If your company is diverse in gender and ethnicity, research shows you may outperform less diverse companies by up to 33 percent. Step one toward workplace equality is a diverse employee environment. The next step is inclusion, making sure they’re comfortable and want to stay.
One of the simplest ways to promote inclusion is in language — how you communicate with each other at work in speech and writing.
Learning by Example (Literally)
We all want to create and work in a supportive, respectful environment. Most of us probably think we already communicate in a way that respects everyone. Because surely we’re trying to. Sometimes, though, unconscious bias or presumptive thinking can influence communications.
Often, the best way to learn is by example, so we’ve put together a few that may help your communications be more inclusive.
We no longer work in a binary world of male and female, and HR communications should reflect that.
- Embrace the singular “they.” Instead of “An employee should know how he or she adds value,” say “An employee should know how they add value.”
- Unless necessary, drop the “Mr. and Mrs.”
- Go for gender-neutrality.
- Instead of “chairman,” use “chair.”
- Instead of “guys,” say “team.”
- Instead of “foreman,” use “shift supervisor” or “floor manager.”
- Use preferred pronouns if you can.
- Ask employees during onboarding how they identify, and what pronoun they prefer.
- Have employees include their preferred pronoun in their email signature and on their intranet profile.
- Check out this diversity dictionary on pronouns.
Generally, it’s unnecessary to refer to someone’s cultural background when communicating. It is necessary, however, that you understand how to communicate with and about them.
- If you must refer to someone’s cultural background, be as specific as possible. Say someone is “from China” rather than “Asian.”
- Avoid cultural idioms like “hold down the fort” or “knocked it out of the park.” Not everyone understands them, and some are offensive (do you know what the “peanut gallery” refers to?).
- Be aware of your audience. Not all blacks are African American, and there’s a difference between Hispanic and Latino (which now is the gender-neutral “Latinx”).
One in four Americans has a disability, and how you communicate with and about them can make a big difference in ensuring they feel included.
- Use people-first language — put the person before the disability.
- Instead of “autistic employees,” say “employees with autism.”
- Instead of “blind person,” say “person who is blind.”
- Instead of “epileptic,” say “has epilepsy.”
- Avoid words with a negative vibe. Say “accessible parking spot,” not “handicapped parking spot.”
If all of this has you feeling a little uncertain about your communications, we say that’s a good thing.
It means you care.
It’s worth the extra effort to make sure nobody feels excluded when they read your messages.