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Rethinking Communication Skills Training from a Diversity and Inclusion Perspective

By Jody Bruner

June 23, 2023

Communication Skills

Rethinking Communication Skills Training from a Diversity and Inclusion Perspective - communication-skills-from-a-diversity-and-inclusion-perspective
Rethinking Communication Skills Training from a Diversity and Inclusion Perspective - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1
Rethinking Communication Skills Training from a Diversity and Inclusion Perspective - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1

Diversity and inclusion, once optional, are now business imperatives. Learning and Development practitioners are uniquely positioned to advance diversity and inclusion efforts across their organization. One place to start is a close look at existing training programs. Are diversity and inclusion integrated into all learning programs? Are all learners accommodated? Can we do better?

In this blog, we’ll share two of our AHA moments. At Wavelength, we are constantly refining our writing and presentation skills sessions to ensure all participants have a meaningful, relatable learning experience. One AHA moment was positive – a long-standing strategy that supports inclusivity, and we also found an opportunity to do better. First, let’s clarify what diversity and inclusion really mean.

Diversity and inclusion – don’t they mean the same thing?

No! Diversity encompasses all the things that make us different – race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability/disability, economic status. For many, it also includes lifestyle, personality, family status, education.

To be inclusive, an organization must create a culture and environment where those diverse employees feel they belong, they are important, they are respected, they are heard. Instead of minimizing or ignoring differences, inclusivity celebrates those differences, so people feel comfortable being their authentic selves and knowing that their contributions are valued.

By looking at our course offerings with a critical eye, we keep finding ways to do better. Not only is it morally and ethically the right thing to do, turns out it’s smart business practice.

Benefits of revamping employee communication skills

Research reveals that diversity and inclusion tangibly benefit organizations. A recent Deloitte study showed that diverse thinking enhances innovation by approximately 20 percent; it paves the way for smoothly implementing decisions by fostering buy-in and trust. Furthermore, it enables groups to spot risks, which in turn reduces these risks by up to 30 percent.

The study also found that organizations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, 3 times as likely to be high performing, 6 times more likely to be innovative and agile, and 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Inclusive email etiquette

At Wavelength, one of the linchpin strategies of our email writing course is focusing on the reader. It’s always been a wise strategy and today it’s more meaningful than ever before. Readers know when a message has been crafted to include them. Inclusive messages engender good will, and they help build and strengthen relationships.

Writing for a diverse audience requires careful audience analysis. So, when crafting that important email, we encourage our participants be sensitive to, and accommodate the reader. Things to consider:

  • Is English a first, second or third language?
  • Will cultural analogies resonate, e.g., sports references?
  • Should I use plain language instead of technical terms/acronyms?
  • Does the tone encourage collaboration and contributions?

Are presentations professional and inclusive?

Here’s where we found an opportunity to do better. During a recent revamp of our Executive-Ready Presentations course, we noticed that some of the slide images no longer represented our participants. Representation matters, so we reimagined those slides with an array people – different ages, races, genders. A small, easy fix that makes a real difference. Now, when we show the executive presence slide, everyone can see themself.

How L&D professionals can strengthen diversity and inclusion efforts

Take a good look at your training programs. Are they offered in a variety of ways (virtual, in-person) to ensure universal access? Will learners see themselves in your images – multiple generations, different races, diverse cultures? Does your onboarding process highlight and support the diversity and inclusion efforts of your company?

As well, ensure your leadership development programs encompass every aspect of diversity; consider going beyond race and gender and include educational background, personality type, social status. Then track your success. Are you attracting diverse leaders? Are they staying with your organization? Are they being promoted?

Diversity and inclusion demand a big tent, a fresh lens, a willingness to embrace change and rebuild from scratch. Go for it!

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