Committed to progressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in your workplace? It’s not just about what you do, but how you communicate it.
I spent the last few moments before bedtime madly sifting through my daughter’s discarded clothes underneath her bed, when finally I found two orange-ish shirts. Neither of which were to her taste.
Once again, I’d failed to prepare for Harmony Day, and was facing a meltdown of epic proportions. Why orange? Why couldn’t they have chosen another colour?
According to Harmony.gov.au, orange has been the colour for Harmony Day since the first annual event in 1999, and symbolises social communication. Coined by the Howard government, Harmony Day is a softer, celebratory version of the far more challenging UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. And, if you’re lucky, you might get an orange ice block from the school canteen.
There are countless examples of similar nods to cultural events and causes across the corporate world – just look at LinkedIn. On any given day, businesses share images and posts showing their awareness and support for a variety of campaigns, from Dry July to Earth Hour.
While we may support a softer introduction of cultural awareness in primary school, communicating the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace requires more engagement and effort.
Increased employee awareness demands action
Kantar’s Inclusion Index 2022 shares that, while Australia’s DEI Inclusion Index score rose to 55 per cent in 2022, we rank ninth globally – a poor showing for a proudly multicultural country. The report also showed that 46 per cent of respondents believe their organisations need to do more to drive DEI progress.
In a tight labour market, organisations can’t afford to be lax on DEI, which Gartner’s recent Global Talent Monitor shows is a key driver for employee attrition. This is the case not only for DEI initiatives, but how organisations communicate their practices in this regard — and the new generation of employees need more than an orange ice block.
These days, staff are more engaged than ever, scrutinising company policies and action from issues ranging from social responsibility to staff wellness. A recent survey of Gen Z workers by batyr has found that young employees are acutely aware of tokenism when it comes to wellbeing initiatives.
As the ‘you can keep your cupcake’ commentary on International Women’s Day showed, employees — and shareholders — expect more than a half-hearted gesture when it comes to DEI. And it’s not just about the steps that are taken, but how these steps are shared with your audience.
Showcasing DEI in your communications
If your company or brand is committed to making meaningful progress in DEI, how do you communicate it? Consider the following:
Acknowledge where you are
When committing to making a change on DEI, businesses of all sizes must openly communicate not only their goals, but their current state and the steps they intend to make.
Employees, shareholders and stakeholders prefer openness to vague aspirational statements, and will forgive a lacklustre record if genuine commitment to making change can be demonstrated.
Be transparent with your progress
Authenticity is important at every step of the journey to achieving DEI targets, not just at the start. Businesses who report honestly on the results of their efforts — the challenges and disappointments, as well as the wins — are more likely to gain trust and buy-in from their audience.
Not just an annual LinkedIn post
To display a real understanding of, and dedication to, DEI, businesses need to highlight their awareness and action on related issues year-round, not just on Harmony Day.
Businesses that truly embed DEI initiatives within their culture should infuse this messaging into all relevant internal and external communications, showcasing their values at every available opportunity.
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