Communications: The missing link in diversity

Every organisation worth their salt knows that the greater the diversity of their workforce (at all
levels) the better the decision making is. So follows the better the decision making, the more
profitable the business. This is no stretch, it’s fact.

But attracting talent from different backgrounds, cultures, sexualities, genders and so on is not an
easy thing for some organisations; C-suite white heterosexual male dominance prevails. Bring on the
Diversity and Inclusion functions; stats, training and targets become the order of the day. Whilst all
these things are necessary they tend to be inwardly focussed. Gaining a higher position in this list or
that percentage doesn’t really mean a lot, if it can’t be maintained and what happens when you
reach the pinnacle? Can you say your organisation is truly diverse? Chances are it’s not.

But what would happen if you stood back and changed the way you communicated with staff, the
public and future employees? Bring diversity to life by doing brave and different things. Highlight the
impact of diversity on your organisation, personalise and reach out to new audiences.

As someone with a communications background going back 10 years and over four years as
chairman of Transport for London’s LGBT+ Network (OUTbound), I set out to modernise the network
and the image of TfL to the LGBT public – as well as internally to our staff. This was completely
unique, and not an easy thing to sell internally. All we had when I inherited the network was a
monthly (not very well written) e-zine to Head Office employees. I’m not knocking that, but it
explained why after 7 years we only had 200 members.

So I spent the first year changing the language we used internally; such as changing ‘meetings’ to
become ‘events’. I ditched intranet communications in favour of SharePoint which was quicker to
update and I set us on a course to connect with other organisations. I themed our events around
significant days and reached out to our operational staff, and I started blogging. 

But TfL is a big influencer in London, how do you leverage that too? So to outwardly focus our
communications I spent 18-months of business cases and meetings to introduce an ‘official’ Twitter
feed, followed by a deliberate campaign to engage with Londoners – #RidewithPride. 

The campaign
was so successful that it grew our Twitter feed (@TfLLGBT) to the fastest growing staff network feed
in Europe, in six months we overtook almost everybody and we started talking to our LGBT
customers to too. Some of these customers became TfL employees and we were suddenly visible to
a whole new audience. 

This is diversity; living and breathing in a world where imagery is binary or considered brave if you go
outside the norms. This campaign lives on long after it officially ended last October.

Finally, using Yammer (a Facebook-like internal feed) gave us the ability to speak to our operational
staff in a way not possible before, Our feed was the third highest interacted with almost every
month out of over 200 specialist groups. Now we were a community and other protected strands
followed us. Our membership grew by over 120 per cent and the operational and gender mix
rocketed.

So get your communications right and the rest will follow, and even if it only makes a small impact –
it’s making an impact right?

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