The values of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace have to move beyond a mission statement in order to foster a more inclusive work environment. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that understanding intersectionality and fostering a sense of belonging are two vital factors in creating an authentic, successful team– the kind of team we all want to have. In a collaborative workspace, it’s crucial to not only know how to effectively communicate with each other but to do it in a way that goes a step beyond inclusion and truly creates a sense of belonging and connection for everyone.
For MHP/Team SI, we have found inclusive communication is all about being responsible. As a community of professionals whose individual work product is reliant upon the contributions and cooperation of others, we constantly encourage our employees to “Be Responsible.” We are asking them to treat their colleagues better than themselves, consider the impact of their actions (or inactions) on others, demonstrate common courtesy and understand how seemingly little things are actually big things.
Here are a few ways that our agency fosters inclusive communication in the workplace:
Creating an Inclusive Language Guide
Language is a powerful tool. Inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity and impartiality. According to the Linguistic Society of America, inclusive language “acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.”
To foster a more inclusive and diverse work environment at MHP/Team SI, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee created a data-driven inclusive language guide that represents different marginalized groups. This is one tool that we use to ensure our employees feel empowered to bring new ideas and language to the table, which is vital for marketing. Our guide includes recommendations from the following organizations:
- GLAAD Media Reference Guide
- NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists Stylebook
- National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide
- Asian American Journalist Association Handbook
- Religion Newswriters Association’s Religion Stylebook
Promoting Pronoun Usage in the Workplace
Inclusive gender identity in the workplace matters, and language is a huge part of that. Pronouns are used as placeholders when referring to the person who is being addressed. The most commonly used pronouns are ‘she’ and ‘he,’ but for transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming people, these pronouns may not apply and could cause distractions and tension in the workplace if used incorrectly.
Mistakenly addressing a colleague by the incorrect pronouns happens. Medium reported that if someone misgenders someone by mistake, it is important to apologize calmly and non-defensively, thank the person for letting you know and to make an effort to correctly refer to them by their preferred pronouns moving forward. As a way for our agency to continue fostering a more diverse and inclusive work environment, we have added an optional field in our branded email signatures to allow employees to add their preferred pronouns. Though it is a very small effort, it is one way we can help all of our employees and clients continue to feel recognized and valued.
Encouraging Employees to Share Feedback in a Positive Way
Mistakes happen. In the business of advertising, these situations can become tense, especially amongst colleagues. A part of being responsible is understanding how feedback can be perceived by others. That is why we encourage employees to consider the perception of their words or lack of words.
Forbes Coaches Council found that when having uncomfortable conversations with team members, it is important to consider how you might respond to this criticism. If it’s all negative, that’s a lot harder to receive. Try to demonstrate a willingness to help, rather than tearing others down. By taking a few extra steps, mistakes can be clearly communicated without risking valuable relationships.
Providing Advanced Learning Opportunities
Effective and inclusive communication is not just about talking. It is also about listening and learning. For our agency, this looks like encouraging our employees to always “Be Curious” and to never stop learning. As we continue to pursue initiatives to foster diversity within our agency, we are providing additional learning opportunities for our employees to be more effective communicators with people of diverse backgrounds or from underserved and underrepresented communities. Some of these learning opportunities include annual anti-bias training, quarterly DEI events and frequent educational posts on our company-wide intranet.
These efforts to create a workplace where everyone feels a sense of belonging are vital to success and they keep the focus on business. According to Market Watch, companies that are diverse and take on initiatives to actively recruit and retain talent from underrepresented groups are 70% more likely to enter new markets than those that do not. Promoting inclusive language and encouraging employees to respect individualism and inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a great recipe for innovation and success.
At MHP/Team SI, we believe that Diversity Drives Innovation, and we are committed to doing what we can to ensure that all of our employees feel empowered to grow personally and professionally. Committed to fostering a diverse community of innovative and data-driven professionals, the agency is always seeking new and fresh talent! If you are interested in being a part of our award-winning team, visit mhpteamsi.com/about-us/careers.