusion.

Workplaces are more diverse, but there are new headwinds, too. The pandemic has slowed efforts to make companies more reflective of our society. Remember, McKinsey found that many organizations had put all or most initiatives on hold because of the pandemic. Also, COVID-19 will continue to make it challenging for businesses to create and maintain inclusive workplaces.

Yet those values remain more essential than ever.

That’s why companies must continue to communicate those values in ways that highlight what makes their organization unique, diverse, and inclusive.

 

Additional Resources

Post Author

Becky Graebe

As Senior Director, Communication Expert at Dynamic Signal, I work with a great team of people to connect, align and engage employees in modern and meaningful ways, wherever they are and in the manner they choose.