Five ways to make communication in the workplace more inclusive

Sophie Grant, Principal Strategy Consultant Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Communication, when handled with care, can play a pivotal role in fostering a happier and more motivated workforce. In fact, studies have found that teams who communicate effectively may increase their productivity by as much as 25%. However, everyone communicates differently, each of us with our own preferences in the methods through which we exchange information. As such, the case can be made for tailoring information or messaging in different ways to help people understand concepts with greater ease, thus providing a better work experience for all.

In this article, we'll delve into five actionable ways to enhance communication in the workplace, to make it more inclusive.

What is inclusive communication in the workplace?

Inclusive communication in the workplace refers to communication practices that make all employees feel welcome, valued and able to participate fully. One individual’s preferences when it comes to communication is different; some may favour email or written instruction, whereas others may prefer to communicate face-to-face. Using this information, we can interact with more intention, create a more accepting and thoughtful culture and do better work. From incorporating braille or iconography in workplace design to embracing various communication channels or technologies, inclusive communication considers how to meet the diverse needs of all employees.

Why is inclusive communication essential in a modern workplace?

When it comes to the day-to-day, redefining how you communicate to engage all employees is a powerful tool to support both employee wellbeing and business performance. Through more thoughtful and considered conversation, employees will have a better understanding of the task at hand, helping them to more easily take control, grow confidence and get creative in their roles. As workplace design continues to evolve, employees are increasingly operating in destination spaces that offer a plethora of choice. Dynamic environments that enable employees to work, rest and socialise throughout the working day are only as successful as the behaviours and attitudes of the people who use them. As a result, supporting effective communication between teams and individuals is a critical factor for businesses looking to explore and embrace new ways of working.

It's no wonder, then, that communication plays a powerful role in supporting and driving change. The most effective communicators possess the ability to successfully communicate their message to individuals from diverse walks of life, encompassing various ages, genders, cultures, and backgrounds through active listening and empathy. When considering a workplace transformation, communicating clearly why change is taking place, and what your employees can expect throughout the process, is a fundamental ingredient to ensure the successful adoption of your new workplace by all.

Promoting inclusivity in the workplace is important from a design, people policy and communication perspective. In fact, research from McKinsey & Co. has proven that promoting inclusivity improves financial growth, innovation and productivity, too. Communicating in a way that quite literally speaks to your entire workforce helps. The survey results showed that a greater sense of belonging and acceptance within minority individuals leads to greater excitement towards work and commitment to the business and its goals.

How to improve inclusive communication at work

1. Practice active listening

How well do you know your people and their preferred communication style? Active listening signals understanding , minimises misunderstandings, and provides insights into colleagues' communication styles. It's a powerful tool for fostering inclusivity and creating a supportive workplace and can be applied through company-wide surveys or on a one-to-one basis. At the start of a workplace transformation, our Strategy team practice a range of these types of active listening techniques to discover a business and their workplace needs. Active listening is not just about making a colleague feel heard and seen. It’s also about identifying issues or misunderstandings that can be restated in a way that the individual better understands. It helps to mitigate risk and develops teams into more efficient and high-performing units.

2. Create awareness

When communicating a message, we each have an idea of how we’d like a message to be received and understood, but you’d be surprised by how many messages are not interpreted the way the sender had originally intended.

As humans, we process messages in two ways; encoding and decoding. Encoding turns thoughts into communication, and decoding involves turning communication into thoughts – the latter is what we understand from a communication. In a way, we might consider communication as a multisensory interaction; sensory ‘noise’ includes body language, choice of words, or even external factors and contributes to how we send or receive information.

Implementing feedback loops within a workplace transformation project helps to raise awareness about how communication is being shared and received. This also gives employees space to discover, question and understand communication methods, and identify their own preferred channels, if they are not already aware of them.

3. Consider different communication channels

Different team members may have a variety of preferences for communication channels. Acknowledge these differences, ensuring that channels are two-way streets, allowing for effective communication, understanding and feedback. Getting to know these differences can help you to get the best out of your people.

Channels of communication aren’t limited to email, Teams or Slack, either – consider communication types like verbal and written communication, and think about whether a message or piece of information may require a formal or informal meeting, what time of day you deliver it, and whether you can make it easier to digest key information with bullet points or colour coding.

What's key, too, is ensuring that your teams are clear about what channel is appropriate to use, and when. For a client relocating to Farringdon's PANAGRAM building, Peldon Rose’s Strategy team created a workplace FAQ portal within a bespoke microsite. Here, employees could learn about their new workplace in a dynamic and interactive setting, available for all to access.

4. Utilise technology

In a hybrid setting, technology in the workplace is vital for maintaining inclusive communication. Technology levels the playing field; Inclusivity is injected into hybrid and remote meetings with smart AV technology that allows everyone to speak, share ideas, and be seen and heard, whether they're in the room or not. Visual cues and status updates on platforms like Teams or Slack facilitate understanding and connection, and balancing virtual meetings with face-to-face interactions is crucial for team cohesion and allows for multiple channels and methods upon which to deliver a message. Text-to-speech and read aloud technology can help people with impaired hearing or eyesight to work smarter and with more ease. Technology, when at its most useful, should make the task at hand as easy as possible for the user in and around the workplace, enabling them to perform more ‘thinking’ tasks alongside ‘doing’ tasks.

5. Nurture trust and safety

In fostering a workplace culture of open communication, it's essential to create an environment that priorities trust and safety – one, for example, where mistakes are not treated as failures, but as opportunities for growth. When it comes to office interior design, relocation, or workplace transformation, change can cause nervousness amongst employees.

Did you know change can trigger ‘social pain’ in our brain that is interpreted in the same way as physical pain? As a result, creating a trusting workplace environment can help to better navigate transformation. Feedback forums and quiet, private rooms for informal 1-2-1 meetings build trust and create a safe environment, encouraging employees to safely share ideas, raise concerns and translate information across a business.

Implementing inclusive communication strategies in the workplace

Implementing inclusive communication strategies in the workplace will allow employees to tailor business communications to suit their own needs and requirements. Adapting communication to daily work life is a powerful tool to support successful workplace change and progression.

Our in-house Workplace Strategy team spend time getting under the skin of an organisation to understand its people, to help businesses shape their real estate strategies. Engaging with you throughout the entire journey, our team of experts can shape communications and change strategies that allow your people to adopt your new workplace with ease and thrive.

Inclusive communication is not just a strategy; it's a mindset that fosters a workplace where every voice is heard, valued and understood. By implementing these five steps, rooted in empathy and understanding, and a strong ‘why’, you can begin to create a culture of inclusivity that propels both individual and collective success. At Peldon Rose, we believe in the power of communication to help drive positive change. Join us on this journey to delivering exceptional workplace experiences.

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