Illustration of business professionals smiling at a central speaker with microphones

Inclusive communication & documentation techniques

10 min read
Dan Hughes

It doesn’t matter what industry or vertical your business operates in, creating a culture based on inclusive communication & documentation techniques is vital.

Without taking practical measures to showcase your commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you will never reach your full potential. Not only will creating a culture of inclusion make your business more innovative, but you will improve your brand reputation in a way that is fair and authentic in equal measure.

One of the most vital aspects of creating and even playing field in the workplace is by revising your inclusive communication and documentation processes.

By taking the time to enhance your inclusive communications, you will ensure everyone in your business thrives — not just the chosen few.

Here we’re going to consider the importance of inclusive communication documentations in the workplace and look at what you can do to improve the way you share and document information.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Why is inclusive communication so important?

Did you know? Increased cognitive diversity in the workplace can improve team innovation by up to 20%.

By leveling up your inclusion and diversity efforts, you will benefit from a more creative, productive, and well-rounded workforce. But it’s not just good enough to improve your hiring and onboarding efforts —  you have to make sustainable changes to make sure that every employee feels valued.

Without investing in inclusive communication and documentation techniques, many of your employees will struggle to perform to the best of their abilities.

They may become isolated, frustrated, and unmotivated. You could lose some of your most valuable talent as a result.

If you create a sustainable framework for inclusive communication, you will:

  • Avoid exclusive or discriminatory behaviors
  • Ensure that everyone in the business has a seat at the table
  • Improve internal collaboration
  • Give everyone the tools and the platform to develop, improve, and perform well

Let’s talk about neurodivergence

Without a doubt, one of the most overlooked aspects of inclusion in the workplace is neurodivergence. Not only is neurodivergence often misunderstood — as these conditions are hidden disabilities — many employers fail to make the right adjustments when it comes to communication.

Neurodivergence is a term that refers to anyone who sees, feels, and experiences the world in a way that is considered atypical.

ADHD, autism, Tourettes, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and bipolar all fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity.

As neurodivergent people experience the world differently to those who are neurotypical, making reasonable adjustments tailored to specific needs or challenges is vital. And, your internal communications is one of the most important types of adjustment you can make to a neurodivergent person’s everyday professional life.

Accessibility vs. inclusiveness

In addition to understanding neurodivergence on a deeper level, knowing the difference between accessibility and inclusiveness will also help you improve your internal communications.

While the two concepts cross over, they’re not one in the same. Accessibility focuses on outcomes that ensure disabled people don’t face discrimination, while inclusiveness focuses on ensuring everyone benefits from an optimal experience in the workplace.

Accessibility sign on a colorful brick wall(2)
Photo by Daniel Ali on Unsplash

In that sense, accessibility, while vital in its own right, becomes a branch of inclusiveness. The pursuit of creating inclusive workplace communications is only truly successful if the right accessibility outcomes are considered across every channel and touchpoint—which brings us onto our next point.

Read: 7 ways to make your website content more inclusive for neurodivergent users for practical design and communication tips.

Inclusive communication & documentation techniques

Now that we’re up to speed with all the essential concepts of inclusion in the workplace, let’s look at how you can make it happen.

Consider using written information

Some neurodivergent people struggle to process large volumes of verbal communication. So, if you’re looking to share a brief, a task or an update, putting it in writing is an inclusive communication or documentation technique.

Working with written information can give neurodivergent employees a chance to take their time and process your communications piece by piece — resulting in a better outcome for everyone. But if you are going to use written communication, getting it right is essential. Here are some tips that will guide you to success:

  • Use plain, simple languages. Avoid idioms of abstract terms as much as possible and aim to be literal
  • Write in short sentences and use bullet points to present lists of information
  • Break your sentences up into small, digestible chunks
  • Add logical headers and subheaders into the mix to break up the information

Try using visuals in your comms

Another accessible way to communicate with an atypical employee and document important information is by leaning on visuals.

Many neurodivergent people struggle to process verbal or written information alone, so visual prompts or cues can really help when it comes grasping key concepts and ideas. You can use visuals including relevant imagery, charts or animations to support your written information or you can create videos with supporting subtitles.

Another incredibly effective means of communicating key information in a way that is both digestible and logical is by creating social stories. These helpful visual tools are essentially storyboards that guide the reader or viewer through a certain situation with a clearcut beginning, middle, and end. It’s a way of presenting key information related to work-based tasks or situations in a practical context.

Not only will social stories make your communications more accessible, they will also reduce anxiety by preparing neurodivergent employees for a specific task or situation. 

Stick to routines & schedules

When strategizing for inclusive communications and documentation techniques, sticking to routines and schedules is important.

Once you discover your best inclusive communication and documentation techniques for an employee or colleague, it’s important to use that framework or medium consistently to avoid confusion. Setting out reliable schedules and routines will also provide reassurance while helping your colleagues manage their working days with confidence.

Using shared digital calendars and visual project management tools will help you develop clearcut schedules and routines that will make communicating as well as documenting key information as inclusive as possible.

Read: 11 highly effective collaboration tools to help your remote team succeed for tips and inspiration on platforms to aid your inclusivity processes.

In-person isn’t always best

This critical factor is often overlooked when it comes to inclusive communication: in-person doesn’t suit everyone.

Many neurodivergent people struggle with body  language, eye contact, and social cues which can cause stress and anxiety. By removing these barriers and asking your colleague which communication method they prefer, you will break down unnecessary barriers and ultimately make the way you convey information more inclusive.

Whether it’s via phone, online messaging, document annotations or video call, setting a preferred method of communication will ensure that everyone is comfortable — and everyone thrives.

Appreciation is motivation

Making your communication and documentation techniques more inclusive also comes down to encouragement.

Showing appreciation to your colleagues or team members regularly will make them feel valued, engaged, and motivated. Expressing your appreciation will also build a healthy rapport which, in turn, will benefit your inclusive communication efforts.

Characteristics of inclusive communication

Now that you know which techniques to roll out, we’re going to explore the key characteristics of inclusive communication. Work on these key areas and you will get your interactions just right.

Practice active listening

First of all, you should practice active listening. To succeed at active listening, you must learn to stop and fully engage at what the other person is trying to say. 

Rather than merely hearing the words, you must withhold judgment or advice until it’s your turn to speak. You must give yourself time to process every phrase or piece of information to reflect on what you hear and offer best possible advice or solutions. This guide from Simon Sinek will help you sharpen your active listening skills:

Look for nonverbal signals

Another essential way of providing the most inclusive communicative experience possible is keeping an eye out for nonverbal cues and signals.

Up to 65% of human communication is unspoken.

When you’re communicating with a neurodivergent colleague (whether virtually or in person), pay attention to nonverbal cues like speaking fast, speaking slowly or tensing up.

If you notice any of these signs of stress or anxiety, you will have the tools to change your tone or body language while providing reassurance. Learning to understand body language will make you more intuitive, making you able to communicate in a way that is comfortable and less overwhelming as a result. This, in turn, will enhance your communication documentation techniques in the workplace.

Monitor stress levels

In addition to looking for nonverbal cues, learning to monitor potential stress levels will also help you work towards a culture of inclusive communication.

If you notice any of the following signs, you will be able to reach to your colleagues and offer the right level of support when it counts most:

  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Increased levels of irritability or nervousness
  • Exhibiting signs of sadness or withdrawl

These signs of stress are usually tell tale signs that someone is stressed and the work environment could be for the issue at hand. By taking the time to show your support and make the right reasonable adjustments, you will reduce stress and ensure the work environment you create is more inclusive — including your communications.

Ask questions frequently

If you ask questions regularly, you will show your employees that you’re truly listening to what they have to say and that you’re dedicated to helping them navigate their work life with confidence.

When you’re in the throes of communication, making sure that you gain a full grasp of everything being said is vital to arriving at inclusive outcomes. To make sure that you communicate with confidence and understand everything in its correct context, here are some open-ended questions you can use to your advantage:

  • Could you tell me a little more about that?
  • Is there anything you want from me to help you here?
  • How do you think we could do this differently?
  • What do you think about that?

The final part of strategizing for your inclusive communication documentation techniques will include language, which we'll discuss next.

Focus on using plain language

As we mentioned earlier with our written communications advice: one of the keys to remain inclusive when in conversation is to use plain, clear, and concise verbal language.

Avoid using slang terms, technical jargon, and complicated or abstract phrasing. Explain everything in the simplest way possible while speaking slowly and clearly. Pause between each statement or sentence and always allow the other person ample time to either process or respond to what you’re saying.

Take this approach and not only will you make your communication style more inclusive, but you will also get more value from your conversations with colleagues or team members.

Conclusion: An inclusive workplace is a productive workplace

In today’s world, working towards an open and inclusive culture that values everyone is crucial. It’s the only way forward and as a business owner, you need to take the reins.

By investing in your inclusive communications and documentation techniques, you will enhance your business in every way. When everyone has the chance to thrive and be heard, great things will happen — and these essential tips will help you get where you need to be.

We wish you the best of luck and for more professional pearls of wisdom from. Please be sure to check out our guide on interactive diversity solutions.