Communicating messages of inclusion throughout your organisation, and sharing the impact of your actions, is an important way to let the workforce know that this a serious, on-going commitment.
Asif Sadiq explains why your communications should always be authentic and honest.
There are numerous ways in which effective communication can benefit your organisation’s progress with diversity and inclusion. This example from ASDA has a focus on uncomfortable conversations and microaggressions.
Communicating messages at ASDA (MBS Group 2021)
After the Black Lives Matter protests, senior staff at Asda held listening groups to encourage the uncomfortable conversations that there had been uncertainty around in the past, ‘moving away from a policy of “we don’t condone” towards the more powerful and actionable stance of “we reject”.’ They also launched an Instagram campaign for Black History Month in which staff shared simple tips on how to avoid microaggressions, ‘things as simple as what to do when you see an unfamiliar first name on a name badge.’
Some organisations prefer to supplement their activities with more visual messages, such as RS Components ‘Bringing our true selves to work’ film:
and Accenture’s #inclusionStartsWithI video:
Other organisations focus on creating written materials for use by themselves and clients in taking the agenda forward.
Arts Council England – culture change toolkit (EW Group no date)
In partnership with EW Group, Arts Council England has created a good practice guide to diversity, culture change and people management, available online to support organisations across the sector.
Consultation involved staff from a wide variety of music, theatre and visual arts organisations, and the resulting guide is supported by a set of case studies ‘reflecting real-life, sector-specific examples of good practice’, alongside downloadable templates, checklists and other top tips.
If this sounds relevant to you, see Further reading for the link.
Activity 3 How does communication work in your organisation?
Take some time to reflect on the current methods of communication used in your business (or one you know well). Are they effective? Do you ever receive messages, whether verbal or visual, about diversity and inclusion? If you do – are they heard? Do you feel informed and included? Make notes in the box below.
Thinking about some of the communication tools and activities briefly discussed in this section – could any of those ideas make an effective addition to your current efforts?
Communication plays a key role in inclusion, whether that involves creating safe spaces for people to share their own experiences, encouraging difficult conversations, or keeping everyone up-to-date with progress. The more diversity and inclusion can become part of the conversation, the more it will feel like a normal part of day to day working life.
Another way to communicate diversity and inclusion messages is to ensure they run through your organisational policies and procedures. EW Group suggest 10 policies that your organisation should consider, in order to effectively address diversity and inclusion (Wilson, no date). These are:
- Diversity & Inclusion Policy
- Recruitment & Selection Policy
- Flexible Working Policy
- Work-Life Policy
- Code of Conduct
- Dignity at Work / Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination Policy
- Disability & Reasonable Adjustments Policy
- Trans-inclusion Policy
- Whistleblowing Policy
- Mental Health, Wellbeing & Menopause Policy
Other organisations have chosen to formulate policy on specific discrimination characteristics, for example:
The Creative Equity Toolkit, run by Diversity Arts Australia and the British Council, offers numerous links to relevant resources in its section on developing an anti-racism policy. Although there is an arts sector bias, examples of action plans and anti-racism initiatives should be useful to all. See Further reading for the link.
Indiana University (no date) in the US also focuses on anti-racism, suggesting that you ask yourself the following questions when reviewing policies through an anti-racist lens:
- Is the policy still necessary in light of its stated purpose and goals and is it free of bias or preferences?
- Would the document function better as a set of procedures or guidelines?
- Does the policy clearly and effectively communicate our values, including those related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as the general purpose for the policy?
- Does the policy function well as written, or should it be revised (e.g., by drafting it more clearly and intently) to improve its aim towards becoming an antiracist organisation?
- Is the policy current?
- Does it align with best practices in the area?
- Is the policy being followed in practice fairly, equitably, and consistently per case and in each cycle, or is there a need to address and improve policy, procedures, and practical implementation?
While this list is specifically focused on anti-racism, there are several points here that could be applied in different contexts.
For more ideas about reviewing and creating policies, see Further reading.