Inclusive Workplace Language Part 2 | Deloitte US has been saved
The Power of Inclusive Language
An inclusive language is a powerful tool for demonstrating inclusive behavior and cultivating a sense of belonging among an increasingly diverse workforce. In part one of our blog on inclusive language, we highlighted the importance of inclusion, explained the case for inclusive language, and shared practical steps individuals can take to demonstrate inclusive behavior via the language they use and how they can encourage others to do the same. These steps, which are not meant to be an exhaustive list, included:
As organizations evolve and advance their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey and commitments, they have an opportunity and responsibility to create the conditions for more inclusive behavior and cultures. In this blog, we introduce a framework that can help organizations take meaningful action to create more inclusive environments.
Call To Action For Organizations
There are specific actions organizations can and should take to enable and equip the workforce with the tools and resources needed to use inclusive language. A few of these actions are highlighted below.
Organizations can make a concerted effort to listen by gathering information from their workforce.
Acknowledge & Accept
Similar to how individuals should acknowledge, apologize, and start again when they use non-inclusive language, organizations should also acknowledge past, and current use of non-inclusive language or terminology, and be transparent about required or recommended changes, and new guidance for the workforce. For example, in 2020, many technology companies acknowledged and published actionable plans to move away from using terms such as whitelist, blacklist, master, and slave in the technical context.1,2 A few actions organizations can take:
By directly engaging the workforce on the topic of inclusive language, and actively using inclusive language in company-wide communications (internal and external), organizations can demonstrate that inclusive language is a priority and area of focus. For example, a large, cloud-based software company implemented an advisory board for inclusive language made up of corporate leaders, employees, and Employee Resource Group members3. The purpose was to listen and learn from the communities’ lived experiences, review language choice to determine if it is exclusive or not, and if so, give recommendations for more inclusive language choice. A few actions organizations can take:
In summary, by listening to your workforce, proactively engaging in organization-wide conversations about inclusive language, acknowledging when non-inclusive language has been used, apologizing for the impact it had (seen or unseen), remedying mistakes through swift action, and actively using inclusive language both internally and externally, organizations can elevate individual actions to be organizational norms and augment the impact of inclusive language. While organizations cannot change how language has historically been used to marginalize people in specific contexts, they can change how they and by extension their workforce actively use inclusive language in a way that shows it is not a peripheral or suggested activity, but a core practice and expectation of all that is embedded in the organization’s DNA.
As a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP and the national leader of Deloitte’s Client Service practice, Christina Brodzik brings more than 20 years of experience to the human capital space. She has worked across multiple industries to design and build DEI functions, provide coaching and support for new chief DEI officers, and develop multiyear DEI strategies. She is also a certified facilitator for Deloitte’s Inclusive Leadership Experience, Inclusion Strategy, and Chief DEI Officer Transition Labs.