Importance of Diversity in Communication in the Digital Workplace

By Hani Khan
Workplace diversity is a huge topic not only in the HR world but also for an organization’s communication teams. With the rise in recent global movements, employers have started to prioritize diversity and inclusion practices across the business to set the framework for the future. While many may wonder, what does this have to do with the workplace? It has everything to do with shedding light on previously overlooked minority groups and how businesses can step up in fighting alongside equal rights, racism, feminism, and socio-economic conditions.  

In the modern digital workplace, diversity is becoming a necessity and is moving away from the structure of hiring quotas to show that the organization embraces differences. Many companies conduct business on a global level reaching different groups of people and they need employees that understand cultural differences and well has having diverse language skills to help market and sell their product. 

What does diversity mean?

The definition of diversity at its core is the coexistence of people with different characteristics ranging from race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, cultural background, etc. It’s a set of characteristics that make each individual unique and help share our identity along with our skills and personality.

At work, diversity can relate to employees from various academic, cultural, or professional backgrounds while taking into account their genetic makeup of gender, age, and race. The second layer of diversity pertains to experiences, talents, skills, opinions, and personalities. However, these differences aren’t as obvious and require a level of communication and effort to become more prominent.

Why is diversity important in the workplace?

According to McKinsey’s research, racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%

According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers and 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse.

What is diversity in communication?

Language, communication, and words are some of the most powerful tools we can utilize in not only a professional setting but personal as well. Along with written and verbal communication, it’s important to develop listening skills so that organizations can learn to understand each other and communicate authentically.

It is important to create a consistent company tone and use language that is inclusive of the diverse workforce that your organization may employ. It can become very easy to exclude or overlook various individuals or groups so it’s important to be cognizant of the language that official company messages convey.

Communication has the ability to trigger or illicit uneasy responses when not done in a respectful or comfortable manner. People can feel like they’re being unvalued, trivialized, judged, stereotyped, and even excluded when the language and words aren’t inclusive.

How do you communicate with diversity?

In the workplace, it is all about creating an environment of inclusiveness where every employee feels like they’re welcomed, valued and that they have the power to be their true self. Organization’s need to create an inclusive atmosphere to ensure that every individual within the organization from the top to the bottom are treated equally and respectfully regardless of their differences. Communication teams need to take a mindful approach to the language, visuals and even their channels of communication for the audience they’re targeting. 

Listen before making a change

It’s important to take time to listen and understand different perspectives and experiences before actually speaking up yourself. Take an opportunity to ask meaningful, impactful questions and use time to digest information so that resonses are not reactive but rather proactive and beneficial.

Diversity your comms team and empower employee voices

Communication teams need to have diverse voices to truly encompass different experiences and various strategies. Empower your corporate comms team to allow them to speak up and out about their insights on both business and worldly matters – this will showcase your organization’s communication in a more authentic manner.

Also, learn what communication style and channel works for your diverse workforce. Some may prefer digital communication through the intranet or instant messages while others prefer a more face-to-face approach. It’s important to find out what your teams are most comfortable with.

Be mindful of using your own group as a baseline

It’s easy to default to your own personal experience as the collective experience and it often shows up in our written and spoken communication. Be concious that you don’t use your experience as the ‘normal’ thus placing everyone else in the ‘abnormal’  or inferior category. 

It’s also best to avoid slang, acronyms and idioms in official communication as it can be misinterpreted across cultures or age groups. Using this language can create a divide within various groups making them feel excluded and aliented from the larger organization. 

Ask employees how they identify themselves

Give your staff and opportunity to identify which categories they feel comfortable being identifed in. There are many complexities that make up a person’s identity and making assumptions based on presentation can make individuals feel excluded. Don’t pressure employees to disclose this personal information but give them an opportunity to do so if they feel comfortable. This will help tailor your communication, verbal and written, to each individual and make them feel accepted in the organization.

Inclusivity goes beyond written communication

Written words are not the end all, be all of what entails diverse and inclusive communication. Ensure that the imagery used in your organization uses matches up with what you want representation to look like. But don’t approach this in a baity manner, make sure you’re actually being authentic to what your company culture stands for. 

Driving diversity in communication

Remember, this is not meant to have you feeling overwhelmed but to work towards being more diverse and inclusive in your organization’s communication strategy. The method in which we communicate helps build an inclusive company culture, keeps employees connected and engaged with the company moving forward in a postive and bright manner. 

Embracing differences whether its cultural, language or even age helps ensure that all employees feel seen, heard, and included which will make your team happier, more united, and more engaged to contribute.

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