Following a discussion at a CommsCamp session on diversity and inclusion, Ian Curwen has written this blog about his own organisation’s changing approach to inclusion communications.
How often do you review the way you do something? Really review it?
I’ve been involved with diversity and inclusion communications for five years. Over that time, we’ve done some great things, some award-winning things. Despite this, in recent months, I’ve had a growing, nagging doubt that something wasn’t right. That the approach wasn’t working as it should.
This is why we’ve reviewed our inclusion communications approach to reach a decision that we’re going to do less, to achieve more.
Like many organisations, our diversity and inclusion journey is a relatively recent one. At least in terms of a structured, coordinated approach. It was 2016 when we decided to take a more focused route, through a series of communications campaigns and awareness events and days.
This approach has undoubtedly raised awareness of issues we’d never spoken about before and it showed a commitment to changing our organisation. We know they got employees talking and that the discussion – good or bad – was a positive thing.
However over time, it started to feel a little tokenistic.
The trouble with awareness days is that they come around every year. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, but each year should be different. To stick with the journey analogy, each year should mark another step from awareness to advocacy.
I’m not sure that was always the case. Yes, we were able to share some new content, from a new angle, but was it just a different way of saying the same thing?
Awareness-raising only gets you so far.
Growth and reach
We have seen results from our diversity and inclusion approach. We’ve now got more than a dozen employee networks, and more than 1000 of our 10,000 strong workforce are considered advocates and ambassadors in this field.
So, now we’re focused on reaching the other 9,000. We want to become a truly diverse organisation, where people are respected, included and able to perform at their best.
To achieve this, we have to go beyond news stories and case studies. We have to change behaviours.
Re-think your content priority
This means, from a communications point of view, we are prioritising content which:
- Helps show how we’re making improvements and changes that contribute to us achieving our diversity & inclusion strategy aims and objectives
- Has a clear link to our diversity and inclusion narrative and identified priorities
- Is relevant and relatable to our employee audience, focusing on simple messaging through accessible channels
Good communications are those which show the impact of the changes we’re making on the diversity of our workforce.
So, we’re no longer simply telling people it’s International Women’s Day. We’re talking about the things we’re doing to reduce the gender pay gap and promote female role models. We’re asking employees to consider their own behaviour and unconscious biases.
We’re talking about the challenges our employees have experienced – because of their sexuality, race, religion or nationality.
We’re making it clear what acceptable and unacceptable behaviour looks like and we’re and we’re asking people to call the latter out – and providing them with the tools, support and empowerment to do so.
Building on what’s worked
However, please don’t think we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We’re keeping what has worked well, and we’re building on it.
At the same time as we sharpen our corporate communications, we’re also supporting our employee networks to produce their own communications. We’re ensuring they have the skills to produce materials which meet our corporate standards and expectations – even if some might consider them a little ‘wonky’. We know this adds authenticity.
By doing this, these groups can communicate more easily with their target audiences – current and potential members.
While they do this, we’re using their experiences and their initiatives to showcase the changes we’re making. We’re continuing to prioritise people-led stories as the way of putting a face to what can be an emotive and challenging change journey.
This is a shift but is one we have buy-in to.
We have this because we’ve shown the value of the approach. We’ve done it through considered communications campaigns, supported by research and data.
The evidence shows that these are the communications that spark the most discussion, that teams wish to explore in more detail. They’re the ones that lead to suggestion from our workforce, and to the creation of new support networks. They’re the ones that encourage connections and help people to perform at their best.
Ian Curwen works in diversity and inclusion communications in the public sector.