ATD Blog

Diversify Your D&I Communications

Monday, July 1, 2013

Although leading organizations recognize that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a requirement to be successful in a world marked by dramatic demographic shifts, it is still challenging to get employees’ attention in the face of competing priorities.

To successfully reach out to employees about D&I, you must tailor messages by audience. That means, for example, that D&I messaging may need to be specific for a region of the world or tailored for different functions. Salespeople are likely to be keenly interested in how they can interact effectively with their diverse customers to understand their needs and win business. Supply chain will be focused on how to best leverage efficiencies by understanding local customers and regulations. HR will be concerned about attracting, retaining, and developing talent and overall employee engagement. Executives will be concerned about public image and investor relations.

Moreover, we know that people have different learning and thinking styles. A model from industrial psychologist Dr. David Merrill suggests four types of styles:

  1. analytical individuals are going to be engaged by the data and facts
  2. expressive individuals will respond well to dramatic stories
  3. drivers will be impressed by demonstrations of progress
  4. amiable styles will be moved by the impact of D&I on fostering harmonious interpersonal relationships.

In addition to considering your D&I communications by audience, be sure to diversify your channels of communication—as no single vehicle will effectively reach all of your stakeholders. Here are just a few examples.
Internet site: D&I practices should be prominently situated on the website home page or within one to two clicks. Information should be refreshed frequently so your visitors have a reason to return.

D&I annual report: Several exemplary organizations in D&I publish a detailed report of their progress, available through the corporate website. This report shares year-by-year progress, success stories, and goals for the upcoming year.

Mobile apps: To reach your audience in short bursts of information, consider creating an app for your organization that provides updates on awards, information about upcoming events (such as a National Heritage Month), access to your D&I strategy, recent accomplishments by employee resource group, announcements of senior leader speeches, achievement of major D&I milestone, and so forth.


Push and pull strategies: It is important to not only share what the enterprise is providing (push communications), but also to create a call to action for employees (pull communications). An online or print  D&I toolkit translates the strategy for Diversity & Inclusion into best practices that employees can execute day-to-day. It also can map internal and external resources for learning, serving as a one-stop resource that tells the story.

Social networking discussions: Another “pull” approach is to engage employees in online conversations. Examples can include soliciting success stories about working effectively with diverse groups to solve an important business challenge, or sharing useful information about different cultures. These discussion groups can be focused around a specific business event (such as expansion into a new market or a community outreach initiative).

Company newsletter: If your organization has an internal organ, include a D&I column as a regular feature.

Town halls: Local leaders can use these large scale public meetings to visibly support D&I and reinforce key messaging.


Meeting-in-a-box: Provide sample agendas, discussion guides, and PowerPoint materials that enable frontline and middle managers to foster meaningful dialogue about D&I.

Special events: Organize internal events around International Women’s Day, LGBT Pride Month, National Heritage month, and so forth that highlight and celebrate differences.

Employee engagement survey: Be sure that your survey process specifically includes items relating to D&I, and that demographic data are captured that enables the organization to assess how different groups view this issue. Share achievements, as well as gaps, that have been uncovered, and use survey data to determine where to invest future resources—and focus your ongoing communication efforts 

So, what methods do you use to communicate D&I effectively?

Check back for more posts this month on D&I. Plan to join me July 10 at 1 p.m. EST for the ASTD webcast, Best Practices in Diversity and Inclusion: A Panel Discussion with Trevor Gandy, SVP and chief diversity officer of CHUBB and Nancy DiDia, executive director and chief diversity officer at Boehringer Ingelheim, and moderated by Ann Pace, ASTD’s Human Capital Community of Practice manager. We will share internal and external perspectives on this business imperative and include a list of resources and an action planner you can use immediately following the webcast. For more information, to register, or to access to the archived webinar on demand, go to

For more on diversity and inclusion (D&I), check out the full blog series here.

About the Author

Marjorie Derven, a director at HUDSON Research & Consulting, has worked with many leading organizations to design change management strategies and initiatives that integrate organizational effectiveness, DEI, and learning to create solutions that drive meaningful change.

She formerly served as chair for TD Editorial Board and as a Senior Fellow at The Conference Board in the human capital practice. With 20+ years of consulting experience with top-tier companies across multiple industries, her areas of expertise include emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, global leadership development, talent management, and organizational research. Marjorie has published dozens of articles and is a frequent presenter at global conferences. For more information, contact [email protected]

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