5 steps to communicating to build an inclusive culture

5 steps to communicating to build an inclusive culture

Building an inclusive culture takes time and attention. Inclusion is a way of thinking that leads to inclusive actions/behavior. It is a team effort in which not everyone is automatically equipped — yet they can be.

As a leader who seeks to advance action within your organization to create and nurture an inclusive culture, the following steps can help inform and guide your thoughts and plans, reaping great results for you and your team.


1. Check your bias

Learn about your unconscious biases — we all have them. Once you become aware, think about where they may show up at work: interviews, promotions, delegating assignments, discipline/corrective actions, socializing, and more. Becoming aware of your biases helps you to be mindful of them so that you can work to eliminate them.

2. Demonstrate DEI-related values

Your DEI values can’t thrive as just words on your website, quotes in your annual report, or mentions from your CEO during a town hall. To be true to those values, youmust demonstrate themgenuinely and often. For example, if one of your values is “justice,” are you being equally fair with each of your employees? Are plum opportunities assigned fairly and without bias? Are DEI-related issues acknowledged and addressed?

3. Use inclusive language

Words matter. There are a variety of inclusive language guides from which you can cull and create a list that works for you/your team/your industry, such as APA, GLAAD, and more. Build your library and share it with all employees, including those who speak on behalf of the company — internally and externally, e.g. HR (job descriptions, office communications, etc.), PR (press releases, corporate statements, etc.), Legal (annual reports, earnings reports, etc.).

4. Educate and empower leaders

Inclusive cultures fail or succeed within work groups. Who’s leading those teams? What values are they showing and sharing? What are they saying to and about each other? Without inclusive leaders and managers, inclusive cultures won’t happen. Let everyone on your team know this is a top priority. Provide the time and space for leaders and employees to learn how to be inclusive — knowledge, information, and training matter.

5. Tout DEI-related initiatives

Leaders need to attend, engage in, and celebrate the moments that shine a light on the company’s DEI-related activities. Find ways to publicize upcoming events and outcomes. Demonstrate leadership byjoining an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or attending their events and share what you experienced and learned at your next quarterly town hall.

The tips above are a starting point. To build and maintain an inclusive culture, it takes an authentic and concerted effort. Along the way, two important factors should be a part of your communications efforts:

  • Listen. Active listening is a vital part of effective communications. When we listen, really listen, we are better communicators. Yet sadly, we often listen to respond, rather than to truly understand. When you’re speaking with colleagues, one-to-one or to a group, are you giving them your undivided attention? Are you listening to everyone, including those who are saying things you may not agree with? Are you showing them you’re listening — head nod, eye contact? And, are you listening to the non-verbal forms of communication coming your way — body language; voice tone, pitch, and volume? Once you listen, are you showing people you’ve heard them by following up?
  • Be transparent. It’s critical for leaders and organizations to own up to issues that are or may be affecting the creation or sustainability of an inclusive environment — poor culture, performative policies, etc. — and be candid about what will be done moving forward. Surely, everything can’t be shared, yet even for those things, let people know why (e.g., employee confidentiality, HR regulations, etc.) and whether next steps are being discussed or taking place, if relevant. All issues can’t be avoided or solved, yet employees want to know that their leader/organization care enough to do all that they can.


If you seek a firm that not only specializes in DEI communications, but also “walks the talk,” we’d love to speak with you. Send an email or fill out the form below to start our conversation to explore the possibilities.

Our Work

Finding the right voice and telling the right story is a powerful combination. See how we've helped businesses and nonprofits reach their goals.