Inclusive Communication: What Is It and Why It Matters

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Inclusive Communication: What Is It and Why It Matters

Over the years, the workplace has evolved and, along with it, how employees are expected to interact. With this evolution, it’s now more important than ever for communication within the organization to be inclusive and respectful of all individuals. 

However, many companies need help to create an environment where everyone feels heard and respected. As a result, engagement levels drop as employees feel their voices need to be valued and considered.

As an HR professional, one of your key responsibilities is to create an atmosphere of inclusion through effective communication strategies that foster understanding and respect for all team members. By implementing these strategies, you can create an environment where everyone feels welcome and included.

What is inclusive communication?
Why HR is key to ensuring inclusive communication 
Essential things to know about inclusive communication
Top strategies HR can adopt to foster inclusive communication
Examples of inclusive communication

What is inclusive communication?

Inclusion means more than just having a diverse mix of people in an organization; it is about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and appreciated. It also involves ensuring that no group has a preferential or unfair advantage over another. True inclusion encourages equal opportunities for all individuals to make meaningful contributions within the company.

The art of inclusive communication relies heavily on realizing how workers communicate daily. Communication style and words can have a significant impact, either positively or negatively, on employees feeling welcomed and appreciated. Therefore, you must pay attention to the power of verbalizing and writing since it can shape how included someone feels within the workplace.

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However, Quantified Communications recently revealed that there still needs to be more leaders with an inclusive communication style despite the current emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Fortunately, it is within the HRs power to hone the company’s inclusive communication skills.

Why HR is key to ensuring inclusive communication 

With modern organizations becoming more complex, the role of HR is continuously evolving and expanding. One of the major responsibilities placed on HR professionals is to ensure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are actively implemented in the workplace through inclusive practices.

As a Human Resources professional, your foremost duty is cultivating an environment of inclusivity and respect that aids each employee’s professional growth. Through effective management and leadership skills, you can develop a diverse workplace where all employees have the right to learn new things and make meaningful contributions to the company.

Some of the ways you can promote inclusive communication in the workplace include:

1. Monitoring diversity

Creating a clear picture of diversity is a significant challenge for HR teams in most organizations. However, you can address this by performing audits to analyze it. You should conduct such audits not just for the current employees but also for recruitment practices to measure progress effectively.

2. Widen your talent pool

A common misconception about promoting diversity is that your hiring process may focus less on skills and qualifications. But inclusive communication should not be about catering to minorities. Instead, it is about finding a good fit for the organization.

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Creating an inclusive culture should be the driving force behind expanding your talent pool. Think beyond traditional recruitment methods, and look for candidates from different backgrounds to give everyone an equal opportunity.

3. Identifying and eliminating bias 

As an HR professional committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, you must always be aware of the potential for unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion processes. It is essential to be mindful of these biases and take appropriate action to eliminate them. To do this, you should introduce guidelines to ensure hiring decisions are based on objective criteria and not subjective ones.

4. Create a diversity mentoring program

Inclusive communication is a skill that employees can gradually pick up and improve on. However, you should play more of an active role in ensuring adoption. Consider creating a diversity mentoring program to help employees hone their inclusive communication skills. 

Introducing a mentorship program can provide an inclusive environment that encourages collaboration, openness, and respect.

Essential things to know about inclusive communication

As you seek to promote DEI initiatives by promoting inclusive communication, there are some things that you should know. These will guide your efforts and enhance your chances of success.

The objective is to maximize the reach

Whether it’s internally or externally, inclusive communication is about maximum reach. The best inclusive communicators are those who can effectively convey their message to people from all walks of life, representing a variety of ages, genders, cultures, and backgrounds.

It is not about being politically correct 

Inclusive communication is about something other than simply adhering to the rules of ‘political correctness.’ It is about understanding, respecting, and valuing each other’s perspectives. The focus should be on recognizing, understanding, and responding to the wide range of identities in today’s global society. 

In fairness, it can be difficult for organizations to engage with all individuals within their communities. However, inclusive communication enables groups to receive messages and respond positively, leading to higher user satisfaction.

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Inclusive communication involves empathy

Inclusive communication involves listening to others with an open mind and being able to put yourself in their shoes. This means understanding other people’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It also involves being inclusive in both the decision-making processes and in rewarding employee contributions to organizational initiatives. 

Being more accessible is the first step

When discussing inclusivity, accessibility should be a primary consideration. To ensure inclusive communication, organizations should strive to make their content available to individuals with disabilities and different cultural backgrounds.

This involves designing content that is inclusive and inclusive of different language backgrounds. In addition, it is also essential to ensure that individuals who may need access to technology or specific platforms can still access the content. 

Adopting inclusive communication is not expensive

One of the biggest challenges with noble initiatives is that they do not directly impact revenues. If it’s costly to implement, you may need more buy-in from senior management.

The good news is that inclusive communication does not require a high financial investment. Organizations can adopt inclusive communication practices for free through inclusive hiring practices, inclusive communication training, and inclusive customer service. 

It’s all about the long-term vision

Inclusive communication can have an immediate impact on the organization. But it’s not just about that. It’s also about creating a long-term vision to create a more inclusive workplace culture and workforce. 

Top strategies HR can adopt to foster inclusive communication

Organizations should create a culture of inclusion and respect to promote inclusive communication. Here are some strategies that HR can adopt to ensure inclusive communication.

What HR Can Do To Foster Inclusive Communication

1. Create awareness

When your company wants to launch new products, it first creates awareness with marketing campaigns. Similarly, inclusive communication needs to be effectively communicated throughout the organization. HR should develop initiatives that promote inclusive language and behavior.

2. Understand your audience

How people communicate largely depends on the relationship they have with each other. For instance, a simple ‘hello’ will sound very different when directed toward a customer or a colleague. HR should be aware of how the interaction will affect each group and strive to create an inclusive environment.

So, if one of your employees has a disability, it’s essential to remember that they may need additional support. Similarly, if someone speaks a language other than English, speak clearly, and be mindful of their cultural sensitivities.

3. Highlight inclusive language

Making an effort to use sensitive and inclusive language helps to avoid phrases or terms that could reinforce stereotypes or unintentionally discriminate. This should be done for both verbal and written communication. 

Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Encourage employees to use non-binary references when it comes to gender. Instead of saying ‘both genders’, use ‘all genders’, or even better, just say ‘people.’
  • Avoid using terms that diminish an individual’s capabilities. For example, rather than saying someone is ‘disabled,’ say they ‘have a disability.’
  • Be inclusive when referring to race, ethnicity, and religion by using inclusive terms such as ‘BIPOC’ (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) or ‘multi-faith.’
  • Encourage staff to refrain from using gendered words – like ‘the guys,’ ‘chairman,’ or ‘cleaning ladies’ – which can lead to exclusion.

4. Start from the top but involve the entire organization

Aside from the behavioral elements, you’ll also need structural elements to support inclusive communication. Again, the best way to start is from the top. 

Senior leadership should set an example by actively engaging in inclusive communication and modeling inclusive behavior. 

HR should also create a structure that gives everyone in the organization greater access to inclusive communication. This could include implementing inclusive policies, creating diversity and inclusion committees, or introducing inclusive communication training.

5. Find out from employees what matters to them most

Inclusive communication is essential in the modern workplace. However, if its implementation is not done correctly, it could backfire and cause even more issues. That’s why it’s essential to get feedback from employees throughout the process.

Find out what matters to employees most when it comes to inclusive communication. This can help you ensure that your inclusive initiatives align with their needs and that inclusive communication is practiced in words and action.

6. Training 

In most cases, when communication in the workplace is not inclusive, the goal is not to alienate others. Instead, it happens because of a lack of understanding. To bridge this gap, HR should create inclusive communication training programs to help employees understand how to communicate effectively with diverse populations.

7. Lead by example 

Leadership plays a vital role in creating a culture of inclusive communication. As a Leader, demonstrate inclusive behavior and be willing to listen to others. This will create the right environment for inclusive communication within the organization.

8. Create a safe space 

HR should also create a safe space for employees to express themselves without fear of repercussions. This means being open and willing to hear different perspectives and encouraging dialogue. This way, employees will feel that their views are valued and respected.

Checklist for inclusive communication 

When it comes to inclusive communication, organizations should consider the following:

  • Avoid language that may be offensive or insensitive 
  •  Listen to multiple perspectives and create a safe space for people to express themselves 
  • Promote inclusive language when referring to gender, race, ethnicity, or religion 
  • Be mindful of body language and facial expressions when communicating 
  • Lead by example and model inclusive behavior 
  • Adapt communication style to different groups of people 
  • Implement inclusive policies and create diversity and inclusion committees 
  • Offer inclusive communication training programs 

Examples of inclusive communication

As you ensure that communication in your organization is inclusive, learning how other companies have implemented the same will help. Here are some examples:

1. Apple

Tech giant Apple is a prime example of companies shifting towards inclusivity. Tech phrases can have racist roots or imply a gender bias, as such, Apple has taken the initiative to retire terms like ‘whitelist’ and ‘blacklist’ and replaced them with ‘allow list’ and ‘deny list,’ respectively.

Apple Developer's Inclusive By Design
Apple’s Inclusive by design

2. Airbnb 

The hospitality company Airbnb has a comprehensive, inclusive culture policy that encourages employees to value diversity and be inclusive of different backgrounds. The company has also introduced initiatives such as ‘unconscious bias training‘ to reduce the impact of bias on decision-making. 

3. Salesforce

Like Apple, Salesforce replaced its inclusive language and removed gender pronouns from its product manuals. They also have a code of conduct that defines inclusive behavior and provides resources for employees to learn more about inclusive practices. 

Key takeaway

  • Inclusive communication is about creating an inclusive environment for employees and customers, where everyone’s voice can be heard without fear of repercussions.
  • Organizations should create inclusive communication training programs and design inclusive policies to promote inclusive communication. 
  • Companies should also implement inclusive language, lead by example and be flexible when communicating with different groups. 
  •  Examples of inclusive communication include Apple, Airbnb, and Salesforce. 


What is an example of inclusive communication?

An example of inclusive communication is replacing terms such as “whitelist” or “blacklist” with “allow list” and “deny list,” respectively.

What are inclusive communication strategies?

Inclusive communication strategies are techniques used to promote inclusive communication within an organization. These include implementing inclusive language, creating inclusive policies, and leading by example. 

How do you communicate with inclusion?

To communicate with inclusion, organizations should promote inclusive language when referring to gender, race, and ethnicity. 

What is inclusion communication in disability?

Inclusion communication in disability involves creating a safe environment for individuals with disabilities to express themselves without fear of repercussions and adapting their communication style accordingly. 

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