Should you be employing neurodiversity in your communication strategy?
Having worked for a variety of large companies, including Hermes, Asda, and O2, internal communications expert Amy Holmes is building an internal communications function at Marshalls. If you have never heard of them, Marshalls is a manufacturer of products for the landscape and outdoor environments with a specific claim to fame – it has paved every street on the Monopoly board.
In this episode, Amy discusses the importance of neurodiversity in establishing an internal communications strategy that speaks to all.
What is neurodiversity?
Amy explains that neurodiversity is a non-traditional way of thinking about your workforce (and about your customers).
Instead of considering diversity as an issue of race, disability, gender, and so on, neurodiversity considers the deeper issues of education and understanding.
People across an organisation have different backgrounds and different capabilities to understand, so it is important to communicate to these ‘subsurface characteristics’ rather than ‘surface characteristics’.
Impact on internal communications
Considering neurodiversity forces you to consider people’s communication needs and how to “adapt tone and style to reach more people”. Amy regrets that “organisations tend to produce a communications tone and style guide not based on anything other than that it fits with their brand.”
From the direction of neurodiversity, communications strategists are encouraged to think about how each recipient of messages interprets those messages. Amy says that this “helps to look at what is being communicated and adapt to a style that is suitable for the majority rather than the minority.”
On communication channels and technology
There is, of course, a drive to go digital with communication. While understandable, this often ignores both generational diversity and neurodiversity. While we expect younger people to be highly tech savvy, this isn’t always the case – background and education must be considered.
Therefore, a range of communication channels will always be important unless we get to the unlikely position that everyone has access to digital channels and prefers using them. In short, how you share messages is important. A good starting point when deciding which communication channels to use is to ask two questions:
- Who is the communication to be shared with?
- What is their preferred method of receiving communication?
Internal communication is parallel to marketing, and there is still a place for radio, paper, digital, posters, leaflets and letters (especially for the older generation – and especially as UNGC has forecast that in 10 years there will be more over-60s than there are children).
In short, consider age, social background, and what the people who you are communicating to do. All these factors should have a bearing on how you communicate.
On creating an internal communications strategy
When discussing how to build an internal communication strategy, Amy recommends using HR data as a starting point to better understand your audience to build a communications channel plan appropriate for those you are targeting.
You must recognise your audience, but also that the business may want to steer toward digital communications. “Look at having a range of channels that meet existing needs and that complement where the business is trying to go,” Amy says.
Amy also recommends that you vary the type of communication you employ – for example, print, face-to-face, and digital – depending upon who the campaign is aimed at, using each channel in different proportions accordingly.
Mind your language!
Amy also notes how many communicators and organisations are “too caught up in producing a piece of communication that sounds excellent when you read it, that it has a number of long words in it,” garnered from a “flick-through of a Thesaurus.”
Such a strategy usually results in confusing a large slice of your audience. Instead, you should communicate in plain English, using easy words to convey the same message, and never assume that people will understand acronyms and technical language.
The last takeaway from this excellent podcast is that internal communications specialists should find ways to educate the creators of content to think about who they are creating content for and:
- Select the right words
- Be concise
- Keep things simple
Amy’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-holmes-ciic-72154717/