JEDI communications are hard – but the rewards are high
D&I. As the adage goes: it ain’t what it used to be. In a good way – but also in way which poses challenges to organisations, leaders and communicators.
In two decades, Diversity and Inclusivity (D&I) in the workplace has evolved from gender equality debates to a much richer, complex, and altogether more high-stakes landscape today. Gender equality is no longer male or female. LGBT is LGBTQIA+. We have neurodiversity. Not to mention race, age, weight, mental health, religion, physical ability.
nd complexity brings different viewpoints (witness JK Rowling and the trans community), different paces of adoption of ideas. And, sometimes, outright rejection.It’s highly sensitised, and so no surprise many corporate communicators tread delicately – and perhaps nervously – into D&I activities and campaigns.
But what’s happening in D&I is remarkable, in a good way, and, from our perspective, so much better for all of us. True inclusion means we’re all ‘stakeholders’ after all, whoever we are.
And for organisations that embrace the most modern articulation of D&I: Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity– sometimes referred to as JEDI – the benefits are clear.
According to studies by the global management consultancy Bain & Co:
- Companies with more diverse senior management are 1.7 times more likely to capture a new market.
- Teams that are gender, age and geographically diverse make better business decisions 50% of the time.
And, of course a strong JEDI reputation makes an organisation far more attractive to the top talent we’re all competing to recruit and retain, particularly Generations Y and Z.
So, as communications leaders, what do we need to know to help our organisations become JEDI masters?
We’ve completed a benchmarking study of how a set of global businesses, recognised as among the world’s best for D&I activities, communicate about it.
Our goal was to identify the commonalities so we can help other companies measure their own performance, learn where the quick wins lie and understand what the bigger lifts are.
It’s important to note: this was not an audit of whether those companies are good or bad at JEDI. It examined how good they are at communicating what they do.
Yet the benchmarking clearly identified – through their website, through Glassdoor, through their leaders, through social media and other channels – what the best companies do actually do.
What did we learn? Here’s three of the myriad insights we’ve documented.
- D&I inclusion is about establishing a sense of belonging among all employees by accommodating the full spectrum of human experience.
Volvo, for example, achieves this by investing in and communicating about initiatives that support lots of different groups, for example focusing on veterans, gender, carers, racial equality, and sexual orientation.
- Real progress requires a compelling D&I proposition that engages the majority groups as well as the minority ones. Without this, employees will struggle to understand their role in creating a workplace community where everyone can be themselves and thrive.
Cisco believe their company’s culture is not a program, but something created by the actions, decisions, and behaviours of every person within the company. They enable employees to identify their role in the Cisco Purpose – ‘Power an inclusive future for all’, so every employee is responsible for the organisation’s Conscious Culture.
This is where communicators play a critical role. The proposition is so much more than a mission statement or a message house. It’s a living, breathing, palpable and lived set of values and stories. Owned by as many people as possible.
- Leaders must prove their commitment to JEDI. Every day. Across as many aspects of what they do, and what they say. Not just pop up to lend support to Pride month, International Women’s Day or Mental Health Week.Accenture is a good case in point. It shows great examples of leadership role-modelling; normalising commitments and allyship on a wide array of JEDI aspects and across lots of channels, from the website to personal social media accounts.
So how can companies better communicate about JEDI?
Here are some practical tips to help build more inclusive workplaces.
- SET OUT YOUR STALL: start with a compelling ‘Why’. What does D&I mean to your organisation, how does it support your goals? Your D&I story should not be an add-on to your corporate narrative. It needs to exist in all areas of the business. Enrol senior leaders and engage them in all stages of development so that that they have ownership and become strong ambassadors and role models. Then use authentic employee voices to bring it to life and make it relatable.
- LISTEN FOR SUCCESS: undertake a diversity audit to enable you to listen deeply to your organisation and provide a clear picture of your current position and issues. This insight can unlock compelling stories that resonate with employees.
- INSPIRE TO CHANGE: leveraging understanding of what motivates employees and influences their choices is a powerful way to achieve lasting change. An effective way to do this is through a change strategy supported by neuroscience. Small things can make a big difference to how people respond. For example, giving people the right information and insight together with the opportunity to form their own conclusions can drive change, as people are more committed to actions they choose.
- AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP: allyship is the actions, behaviours, and practices that leaders take to support, amplify and advocate with others. Enrol your leaders in an engagement programme that will provide them with the tools and confidence to hold authentic conversations and build trust through empathy. Getting things wrong is human nature. We can’t all know everything. But we can all take responsibility for being open to learning and engaging.
- CREATE CONVERSATION: Without the involvement of everyone in the workplace, D&I initiatives will not succeed. That’s why it’s important to create opportunities for open dialogue and sharing of experiences. The D&I terrain is complex, and employees need help understanding it. Create immersive programmes and events that enable people across the business to come together.
For many organisations, there are two key audiences to address: those who don’t understand how inclusion benefits them and perhaps are tired of hearing about it, and those who want to see more action.
But Generation Z is moving into leadership roles across organisations, across customer and client bases, among partners, suppliers, policymakers and more. It will soon make up the majority of our population – in work and outside.
So make sure you’re on the JEDI bus, not left standing at the side of the road as it drives into the distance.
by Nike Lapite
and Adam Powell