5 ways to improve inclusivity
Internal communications can be a powerful tool for supporting and advancing the notion of inclusivity — but only if we’re willing to take a hard look at the ways we’ve habitually used language and images that may not be as inclusive as we’d like to think our culture is.
It’s also important to realize and accept that we may not get it right all the time. As a society, we’re experiencing rapid social change and a heightened awareness of past behavior that may have been thoughtless. Unfortunately, there’s no switch we can flip and suddenly be inclusive. It’s a process, and we need to be willing to engage in that process.
As you’re discussing your company’s approach to making internal communications more inclusive, you might give some thought to these five suggestions:
Show diversity in your photography
Before you address the specific words you choose, consider the images you’re using to represent employees. It would be nice to move beyond the cliché formula of group shots that include a bunch of cis white males with the obligatory woman and token person of color in the mix. Try using individual shots of employees that represent diversity.
Introduce they/them pronouns
Consider using “they” as your default instead of “he” or “she” when you’re talking about a theoretical employee, such as in policy guides, open enrollment materials or other communications that address the employee population in general. And when you’re referring to a specific employee, don’t be shy about asking them which pronouns they prefer.
Be sensitive to evolving language
Do you refer to someone as paraplegic, or a person with paraplegia? Are you capitalizing the word Black? Cultivate an awareness of changing norms and preferences, and have a process for deciding when to incorporate them into your internal communications. Words are powerful, and although one person may not feel strongly about a certain reference, another could be deeply offended.
Weave inclusivity into everything
If you have a DEI newsletter or a regular feature in your employee publication or on your intranet devoted to diversity, that’s great. But to truly be inclusive, you wouldn’t need to give DEI its own specific box. The goal would be to one day look at the entire scope of internal communications and see a reflection of true inclusivity.
When in doubt, ask
What constitutes inclusivity is a dynamic state, and we’re a long way from a world where none of our accepted language makes anyone uncomfortable. Be willing to be corrected or challenged, and open to the ongoing conversation of how we can improve in this area. You might think about involving your Employee Resource Groups, if you have them, and ask them for guidance.