9 ways to communicate DEI initiatives with employees

9 ways to communicate DEI initiatives with employees https://www.thoughtfarmer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/small-owl.png

Even though businesses are taking DEI more seriously, employers and employees aren't exactly agreeing on any progress made. Here's how to close the communication gap.

June 1, 2022

In the last two years organizations around the world have worked hard to create and implement diversity, equity, and inclusion policies in the workplace. 

That’s pretty amazing. Employees must be rejoicing right? 

Well, not exactly. 

Even though businesses are taking DEI more seriously, and putting plans into action, employers and employees aren't exactly agreeing on any progress made. 

According to a 2021 study, 97% of employers reported they introduced new inclusion measures in the past year, yet 24% of employees believed their employer had not introduced any new measures.

The reason for the misalignment? The communication. 

More than half of employers report sharing DEI updates through company-wide channels, but less than a quarter of employees report this happening within their organization.

Clearly employees aren’t getting the message. 

The good news is that much of this is in our control, and the gap can easily be closed, if not eliminated altogether.

Here are nine ways to increase alignment and communication for your DEI initiatives: 

Have a central portal 

A lot of our customers use their intranet to increase DEI alignment across their organization, but we are especially impressed with how FirstBank leveraged their intranet as a DEI portal. 

FirstBank’s DEI committee, called STRIDE, has its own page on their intranet. Each ERG (employee resource group) has a subpage on the intranet that includes a description and upcoming events. 

FirstBank has taken advantage of many DEI-related ThoughtFarmer features, including name pronunciation. This feature works by enabling users to record an audio segment of themselves correctly pronouncing their name. FirstBank has additionally made use of the pronoun field. This new field is displayed prominently on the user's profile page, next to their name, salutation, job title, and avatar.

1stBank homepage

Send out surveys 

Surveys are a fantastic way to not only gauge employee interest, but to also measure success of DEI initiatives. The DEI survey can help organizations looking to benchmark their current status of diversity, develop a DEI strategy, continue to monitor the quality of an existing DEI program, and to make changes to existing initiatives by measuring current opinions and engagement level. Most of our customers manage surveys from within their intranet through a feature called FormFlow. FormFlow allows users to easily create custom forms that capture data with an approval process, or share structured data on your intranet quickly and easily.

Share stories

In our attempts to create more culturally diverse environments, we sometimes forget that numbers typically don’t inspire us to change our behavior—people and stories do. Storytelling allows us a chance to look through someone else’s eyes and experiences. One study found that taking the perspective of others “may have a lasting positive effect on diversity-related outcomes by increasing individuals’ internal motivation to respond without prejudice.” The best way to create a cascading inclusion effect in an organization is to offer safe spaces where stories can be heard without judgment. 

Stay collaborative

DEI is work in progress. This work involves constant iteration, dialogue and discussion, which makes DEI the ideal topic for online forums on your intranet. For example, consider a potential job posting. You could use a forum to gather feedback on how the job posting may be received. You could also leverage forums to solicit feedback and ideas on new DEI strategies and initiatives.

Create employee resources groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a growing diversity initiative. If you are unfamiliar with the term, Employee Resource Groups are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace. They work to empower and provide support to people rallied to a common topic, identity, or circumstance. Intranets make it easy for employees and teams to share knowledge, collaborate and brainstorm across locations.

ERGs In STRIDE

Prioritize psychological safety

When employees feel safe in the workplace they can exhibit their race, ethnicity, gender, family status, and any other part of their identity without judgment. Intertwining psychological safety with diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace allows employees to feel safe being themselves since their diversity is welcomed. As Google’s people analytics discovered, psychological safety was the aspect most reliably shared by high performing teams. 

Celebrate victories 

Organizations around the world are making fantastic strides every day to make their workplace more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. But without internal knowledge of these efforts, it’s hard to deliver meaningful change. This is why it’s critical to celebrate accomplishments, own disappointments, clearly communicate challenges, and present a plan for improvement. Not only will your audience appreciate the transparency, but you will also demonstrate you are taking your goals and commitments seriously. 

Leverage calendars

Cultural and religious holidays and months happen throughout the calendar year and should be celebrated. The easiest way to do this is to upload these days into your intranet calendar. This helps provide awareness and celebration for these days and months and further allow employees the opportunity to share stories. For example, a Muslim employee can share why they fast during Ramadan. 

1stBank Home V02

Communicate the why

Employees often feel removed from DEI initiatives because they don’t understand them, or don’t appreciate the value it brings to every single employee. To increase participation and collaboration in DEI initiatives, employees need to understand the motives behind it. “Because everyone else is doing it,” isn’t acceptable. Employees need to know WHY their organization is invested in DEI. They also need to understand how DEI initiatives impact them, their team, the corporate culture, and the bottom line. These are some of the key questions that must be answered, reinforced and consistently shared with employees.

If reading this makes you question your own DEI initiatives, that’s a good thing. As mentioned, DEI is work in progress, so while your plans may be well intended, without the awareness (and participation) of employees, they won’t deliver their best potential.

Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.