In 2020, as protests over George Floyd swept the nation, companies moved quickly to create or renew initiatives aimed at promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). More than a year later, these DE&I communications and programs are entering their sophomore phase, where enthusiasm has tempered and calls for action go unanswered.
As Management Consulting Firm McKinsey states, “Diversity winners that deploy a systematic approach to inclusion and diversity and don’t fear bold action to foster inclusion and belonging are most likely to reap the rewards. Now is the time to be even bolder.”
If your company has made a DE&I commitment, ability to deliver on it has long-term implications for your business and brand. Here are a few ways to continue evolving your programs in 2022 and beyond.
Ensure you have C-suite buy-in
Many DE&I commitments created in 2020 were a knee-jerk reaction to the events happening around us. CEOs stepped up in droves to make promises to the BIPOC community that they were heard, understood and welcomed within the company. This cannot be allowed to become lip service. The veil has been lifted and employees of all colors and creeds are demanding change.
Having your C-Suite lead these initiatives is critical. Too often, DE&I programs are comprised of the same people impacted by discrimination, and it can easily become an echo chamber with no results to show for it. Including a top-line executive in these discussions will ensure that initiatives are continually driven forward and DE&I communications are meaningful. It will also show your employees the seriousness with which you are approaching DE&I in your company.
Continuous DE&I communication with your employees is key. Not only does this keep everyone in the company updated on progress; it underscores your commitment to DE&I and ensures that it is not a one time response. Authenticity is key, and regular communication ensures everyone knows where the company’s values lie.
While the cadence can be flexible, be sure you’re targeting more than just the calendar timeline for touchpoints. Black History Month, Women’s Heritage Month, LGBTQIA+ History Month, etc. should not be the focus of your messages, but a select few moments in time to connect with your employees.
Pay attention to the news cycles and be reflexive and responsive when key moments break. Be prepared to reschedule events or halt announcements so as not to dilute social justice and messaging efforts. And don’t limit your communications to internal communications —external audiences will be eager to hear about meaningful momentum as well.
Go beyond DE&I training
Education and awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion is a critical first step. Lunch and learns, training sessions and keynote speakers are all impactful pieces of a program. But the end goal is to create a culture of inclusion, without it being a second thought.
Creating a culture of inclusion is much different than announcing that you’re inclusive. This requires a deeper understanding of hiring practices, promotions and financial packages, and involvement opportunities for employees at all levels.
A culture of inclusion does more than invite everyone to the table; it allows everyone to have the same opportunities for growth and development and to be heard in your business. Continually reevaluating policies and practices is a must-do for DE&I.
Every DE&I program can benefit greatly by engaging with the community in which it thrives. This is deeper than financial donations to organizations like Black Lives Matter or the NAACP. While worthy causes, taking action directly in your local community is a far more impactful exercise.
Seek out the organizations that help underserved populations, or those impacted by discrimination, and make company-wide commitments to volunteer, donate and contribute on their behalf. Host a fundraiser or offer volunteer hours to your employees to show that you support causes that matter to them.
DE&I communications in 2022
Diversity, equity and inclusion is evolving. Employees and clients expect to see results from promises made in 2020. As you continue to promote DE&I within your organization and issue DE&I communications externally, keep your focus on your end goals: change, growth and impact. These three tenets will guide you to success.
This post was contributed by our partners at TEN35, an advertising agency transforming brands through culture.
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