When communicating DE&I, focus on action that matter

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with Fortune 500 companies making a commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I).

Company #1 says this on its website: “We’ve strengthened our long-standing pledge to making our company more inclusive and the world more just.”

Company #2 posts this: “We believe in, and are committed to, a culture of respect and inclusion. Together, we are strengthening our inclusive environment where our employees, customers and partners feel welcomed and valued in the communities where we do business.”

And company #3 declares this: “Our mission is deeply inclusive: empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We expect each of us—no matter what our level, role or function—to play an active role in creating environments where people of a diverse range of backgrounds are excited to bring all of who they are and do their best work.”

But, as my Tennessee grandmother used to say, “Nice cake, but where’s dinner?” What she meant of course was that all that sweetness may be appealing, but it certainly isn’t nutritious.

Nice words are just . . . words.

What employees are looking for, in the words of country singer Tobey Keith, is “a little less talk and a lot more action.” So, if your role is to communicate DE&I, how do you rise above the rhetoric to share information that will be meaningful to employees?

It’s simple: communicate what, how and when.

There’s been enough “why” shared about DE&I . . . why we care, why it’s important, why everyone should pay attention. We now owe it to employees to communicate:

  • What actions the company is taking to make the organization more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Provide details about the initiatives and action steps under way.
  • How the organization is measuring progress. Share metrics that demonstrate you’re moving the needle.
  • When employees will learn more about activity and progress. Commit to a schedule of communication so employees know the company didn’t just write an inspiring statement about DE&I; action is leading to results.

Talking about DE&I is easy. Now it’s time to focus on the actions that matter.

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