How do you engage a diverse workplace audience?

January 17, 2017

Internal communications professionals gathered at Headlines on Monday 16 January 2017 for our first breakfast briefing, themed on engaging diverse audiences.

Speaker Snéha Khilay, MD of consultancy Blue Tulip, captivated the audience with examples of why diversity and inclusion should be at the heart of every organisation.

“Having multiple perspectives leads to creativity, innovation, better risk management and problem solving,” she said.

“When you have groups of people who all think the same way, you get poor decision making, complacency and increased risk management.”

Nathan Frost, Learning Partner, Dixons Carphone, shared his case study of how the company has gone about training store-based colleagues since pay incentives were removed when the living wage was introduced.

He told the audience about a three-day residential training programme that’s being introduced, roadshows where colleagues can get to know suppliers and products in real-life situations, and the company’s training publication The Plug, produced in conjunction with Headlines.

“Colleagues love The Plug,” he said.

“We asked our best sales representative about his methods, and he said that The Plug was the main channel he used.

“He said ‘I read it and re-read it, because it tells me everything I need to know’. It’s a favourite channel for us.”

BREAKFAST BRIEFING SUMMARY VIDEO from Headlines video on Vimeo.

The third presentation came from Hameed Halawani, Regional Corporate Affairs and Communications, Community Investments Director at JTI, who spoke about engaging colleagues across 64 markets in the Middle East, Near East, Africa and Turkey.

His tips for engaging such a diverse and widely spread audience included:

• learning about each and every culture
• being sensitive to the mood of the market
• seeking advice rather than feedback
• choosing channels – and the source – carefully.

“If a very senior figure didn’t say it, it doesn’t count. That’s how the culture is. So we have to support the top management in being aspirational role models.

“We are trying to engage 8,000 people across all levels and from all backgrounds, in factories, offices and out in the market.

“We have to send out one message. But one size doesn’t fit all; we have to think culturally. And there’s adaptation and translation for each market.

“There’s no magical solution,” he said. “It requires a lot of openness, awareness and time.”

Breakfast briefing

The event was a huge success and planning for the next breakfast briefing is already under way.

Andy Phillips, HR Internal Communications Manager at Arriva UK, said: “It is really easy to get parochial about your own situation. You can compare notes with colleagues and not think about the bigger picture. I thought I had a unique problem and listening to two of the speakers, I saw that although the problems are not the same, the solutions are probably very similar.

“It is good to get a wider perspective on some of the issues. I would recommend these events to other people.”

Snéha, who is also Chair of Diversity and Inclusion Thought and Action Group, Engage for Success, added: “I thought the audience was really engaged in all presentations and, for me, that left a message: they really are interested in diversity and inclusion.

“That was really inspiring for me.”

Keep your eyes peeled for further information. To receive email updates, email Mike Gray.

“There’s no magical solution. It requires a lot of openness, awareness and time.”

“Having multiple perspectives leads to creativity, innovation, better risk management and problem solving."