The IABC Trends Watch Task Force identified and researched six key trends shaping communication in 2021 and beyond. Communicators have an opportunity now more than ever to advance the profession by engaging in cross-communications with diverse global constituencies. We are all communicating to increasingly diverse audiences — what do our own teams look like in terms of truly diverse backgrounds and experiences, in addition to the demographics of race, gender and visible differences? This report starts the conversation about why diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) matters to communication professionals. Read on to understand why this trend is relevant to IABC members, and download the full 2021 Trend Report here.
Definition of the Trend and Its Context
The conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is essential in a world where diversity defines us. Several studies have highlighted the benefits of DE&I for productivity, creativity and innovation:
Communications professionals are uniquely placed to champion DE&I policies and showcase its values in their daily work. As a global organization, we must accept that DE&I looks different in each country and region. Issues of representation, unconscious bias and positive discrimination are not always easy to recognize or “fix” because communicators may not be present to them.
Potential Impact and Scope (Based on Scenarios)
The recent Black Lives Matter protests have resulted in a resurgence of DE&I conversations. Communicators have supported their organizations to host DE&I talks internally, make statements on the Black Lives Matter protests and enter the fray of public debate. While the renewed focus is useful, there is concern about the longevity of these policies beyond internal discussions and media statements.
Three things are to be considered:
- Less newsworthy DE&I policies still need to be discussed, such as representation for people living with disabilities, generational representation in the workplace, language and communication barriers, and the accommodation of beliefs — faith or otherwise.
- The Black Lives Matter protests have sparked conversations in many parts of the world, but the move to develop new policies in response is limited to North America and Europe. In other parts of the world, the global policies of multinational companies have served as an impetus for change, but this has not always caught on in local markets.
- Communicators are critical to cementing existing DE&I policies in company culture by showcasing the value of an inclusive work environment for innovation, staff engagement and improved reputation — a role that has become more challenging as employees work remotely. Further, this function has caused many communicators to question their own biases and the representation in their own departments, as they must lead by example.
Who Will Be Most Directly Impacted?
The trend will impact the following group/segments:
- Senior leadership teams: It is critical for leadership teams to incorporate DE&I policies into the organizational strategy and ensure continuity. This will ensure wins among employees and bolster CSR activities.
- Employees: An inclusive workplace enables employees to feel valued and engaged. However, if DE&I announcements and policies are not cemented into company culture distrust may bloom among employees.
- Communication professionals: Often the mouthpiece for DE&I policies, communication teams will be under scrutiny to ensure that they adhere to the values that they promote within the organization.
The Future of Communications: 6 Trends to Watch
Download the full 2021 Trend Report from the IABC Trends Watch Task Force.
Why Is the Trend Relevant to IABC Members?
IABC has a responsibility to update communication professionals on conversations and trends impacting the industry. Considering the role of communicators in reputation management and internal communications, it is critical for them to be aware of the existing conversations on DE&I and its impact on their role and their stakeholders.
*The Trends Watch Task Force is currently conducting further analysis on this topic.
Shaniek Parks is a member of the IABC Trends Watch Task Force.