Developing a diversity communication strategy
In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Teresa Boughey about diversity and inclusion and the critical nature of a diversity communication strategy.
Teresa is founder and CEO of Jungle HR, an award-winning business consultancy, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personal Development, and the author of bestseller Closing the Gap.
You’ll hear Teresa expand on the meaning of diversity and inclusion, and explain her company’s TRIBE model.
The connection between diversity and inclusion and employee engagement
Teresa’s company works with executive boards and leadership teams during times of change and business transformation, helping them think about how they can best deliver their business performance through and with their people – and people, of course, are at the heart of all organisations. She says:
“An engaged workforce performs at its best. Engaged employees want to give more by way of their time and effort. They’ll feel committed and connected. To get to that point, employees need to feel like they belong.”
When you unravel this, it is about diversity, which engenders different points of view, different perspectives, different ideas. But for this to be effective, you must ensure that people feel included. “This is where employee engagement comes into its own,” says Teresa.
A diversity communication strategy is vital
“Communication is absolutely vital. It’s not about communicating in singular ways or even one-way communication. It is about ensuring that it is inclusive, it’s diverse, that you’re thinking about people,” says Teresa.
Given this, communicating in a variety of ways is crucial – not only for employees, but for other stakeholders and customers too. Communicating with people rather than to people makes people feel valued, and this is when the benefits of employee engagement lift off. An engaged and happy workforce delivers increased productivity.
“Diversity is this beautiful golden thread that kind of goes through all of that,” says Teresa. “Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are the key ingredients.”
The intersectionality of diversity?
When most people think about diversity, they do so in its broadest sense. This includes protected characteristics – gender, age, race, for example – but Teresa believes that organisations must start to think about intersectionality. No one is a single characteristic. We all encompass a range of traits of diversity to which most of us can relate.
Diversity is about our unique difference. Teresa describes diversity as “either art, or a culinary experience… If you always bake a dish or paint a picture using exactly the same colours or materials, whilst it may taste nice and look beautiful, imagine how much more rich and depth of experience if you started to bring in and utilise some alternative ingredients.
“For me, diversity is the rich ingredients of the tapestry of life. You can have all of those things, but you have to create an environment where people feel included, able to step into all of those things, where they feel safe to be able to be who they are and to share their life experiences.”
The TRIBE Model
There is a propensity for some diversity strategies to be seen as tokenistic or to suffer from systemic bias. The “TRIBE” Model is a simple and memorable framework which helps an organisation figure out what its own diversity and inclusion strategy is really accomplishing.
T = Take stock
The element where organisations pause and reflect on their current existence – what is around them, what systems, policies, processes and procedures do they have?
R = Raise awareness
Asking why it is important that unique differences are recognised and appreciated. Understanding the collective strength that diversity delivers, as well as an appreciation of the challenges that individuals face and discovering what we need to do to champion equality for all.
I = Inspire and involve
How do we create a platform for people to feel inspired, and recognise the brilliance that people have and support them to be able to show their brilliance?
B = Build for the future
We must build for a future in which organisations will change. This has been demonstrated most dramatically through the coronavirus pandemic, but the need to build for the future and a workplace that is right for all generations is always present – as is the need to utilise technology and seize opportunities when they come.
E = Embed
The final element of TRIBE is embedding all these elements within the organisation.
Communicating a Diversity and Inclusion intervention
Running through all these elements is communication. It is the bedrock on which the whole TRIBE framework sits. However, it does not come without its challenges and opportunities. The major challenge is to ensure that communication itself is inclusive. For example:
- Does font size or colour discriminate against some employees?
- Is email the right medium to use for all employees when communicating?
- Is your communication accessible?
- Do you invite people’s views?
- Does your organisation offer employee resource groups to access support and share experiences to shape the things they would benefit from?
- Do you tap into the temperature of your workforce, and learn how your people are feeling?
Talking about the return to work after the coronavirus lockdown, Teresa says:
“The experience an organisation offers employees, and how leadership teams now manage and support their employees will absolutely set the tone as to whether their employees will want to return. Leaders have a vital role to play. Communication is absolutely key.”
The need to be committed to Diversity and Inclusion
A pledge and a promise on a website will not make an organisation’s diversity better. It goes much deeper. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement has delivered both pain and excitement – there is a movement and a real desire to do something different. The organisation that simply posts pledges and promises, and then doesn’t follow through, risks losing its talent because there is such a strength of positive feeling toward diversity.
The organisations that will come out as winners will be those that put people at the heart of everything they do. People will seek out those organisations that they want to work for, and those that only pay lip service to diversity will lose out.
Teresa believes the most important things for leaders to do is not to assume, but rather to listen to people and educate themselves on some of the ways in which they can make change happen.
“Communication is not always about talking. It’s about listening. Learn what your people want. Involve them in your strategy, and allow them to shape the solution. You’ll engage them by doing so. You won’t engage people by telling them what their future is going to be,” she says.
Take the diversity scorecard: https://scorecard.inclusion247.com/
Teresa’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teresa-boughey-jungle-hr/
Twitter handles: junglejane21; inclusion247