DE&I: The Power of Employees to Drive Change

By Cathleen Donnelly, Senior Communication Consultant

The global reckoning on race has generated soul-searching in boardrooms, in Human Resources and Corporate Communications, and among employees. According to recent research from The Conference Board, employees across all generations – Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers – now rank racism and gender inequity as the top two social change issues.

In many organizations, the work to create real and lasting change has already begun – and it’s often employees who are driving it. Even as many are working remotely, employees serve as powerful, highly visible agents for change. Leaders and communicators can help boost these efforts with strategic communications to reinforce your company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I):

Start conversations – and keep them going.
Create forums where employees can openly and safely tell personal stories about how they’ve experienced or witnessed discrimination. These conversations are not easy, but we can and should encourage leaders not to avoid them.

Promote small group discussions (in-person or virtual) with a focus on the effects of discrimination. Honest and open dialogue helps change attitudes and behavior and builds trust and mutual respect.

Use collaboration tools like Yammer and Slack to highlight employee testimonials. These platforms for sharing employee stories often generate additional conversation and connections.

Enlist and support leaders at every level.
Executives and managers need to drive awareness and reinforce the company’s efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion. Make it easy by providing:

“Expertise on demand” with Leader & Manager Toolkits. A “one-stop-shop” playbook provides consistent messaging and easy-to-use tools such as talking points and PowerPoint decks.

Practical, nuts-and-bolts support. Training is essential but so are tools leaders can use every day – such as inclusive language guidelines, strategies for resolving gender- or race-based team conflicts, and checklists for assisting team members going through gender transition.

Promote corporate programs that enable employees to get involved.
Showcase your company’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion outside the workplace, along with initiatives that engage employees in the community, including:

Flexible schedules or paid time off programs for employees to volunteer.

Company-wide Days of Service that bring together employees, families, and community agencies. 

Matching contributions to organizations that promote education, social justice and racial equity.  

Changes that last

While Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride Month rightfully celebrate the achievements and contributions of historically marginalized groups, demonstrating authentic commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion requires communication all year long.

Need help creating a communication plan that reinforces and amplifies your company’s commitment? We can help.