Strategic Internal Communications Can Unlock the Power of DEI Programming

The idea of “belonging” in the workplace is a newer part of the corporate DEI conversation, one that organizations are working to understand and measure as they evaluate their governance and DEI programs. Great Place to Work defines belonging as “an employee’s sense that their uniqueness is accepted and even treasured by their organization and colleagues.”

Historically, corporate DEI efforts have treated belonging as a byproduct of a company’s inclusion efforts. However, an environment where employees feel they belong goes a step further than just being inclusive, empowering employees to innovate, speak up and take an active role in shaping their workplace culture. During the pandemic, research revealed that many women and employees of color reported feeling a greater sense of belonging in remote and hybrid work environments. This suggests that company structure and policy can have a significant impact on belonging by giving employees freedom on when and how to show up in the workplace.

Companies can also cultivate a sense of belonging through the benefits and initiatives they provide to their employees. Employee resource groups (ERGs) help contribute to a sense of community and psychological safety among employees of similar backgrounds, while allowing the group’s purpose and mission to be defined by the employees with the greatest stake in its success. Additionally, they can fund employee development programs that help companies facilitate their personal or professional development. Educating and investing in employees as individuals communicates that their unique perspectives, interests and contributions are valued by the company.

What can’t be overlooked is the role that communicators and marketers can play in elevating the corporate DEI work that a company commits to delivering to their employees to support the culture of belonging across the organization.

  • Employee Spotlights – Chief Marketing Officers can leverage internal marketing campaigns to promote the company’s culture and values to employees. Content that highlights employees’ personal stories and professional successes through social media or email spotlight campaigns can help the entire workforce see the unique value everyone brings and how this makes them an asset to the larger organization.
  • DEI Updates – Internal communications teams can help facilitate regular and transparent communication about company DEI goals set by leadership or DEI teams within company. Examples include sharing progress on initiatives that create a more diverse talent pool for recruiting or steps the company is taking to address equity issues. This not only can help employees feel included in the company’s mission but also provides an opportunity for an expanded dialogues and employee feedback.
  • Marketing Engagement Plan – Chief Communications Officers can work to develop programs, such as monthly internal newsletters, digital platforms, or town hall forums. Inviting the entire organization to take part in developing DEI-focused content and opening a consistent stream of communication can empower individual employees and ERGs to be cultural leaders of the organization.

Over the past couple of years, corporate environments have put a lot of emphasis on how DEI initiatives can attract top talent and increase productivity through better decision-making. Still, greater investment in “belonging” has the potential to increase retention and further unlock creativity and innovation across the firm. Since belonging is a tenet, accomplishing this aim requires upfront work. Conducting surveys, investing in communication and collaboration tools, opening more opportunities for 360 peer-to-manager feedback and encouraging a variety of social events are a great first start in realizing this vision.

By Marques Wilson

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