Review: Building a Culture of Inclusivity

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

Building a Culture of Inclusivity: Effective internal communication for diversity, equity and inclusion
Priya Bates and Advita Patel
Kogan Page, 2023, 320 pages

This book will be welcomed by many practitioners who want to support their organisation’s progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It’s also a welcome addition to the burgeoning list of internal communication publications – a sure sign that practice is maturing.

The book is separated into two parts:

  1. DEI Foundations
  2. Frameworks and Models

In part one, the book takes a very wide-ranging approach to the topic, situating it in broader organisational contexts. The key emphasis is on organisational trust, leadership, cultural change, and biases. This provides a solid, introductory level, grounding in why DEI matters.

The authors stress the importance of developing a strong ‘why’ for any work around DEI as this underpins long-term success and avoids ‘performative’ (superficial) approaches.

This point is very well-made and will resonate with practitioners who may still be asked to develop overly simplistic communication about serious issues that affect all employees.

Chapter four on understanding biases provides a useful reference section. This includes a clear explanation of the differences between unconscious and explicit bias. There is also a lengthy exploration of different types of bias (such as anchoring bias and the availability heuristic) with examples of what they are and advice on how to manage the bias.

Part one concludes with a chapter on the role of the internal communication professional. This incorporates a potted history of internal communication with some reflections on previously established phases of its evolution. It includes insights on the Lowell Offering, which is thought to be the earliest industrial-period example of an employee newspaper, established in 1840 in the New England Lowell Cotton Mills by young female employees. According to the authors, the Lowell Offering ceased to be published after one of the editors was criticised for defending management’s position about working conditions at the factory. As the chapter highlights, this is an issue that practitioners still grapple with today and if we don’t get it right employees will disregard information and become disengaged.

In part two the focus turns to frameworks and models, both for general internal communication, change, and inclusive language and engagement. Keen internal communication readers and students will recognise some of the models here (such as the Kübler-Ross grief cycle and the Gallup 12 employee engagement survey). Other models included are those developed by the authors as part of their consultancy work (such as ALLME 4A framework and the Inner Strength Engagement Model).

This emphasis on models is admirable, especially when supported though robust academic research, as they provide effective principles that can be applied whatever the organisational context.

The discussion of the organisational diversity climate continuum in chapter seven is an example of this, with important points made about tokenism, segregation, and pluralism.

Chapters nine, ten, and eleven are focused on an intersectional approach, inclusive language, and inclusive engagement. These are the chapters that practitioners will return to most as they start to apply models to practice. They include the Privilege Pyramid, a detailed inclusive language guide, a helpful glossary of terms, and an example DEI plan.

The book is supported throughout with mini case studies and simple step approaches for practice.

Practitioners will find this book to be a highly accessible read that covers a lot of ground, with many useful resources. As a start towards developing communication that supports DEI it is invaluable. I hope it will be followed by a further edition in due course and other publications that explore the challenges and obstacles in more depth and consider how advanced internal communication research and planning can be adopted to embed DEI progress in all organisations.

The book is available from Kogan Page here and is priced at £29.99 for the paperback version.