Keep the Conversation Going Series – 2023 Philly SHRM Symposium

By: Elizabeth Walters, SHRM-CP

Listening to Philly Symposium speaker Brandyn Campbell, President & Founder and DEI Consultant of Brandyn Campbell Communications LLC, inclusive language has become an essential aspect of effective communication in the corporate world. It refers to language that avoids exclusion or stereotypes, and instead, aims to include and respect all individuals regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or abilities. Inclusive language is crucial in the workplace as it helps create a welcoming and inclusive environment that values diversity and promotes fairness.

Inclusive Language: A Key to Better Business Relationships

Inclusive language not only benefits employees, but it also helps businesses build better relationships with customers and clients. Companies that use inclusive language in their marketing, advertising, and other forms of communication show that they value and respect their customers’ diversity and are more likely to attract a wider audience. Inclusive language also helps businesses avoid offending or alienating potential customers or clients. As Brandyn pointed out, younger generations, such as Gen Z, have an expectation that companies they want to work for are using inclusive language and will actively choose to not apply to jobs at companies that are not demonstrating inclusive policies.

Good – Better – Best Examples

Brandyn offered a few examples of corporate responses to some recent national news stories that I would categorize as “good, better, best”. The best example highlighted a company who responded to a controversial topic by being upfront about their position on the issue, acknowledging that this issue was going to affect team members and the actions the company was taking. This response was highlighted because it specifically validated the unique lived experiences of the employees this issue affected, and the company showed it took proactive steps to support employees. In this example the company expanded on some already existing benefit offerings, rather than in the next examples where companies only reiterated policies already in place.

In the good and better responses, a company’s internal communications team sends out a memo to all employees that vaguely acknowledges the issue, encourages employees to be respectful of diverse viewpoints, and reiterates the company’s commitment to maintaining a respectful and inclusive workplace. These kinds of memos often invite employees to engage in respectful discussions and the better memos provide resources for employees who may be experiencing stress or discomfort due to the issue. The communication is thoughtful, inclusive, and respectful of employees’ beliefs and opinions but does not take any stance on the issue at hand. The difference between better and best is small but in the best example the company created a space where their employees could do their jobs without fear – they knew exactly how the company viewed an issue and that active steps were taken to ensure their safety.

Becoming More Inclusive

This session also touched on some things that companies can do if their objective is to become more inclusive. Companies should engage with marginalized groups to understand how they represent themselves – they are the experts. Inclusive language policies should be integrated into all aspects of corporate communication, including email correspondence, internal memos, job postings, and performance reviews. Brandyn acknowledged that working towards a model of inclusivity can often be difficult, uncomfortable and requires a lot of retraining, but that it is necessary. Some of their tips included being curious, not backing down from “high octane” situations – in other words getting used to being uncomfortable and acknowledging that mistakes will happen.

This session was most enjoyable particularly as Brandyn offered real-world examples of this topic!

About the Author

Elizabeth Walters, SHRM-CP is a Human Resources Business Partner at Canon Solutions America Inc. Elizabeth spent 9+ years as a Retail Manager and made a mid-career pivot to HR. Prior to joining Canon Solutions America Inc. Elizabeth enjoyed a variety of roles within Aramark, headquartered locally in Philadelphia. Elizabeth is currently a member of Philly SHRM’s Emerging Leaders and the Thought Leadership committees.

Editor: Dennis Paris