Authors: Sally Earnshaw Nathalie Francisci Leslie Lemenager
Reliance on leaders as communicators sustained a cultural presence for many organizations during the pandemic. The investments leaders made back then, as they sought to bring a distanced workforce closer together, continue to make connecting with employees easier today. One of the most important outcomes is the realization that communicating with diverse voices in the right emotional tone synergizes employee talents and efforts.
Strategically designed communications link employee action to organizational intent. Those communications can also be a platform for connecting leaders. Yet despite successful efforts to bring a distanced workforce closer together, barriers still exist that challenge women in leadership to communicate effectively.
Statistics make these struggles more apparent. Voluntary attrition is higher among women leaders than men.1 In director positions, for every woman who is promoted to the next level, two women choose to leave the company.2 Diversity aspirations need to be actualized through more equitable practices and better support for women overall. The potential costs of not prioritizing both behavioral and systemic change go beyond attraction and retention to include brand reputation.
Communication is one of the most powerful tools for elevating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). It's a flexible discipline that serves a lot of different needs, including storytelling. Messaging can embed narratives into organizations that create a better employee experience, a stronger workplace culture and sustainable organizational wellbeing.
Cultivating inclusion, diversity and trust through communication and behavior
Inclusion is clearly a factor in attrition among any workforce group. As a case in point, women who feel excluded at work are three times more likely to quit than those who feel included.1 When the behaviors and communication styles of leaders show that diversity, empathy and resilience are top priorities for the organization, leaders invite transformation and advance their attraction and retention goals.
According to research, open and honest communications are behavioral enablers that increase inclusion for women more than for men. And the benefit of this transparency can be abundant. Women who feel fully included are 11 times more likely to become promoters of their companies than those who do not.1
Amplifying diverse voices and perspectives is an aspiration for most organizations. But many employees, including tomorrow's leaders, are accustomed to representation on social media where they're part of a wider conversation. Functionally, it's important for Human Resources and senior leaders to proactively insist on diverse representation. Asking essential questions and embedding accountability into their efforts support a smooth evolution toward change. World-class communicators are more able to share a long-term vision for change and to act as a role model.3
Communication is the primary platform for engaging and mobilizing people around an organizational cause, including employees, senior leaders and members of any local communities that may benefit. Employees need to understand the purpose of their involvement and why it's important. Identifying with common feelings helps to drive expected actions, and a basic principle such as "know, feel, do" can guide the creation of effective messages.
Surprise decisions that impact work are three times more likely to leave people unhappy with their job. Conversely, candor from employers builds trust when it improves understanding and reduces anxiety.2 Under a transparent decision-making process, engagement is promoted, along with trust and contentment.