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Building a Culture of Workplace Belonging through DE&I Communications

February 24, 2021
By Katie Lommen

Throughout the past year, the pandemic drastically has changed our everyday lives — especially at work. Many employees long for the in-person interaction that’s been lost to a more isolating remote work experience. For others working on the front lines, increased preventive safety measures — such as social distancing and personal protective equipment — often serve as a barrier to connection in the workplace environment.

In fact, FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence “The Future of Work” study reports that 39% of remote workers rate not feeling part of a team as one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic. Additionally, heightened political and social tensions continue to drive polarization in the workforce – leaving many employees feeling more disconnected from one another.

At all times, but especially in these isolating times, having a strong culture of inclusion where every employee feels they belong can be a critical factor in driving employee — and business — success. Gartner reports that organizations with sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts demonstrate a 20% increase in inclusion, which corresponds to greater on-the-job effort and intent to stay, as well as high employee performance.

Organizational culture comes from within. And, internal communications provides a conduit to engage leadership in inclusive workplace practices, foster a culture of belonging and drive forward DE&I as a business priority. Consider the following best practices to advance these efforts.

  • Embed DE&I in your onboarding experience. Joining a new company, especially in a remote work environment, can be overwhelming and isolating. From day one, ensure employees are aware that their diverse and unique perspectives will be recognized and celebrated. Infuse onboarding communications with DE&I goals, commitments, initiatives and highlight existing programs, like Employee Resource Groups and mentorships, as an opportunity for new employees to get connected.
  • Equip managers with the tools they need to support their employees. Employees typically look to their immediate supervisor as their most trusted and sought-out source of information, so it’s important employees feel comfortable and safe when engaging with their managers. Teach managers how to effectively talk about DE&I and have meaningful and open discussions with their direct reports. Consider providing DE&I-specific training, key messaging and FAQ that build manager understanding and confidence in communicating in an inclusive and open manner. Whether formally or informally, encourage managers to celebrate and recognize employees living out desired DE&I behaviors.
  • Be intentional about demonstrating diversity in internal storytelling. Give employees a voice by using internal channels to tell their stories and build understanding across the organization. This is a great way to humanize the concept of DE&I and demonstrate that every employee brings something unique and valuable to the organization. Employee storytelling also helps colleagues see desired behaviors in action and sparks conversations that otherwise might not happen.
  • Set DE&I content guidelines to inform employee communications. Develop a resource for leaders, employees and communicators to use when developing internal content. Include best practices for using inclusive language, avoiding insensitive phrasing, incorporating gender neutrality and promoting conscious inclusion.
  • Measure and report on progress toward DE&I commitments and goals. Communicating your DE&I narrative and commitment means nothing without true, actionable change. Regularly share progress toward your goals, communicate planned actions and take responsibility for any shortfalls to foster authenticity and employee trust.