How to communicate with diverse audiences: the inclusive guide

How to communicate with diverse audiences - group of people in conversation

EW Group consultant Caroline Arnold explores what inclusive communication is, best practice for communicating with diverse audiences, and five easy steps to ensure your communication is inclusive.

While on the face of it, diversity in the workplace doesn’t appear to be gaining enough traction, there is hope. The UK leads the way for diversity and inclusion roles, and in the new world of remote working, recruits are much more likely to come from different cultures, countries, and ethnicities.

All organisations should be driving for a more diverse and inclusive workforce, if not for the morality and justice of it, but for the business case too; an increase in Black, Asian and minority ethnic workplace progression could give the UK economy a £24 billion boost, as highlighted in the Baroness McGregor-Smith Review.

This goes beyond recruitment and getting a more diverse team through the door. Businesses must also understand the importance of communicating to diverse audiences, in order to get the best out of their people and give their best back to them. But how should this be done?

Inclusive communication, in terms of diversity and inclusion, is the method of using communication to allow everyone within a workplace to belong. It is communication that does not discriminate or lean towards one specific group more than another.

To be inclusive in your communication, it must be two-way. Only by listening to what is said back, and by taking feedback on board, can the communication a business puts out be adapted to be truly inclusive.

A simple example is humour. In a global workforce, the use of UK-centric sarcastic humour may be understood easily enough by people in the UK, but people from other cultures may interpret the joke differently and are therefore excluded, and potentially offended.

Communicating with diverse audiences

Of course, your business need not be global to require better communication to diverse audiences. In the UK alone there are many different ethnicities and cultures, each with its own social norms. Inclusive communication is required just as much in these more ‘local’ scenarios.

The key to inclusive communication is to remove any exclusion. Being mindful of other cultures, considering how people will feel or react to certain communication is at the centre of communication to diverse audiences.

From this point of better understanding, you will be able to form your communication better. Tell a story that is non-exclusionary, that explains the point you’re making, provides context, and is unambiguous.

The following strategies can help to achieve this.

Five key inclusive communication strategies in the workplace

Follow these five steps to ensure your communications in inclusive:

1.      Reflect

Before you communicate, reflect on what you are trying to say and what you are trying to achieve. Consider who you are communicating with, their backgrounds, cultures, personalities. Also, consider any unconscious bias you may have and ensure steps are taken to remove or mitigate against these.

2.      Simplify

Keeping your message simple will help. Avoid complex terms which can be more ambiguous, but don’t worry too much about ‘dumbing things down’. The key is clarity; be clear in your message and aim for universal understanding.

3.      Listen

As mentioned, communication should be a two-way street. Consider the responses you receive – and be aware of the silences too, which can often be much more telling. Take onboard feedback, and request it if you get none. The key here is to create a safe space that welcomes and celebrates feedback from the audience.

4.      Expand

Become more culturally aware by expanding your knowledge and understanding. Read books, speak to your colleagues (so long as they’re comfortable and open to it – remember it isn’t their obligation to educate you), and take professional training to improve your diversity and inclusion skills.

5.      Support

Your communication is an opportunity to showcase your support for people too. For example, by simply adding your pronouns to your email signature, your allyship with the LGBT+ community is clear. Read our Founder, Jane Farrell’s blog for more ways to be an ally at work.

Why diversity and inclusion training matters

Diversity and inclusion training helps a business develop its staff’s ability to adapt and apply inclusive principles to their work, in order to overcome problems such as unconscious bias, bullying, and poor employee wellbeing.

At EW Group, we focus on practical, positive methodologies that use real-life scenarios. This creates a much deeper response, embedding the training so it isn’t forgotten, and can be immediately and effectively put into practice afterward.

Explore and learn the art of communicating with diverse audiences by signing up for our diversity and inclusion training – chat to our team today.

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