Featured image depicting Inclusion part 2: Effective virtual communication in an inclusive culture

Inclusion part 2: Effective virtual communication in an inclusive culture

Practical advice for leaders navigating the challenges of inclusion and diversity in the virtual working world.

By Kelli Bettenhausen  |  December 6, 2021


In the first article in this series, ‘Driving an Inclusive Culture in the Virtual Workplace,’ we discussed why, as remote working becomes the norm, leaders need to pay extra attention to inclusivity. We examined some of the aspects of organizational and cultural dynamics that hinder inclusiveness. This second article explores the practical actions required to overcome these challenges, starting with the importance of clear communication.

The challenge hasn’t diminished

The challenges of embedding inclusion and diversity haven’t reduced because many of us are spending more time working from home, if anything they’ve become even more difficult to navigate.

One concern many leaders have is that inclusive behavior is more difficult when you aren’t face-to-face and can’t see or sense people’s body language. Advancements in technology have vastly improved the quality and clarity of remote communications tools. However, the tools are only as good as the people using them. We need to learn to use this technology to integrate practices for inclusivity. Here are our top three recommended actions:

  1. Schedule check-ins: Organize a daily routine as a group, or with individuals, to set the tone for the meeting and inquire if there is anything to address that is impacting the team.
  2. Inquire with individuals you don’t know very well: Use this time to get to know people and what makes them tick. You’ll learn that there are many things about this person you never knew and never would’ve known, had you not asked.
  3. Listen and provide opportunities: Create diverse teams with different skillsets to achieve goals your organization hadn’t considered before. Don’t allow the dominant people to drive the path forward but provide a platform for all to be heard and included. Include everybody in your team’s collaboration.

We all know communication (style/approach/frequency/etc.) can either promote or hinder inclusiveness. This is where the information learned in the check-ins and inquiries above can help leaders provide clarify expectations, define purpose and connect individuals to the things they truly care about. We recommend the following actions:

  1. Provide training and virtual learning to enhance inclusiveness: There will be different levels of knowledge and confidence on using virtual platforms. If possible, recruit a current employee to share knowledge and conduct training. Have clear expectations for inclusive team participation.
  2. Create connectedness and moments for sharing: Not all virtual meetings have to be solely on organizational tasks. Schedule time for people to share, connect, and have general conversations in bigger groups or one on one.
  3. Find out what others are doing around communication: Specifically seek individuals willing to explore what other organizations are doing or have done to ensure team success. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Communicate with transparency and be inclusive. What does success look like?

This remains a time of uncertainty, not only at work, but at home. Everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another and there are fears for what the future might hold. What success looked like two weeks ago, may not be what it looks like now. Therefore, transparency is key with the absolute need for over-communication. Opportunities clearly exist in this current reality shift to a virtual working environment and inclusivity of people’s differences will play a big role in capitalizing on these opportunities. Here are our recommended actions:

  1. Be humble and dig deeper: Host honest conversations about the current state of the organization. Declare what is needed from individuals, talk about ways to make it happen and ask everyone in your team to join you in your commitment.
  2. Be inclusive and willing to do for the best of everyone: What are we willing to give up or contribute to keep everyone engaged? This means knowing everyone’s needs, possibly economic or non-economic, balanced with the strategy of the company and looking outside the norms.
  3. Generate thoughts to drive the future: Ask the question, what do we want our people to say and feel about our organization?

Shaping the next normal

Clearly, we are living in exceptional times. As a result, our idea of what constitutes ‘business as usual’ has changed (possibly irreversibly). The experience has left many people feeling fearful and disoriented. However, we also have an opportunity to set the stage for a culture where everyone is heard and included, where the walls of the old (the way we have always done it) are torn down, and organizations foster a culture of the new.

About JMJ

For over three decades, JMJ has been delivering impactful cultural change to help executives, leaders and front-line workers transform safety, sustainability, and business performance. We combine the deep experience of our people with our proprietary Transformation Cloud platform to deliver breakthrough results, making the impossible possible. www.jmj.com

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