By Julie Ford on November 01, 2023
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Listen to this episode for insights on:

  • How internal comms pros can foster inclusivity in organization. 
  • The personal and professional challenges of DEI. 
  • How fear and external scrutiny hinder DEI efforts. 
  • Why it’s important to integrate DEI into an organization’s strategy. 
  • The business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  • Strategies for inclusivity in a hybrid work culture.  
  • And much more. 




About the Speakers

Ep 12 - Priya Headshot (1)


Ep 12 - Advita Headshot (1)
Priya Bates 
Inner Strength Communication Inc. 

"We need to progress, move forward, and make a difference. We can't do that if we stay in our comfort zone, feeling sad, and be conscious of the divisions that are being stoked. These things are changing. And I'm a big believer that the reason we're seeing all the noise, we're seeing all the negatives that are designed to get us divided, is because we're not actually collectively working towards change together.” 


Advita Patel   

"My advice to internal comms professionals who are often in a very small team and don't see as much diversity is, look up the community that you're surrounded by, and make sure that you have a range of people that you can learn from. You have to learn, listen, connect, and build your community around you. So, you keep learning from different perspectives. And that's the way you're going to learn.” 

Julie Ford


Head of Content
Sparrow Connected
Julie Ford talks to Priya Bates, founder and president of Inner Strength Communication, and Advita Patel, renowned author and speaker and the founder of CommsRebel. Together they talk about building a culture of inclusivity, the challenges of internal communication in fostering diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI), and why it’s important for internal comms pros to bridge the gap in their knowledge on DEI for effective internal communication and overall success of the organization.     



Julie Ford 0:01 

Welcome to the IC Connected or ICON podcast. This podcast will challenge conventional thinking about internal communications. It will force you to think differently, consider bold ideas, and step outside your comfort zone through real unscripted insights from some of the best internal comms pros and subject matter experts in the world. But most importantly, this podcast will help you elevate your career, and together will elevate the internal comms profession to the C suite.  


Today I'm speaking with Priya Bates and Advita Patel about building a culture of inclusivity. Priya Bates is a highly experienced professional with nearly 30 years dedicated to the field of internal communication and is the founder and president of Inner Strength Communication in Toronto, Canada. Advita Patel is a renowned author and speaker and the founder of CommsRebel with over two decades of experience specializing in internal communication and employee experience. Advita is based in Manchester, UK, and she also co-hosts the award-winning podcast ‘CalmEdgedRebels.’ Priya and Advita are also co-founders of ‘A Leader Like Me’, and now co-authors of a new book, ‘Building a Culture of Inclusivity. Effective Internal Communication for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.’ 

Thanks for joining me today, Priya and Advita. It's truly an honor to have you on this podcast.  


Priya Bates 1:15 

Nice to be here. 


Advita Patel 1:16 

Thanks, Julie. Really happy to be here today. 

Julie Ford 1:19 

Awesome. Well, first of all, I wanted to congratulate you on the launch of your book. I understand it sold out very quickly on Amazon. I haven't been able to get myself a copy. So, I'm hoping you can give me a brief overview of the book. 


Advita Patel 1:31 

It was Amazon Canada just to clarify. You people see Canada. So it's Amazon Canada that sold out very quickly. Though, we have been told by our lovely publishers that it's on route now. So, if you are waiting, if you're based in Canada, it should be hopefully available right now. And so, shall I take this one prior in terms of what the book is about? So, the books give you a very quick overview about helping people who are responsible for communicating internally, to give them support and guidance on how to cultivate a culture of inclusivity. And we've split the book into two parts. Part one is about the why - why is this really important, why is building a culture, inclusion, important? Part two is about the models and frameworks that you can use to help you deliver against that objective.  


And we wrote this because we recognize that as communication professionals, as leaders, as HR practitioners, and professionals, we can sometimes feel a bit stuck. And fear can set in, in terms of how we approach this quite complex world of inclusion. And we're going to create a guide. And that's how we kind of crafted the book, really, it's a guide. And we want people to refer to that on a regular basis when they feel a bit stuck on how to manage certain conversations or adversity that they might face in their organization. So that hopefully gives a brief synopsis of what the book is about. 


Julie Ford 3:11 

That's great. Sounds like it's going be something that people will refer to on a regular basis, which is great. And I really love that you created a guide, and it seems like there's nothing out there today that will provide this type of guidance for internal communications professionals. So that's great. I'm curious to learn more about the story behind the book. How And when exactly did you decide to write this book together? And what motivated you specifically? Was there a specific scenario or something that happened that inspired you? And you said, we absolutely need to write this book, and we need to write it together? 


Priya Bates 3:45 

Well, it's a bit of a funny story, we joke around it a little bit that it feeds us as the one who wanted to write a book. And I had said no, I'd said it was not part of the plan. I had contributed to books, and I had actually written the internal communication, employee engagement chapter for ABCs, practical handbook for business communication recently, so I'd always written arts and books. But did I want to be an author was just not part of my plan. And Advita, a friend of ours who's in the field, Jenny Field, had published her influential internal communication book and Advita was also encouraged to reach out to the same publisher so she kind of talked me into it and just said, what did you say Advita, it will just put in a proposal. It'll be a year before they actually tell us to write the book, wasn't it something like that? 


Priya Bates 4:46 

I did. I said, What's the worst that could happen? 


Priya Bates 4:50 

And then what happened? It was essentially we wrote the proposal. We spent an hour and a half, writing the proposal to Kogan Page who was our publisher and we figured they'd be months before they got back to us, but they got back to us a week later, it was like, it was very quick for in terms of giving us the approval to go ahead. I think we'd made a good business case. And one of the things that I realized is that we were being reached out to a lot from our consulting businesses Advita, in Manchester and me, here in Canada and North America, from HRDI leaders, who had created their plans, who had done some of the work, the initial work, but they were struggling with getting engagement from an employee perspective, and that's the space that we could play it.  


So, from a consulting perspective, we kind of saw that we were navigating new territory but using 20 and 30 years of experience doing this in change management, internal communication, employee engagement, I kind of using that skill and experience and applying it with a DI lens. And then one of the things that was really interesting, now that we're on the other side of that, I'm happy we wrote the book, I'm thinking I've got more books than me, like, you know, it'd be at least a monster, I think. But what happened is that we realized we had something to say that was unique, we had something to say that was helpful. And that was going to guide and change the way people approach this work. So that we actually saw progress, because people, as Advita said, were stuck. They feel they're doing a lot of things, creating a lot of noise, but not actually making the progress that we need in space. And that's something that we've always worked on and beat. And I have been strategic internal communication practitioners who want to actually see businesses change and see the results. 

Julie Ford 6:56 

Well, congratulations. Now you're an author. And thanks to Advita for bringing, you on this journey, because it seems like so far, it's been a really popular book and very successful. How long did it take you? You said that they approved very quickly. How long did it take you to actually write the book and get it published? 


Advita Patel 7:15 

We started the writing process in July 2022. And we finished writing by the end of 2022. So just six months, I think it took us and it wasn't, you know, it wasn't an easy ride by any stretch. And we once we got into the flow, it definitely was. And what I mean by that is that we have to spend most of our weekends writing the book, and making sure that we were doing the right level of research and studies and contributing accurate case studies as well. So, while that can take a little bit of time and energy, we wanted to make sure that it was a valuable read, for those who invested their time in that. But yeah, it was a very quick turnaround. Kogan Page was quite keen that we got the book out because it's the right time right now, I would say. 


Julie Ford 8:09 

Absolutely. Well, that's amazing. Six months is very fast. And you both have a lot on your plate. So, I'm super impressed, and you know, great job to both of you for falling off such a great book in such a short period of time. 


Priya Bates 8:23 

And it was hard. It was hard work. Because it was evenings and weekends. And we were so focused on doing it right. Creating something that was a really valuable resource. And, then it was also combining our styles, two different authors, very far away from one another, trying to coordinate that process. And that was really one of the things that Kogan Page told us -they were really surprised at how consistent the two of us are. And we put a lot of effort and work into making sure that it didn't feel like it was two different people with two different opinions in the book. 


Julie Ford 9:06 

Awesome. Well, the two of you are just very in sync.  


Advita Patel 9:08 

So, you notice that does help, having been in sync can really make sure that we align with our values, and what we're trying to achieve was definitely beneficial. 


Julie Ford 9:20 

Absolutely. Well, I can't wait to actually read it. I think it's coming back to Canada, and it will be available on Amazon soon. So be sure to grab my copy. I wanted to dive into some of the challenges that you're seeing when it comes to internal communications. What exactly do organizations struggle with when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion? 


Priya Bates 9:44 

I think one of the things we talk about a lot is the one thing that's really different about the DEI space compared to working with organizations that are going through reorgs and mergers and acquisitions and digital transformations and all those things. DEI is not only professional, it's very personal. So, as we approach work, we are not separated from it, it means something to us, wherever we are whoever we are. And so it was, one of the things we have heard from people who are reading the book, is there's a lot of reflection, there's a lot of thinking about what do I believe? What do I think? How do I approach this work for the good of me and for the good of all, and those are questions that are constantly on the mind. What we've tried to do is what we always do, which is, let's give you the data, let's give you the research, let's give you the facts. And let's help you think through this, from a collective perception, from an experience, and a mandate to create a world that is inclusive, because inclusive is for all, not just for some, right.  


And that's the thing, that is a bit of a mistake that people look at the words - diversity, equity, inclusion, and they think that's for other people, especially when a dominant culture is in the roles, in internal communications, in HR, and leadership, who are making those decisions, this is a separate from us. But those words are not separate there. It's diversity. Diversity is not including someone not including others, it's about diversity, it's about making sure there is representation across the board, Equity is the same thing. It's about making sure everybody gets treated fairly, because that's equity, it is fair. And inclusion is, including everyone. In that scenario, we really want to break down those myths and those barriers and say, we're trying to create a purpose, and we're trying to prepare for the future of work. And those future generations. So, I think it was a really personal book for us as well that we really wanted to take people on a journey and help show them how to make real change. 


Advita Patel 12:09 

Adding to what Priya just shared, I think the other challenge for internal communication professionals is the fear of getting hurt. And in my experience, internal comms professionals are generally quite empathetic. And we have to be, right? In the work that we do. Because we're storytellers, we tell the narrative of the organization, so we can make sure that our colleagues are delivering against the objectives that the organization has set, so we can make profit, ultimately. And I think what happens is, there's so much out there, and there's so much fear of getting it wrong. And it's not helpful that there's lots of external attacks, if you want to kind of call it out on people who get it wrong, that can scare people.  


And in our experience, and the conversations that we've had with internal communication professionals and leaders is, knowing where to start. Where do I start? There's so much information out there, there's just so much for us to learn. Where do we start? And what part to play in this complicated, complex area. But I really want to make a difference to the people that I work with. And that's what I hope we've managed to do with our book to give them a starting point of start of beginning those conversations if they're struggling in their organization. 

Julie Ford 13:33 

Yeah, it sounds like one of the barriers or misconceptions is that one inclusivity is, us versus them. And then also, there's this huge fear about getting it wrong. Those are a couple things that I took from what you both shared and it sounds like, internal comms needs to support each other, and elevate each other and, you know, share experiences in order to continue to be more inclusive in the workplace and to help change the workplace for future generations. Like you mentioned, Priya. The book, from what I understand, also speaks to the importance of engaging leaders in the diversity agenda and helping them understand the importance of inclusive internal comms. How do you think internal comms professionals can effectively communicate and collaborate with leaders in order to achieve this? 


Advita Patel 14:30 

I think again, it's about trying to understand where the gaps are in your knowledge. First step, is to try and understand what we know and what we need to learn before we can confidently support our leaders. And what Priya and I say is part of that is, trust is a big part, how you are building trust with your leadership team. And part of that is also understanding our biases, in terms of what are our biases and what contributions are we making into some of the challenges is facing those who are not who don't belong to the dominant culture and biases can exist in everyone, right. And I think it's important that we are aware of them. And we try and support others in what they need to do, but also ourselves and what we need to learn.  

So, with leaders, it's our role I would see as internal communication professionals, when they're asking us to message something out that is fair, or equitable, or inclusive, then we should feel confident enough to say, and guide them and advise them properly on what is the right thing to do. And I feel that we can't do that. If we're not aware of our own knowledge gaps. And I think that's something I would say, as internal comms pros, we need to be a little bit more savvy on how we may approach that, and trust, you know, Priya and I do a workshop on trust. And what does that mean? Trust is, whilst the main area that you need to manage first before you can progress in this work, because if you don't have trust, they're not going to listen to you. And that's a big part of the work that we do. We need them to listen to what we're saying, and then they respect our viewpoints, so they can adjust their behaviors as well.  


Priya Bates 16:19 

And I think right now where leaders have to be involved is, they need to understand what the business case is like, What's the case for DEI, what's the DEI? Can we call it in the book, you know, really identify what does it means to the organization in a real way, and we haven't done that in a lot of cases. We're checking boxes, we're doing it because everybody else is doing it. And we think we need to play a role and say we're inclusive. So, we're creating a lot of performative gestures, and we haven't actually embraced DI to the potential. And what we're seeing right now in the news across the board is DI leaders leaving. So often, I think, that's happening for a couple of reasons, a lot of the conversation on and chatter on LinkedIn and Twitter, seem to indicate that these DI leaders from Netflix and BBC and there's been quite a few organizations have been called out for DI leaders leaving, part of it may be that they're not getting the budget, part of it may be that they're not getting the leadership support for the initiatives and the changes they want to drive.  


But another part of it, it could be that there's not that much expertise out there. So, if they are the DEI leader, who's at the top of their game, and got that role, there's probably recruiters calling, right? There's opportunity and potential if you're really good at what you do, like what they did out there in Netflix has been mind-blowing. And that individual, I forgot her name, but I've been following her, and she is going out and doing her own thing. She's actually created a practice, which is what she did before she was hired by Netflix, proved her case, and may create a change. And now the opportunities are in front of her as a proven leader. So, I think those things are at play. From a leadership perspective, the key is that DEI has to be part of the strategy, not arm's length from the strategy. Leadership needs to be involved to make sure that happens. 

Julie Ford 18:35 

So, in your experience, what are some of the most effective communication approaches or tactics that internal communication professionals can employ in order to engage employees and create that sense of belonging within the organization? 


Priya Bates 18:48 

You know, Advita and I are the strategic communication professionals, right? So we say, before you get the tactic, start with the strategy, start understanding what you're trying to do, because we have what we call the DEI evolution, in fact, we've got an assessment. So anybody who's listening, if you go to ‘aleaderlikeme.com,’ you can go in and take the assessment for your organization, it's what 90 seconds, Advita? It doesn't take very long to do. And you'll kind of figure out where you are on the continuum of the evolution and what essentially we're seeing is, because so much has been approached by the tactics first, we're seeing performative gestures, posts and logos that are changed and, all of those things are under attack now, right, all the things that we did the black boxes, the orange shirts, the rainbows, people are saying, show us what you've really done. And then what we've got is our employees who are being inundated by all of the calendar events that are cultural and religious and special occasions and commemorative dates, that there noise. Advita, you have a story to tell about this, based on some research that you did with a client, right? 


Advita Patel 20:11 

Yeah, so there's, you know, if there are over 290, and more I would say, days of awareness days and days to raise, you know, to make people aware of certain things and adversity that certain community groups are facing. And there's one organization that struggled to articulate which days they were going to focus on or which months we're going to focus on. And so, this ended up just doing a lot of emails, as we often, you know, reflect to, around some of these days. And what ended up happening in the organization was, colleagues were putting rules in place.  


So, every time they had an email from the EDI, the Equity Diversity Inclusion team, or anybody who mentioned inclusion, diversity or equity, you went into another folder automatically, which were exhausted or a little bit tired of reading the same old churn. And that, you know, when you don't have a strategy, to understand what you're doing, or what direction you're going in, you're going in the hope that you're inclusive, you're actually ending up being exclusive, and excluding everybody, because you're not being meaningful. And some of the tests you're sending out are quite tokenistic. So, making sure that you have a strategy in place that aligns with the EDI strategy and the corporate strategy, and thinking about the outcomes that you're hoping to achieve.  


And we always say, when we get approached about how we recognize Black History Month, how do we make sure that we're paying attention to International Women's Day, my question back with to everybody is what difference we have made since last year, what outcomes have you delivered since last year. And let's talk about that. If you want your colleagues and your leaders and your clients and your customers to pay attention, that you genuinely care about this area of work, because if you just keep churning out the same old stuff, year on year, people are going to disengage and switch off and feel that you are being very tokenistic in your approach.  


Priya Bates 22:23 

One of the things that Advita did do was create a whole list of the variety of tactics, and what are the risks in terms of inclusion in the tactics that we use, because it's not a one size fits all, every organization is different. There are great opportunities. There are opportunities for storytelling, there are opportunities to really drive a different conversation. And that's kind of where we're starting to lead, that instead of having this one way, communication stuff going out there that nobody really responds to, or gets tired of it and deletes, or you know, training that is a one-time point in time, but doesn't actually create change, let's actually have conversations about the things that we're concerned about. Let's have conversations about why this is important to our organization and each other. Let’s have a bit of a different approach where we make it, so we really listen to the various perspectives.  

Because otherwise what we're seeing is divisions and fear, that continue to be created versus people understanding one another through an empathetic lens that understands why people react the way they do and how we actually move forward together. 


Advita Patel 23:39 

It's making sure that you're in terms of the tactics that your bank deploys, it's been considered that, you know, I am not a fan of having diversity, equity and inclusion as a vertical pillar. Next to all the other pillars, it should be a horizontal pillar where all the other pillars come out from, you should be baked into the entire organization throughout the employee experience lifecycle. So from the moment that a potential candidate wants to apply to work in your organization to the moment that he decides to leave, is where we are embedding the inclusive culture and the inclusive tactics and the belonging to make sure that they understand what the organization is about, rather than just doing the odd campaign and the auto messaging or the CEO may write an email because that's something that's happened and they're doing some crisis comms around it. So, you need to consider the entire cycle and the source of the tactics that you're deploying or the outcomes that you're expecting from those tactics. 


Priya Bates 24:51 

And keep in mind, like a good example of that is, everybody's using the stock imagery for recruitment campaigns. But what happens when you walk through the doors of an organization? Did what you saw in that campaign come to life when you're going through interview processes? Did it come to life when you were being oriented? Did it come to life when you actually were contributing as part of the team? Those are all moments of trust. If you were sold something, and then came in, and your real experience was completely different than what you were sold apart from the values apart from the strategy, apart from the picture that they painted, to get you through those doors, that's the first moment of disengagement disconnect. 

Julie Ford 25:39 

Yeah, exactly. As you were both speaking, it got me thinking about the challenges of this in hybrid and remote workforces. Because I think it's probably a bit different in the way that communicate in those places versus, everybody's in the office type of culture. Do you have any thoughts on that like, for companies that are hybrid or remote? 


Priya Bates 26:07 

The one thing that's really been interesting is the data and the chatter I almost would have heard or the chatter on social media, because I pay attention to the fact that those underrepresented individuals actually felt safer at home than they did in the workplace. They weren't experiencing micro aggressions on a regular basis, because they were online or because they were remote, and they were being managed by the work they got done versus who they were physically. That they actually felt it, made a difference, and that is interesting. There are opportunities happening when you come back together. and maybe you feel less included. When that happens, it is just sad, right? So, what we're starting to hear in general is that people are returning to the workplace, probably two or three days per week. So, there's some sort of mix or hybrid than it was before. And how do we ensure that we're creating a place where everybody feels included and is heard and belongs? I think communication and conversation that's driven, still needs to be very proactive, that can't help happening by accident, we need to have these conversations regularly and keep people connected. 


Advita Patel 27:37 

You have to be very intentional as a leader, when you have a hybrid workforce, in the sense psych you need to make more of an intentional effort to connect with your colleagues and make sure that they are connecting with each other. The challenge with underrepresented people feeling more comfortable at home is detrimental to their progression, even more so when they’re in their workplace. So, when we speak to some underrepresented people who say that they feel safer at home, and they don't want to have their camera on because they are tired, or they feel that they're going to face microaggression, the biases that they face into this that their leaders will think they don't care. And when leaders feel that they don't care, the lack of empathy is heightened, which means that any opportunity for progression, they will not be considered.  


And that is not the fault of the underrepresented individual, it's the fault of the culture, which hasn't created a space where they feel psychologically safe, to thrive, to the extent where they feel that the only way they can exist and survive, is by being at home on their own in isolation. And that is quite scary. When you think about if people felt that way, and you're seeing a pattern or behavior in that way, then there's something not quite right in your culture, and you need to identify what it is that is stopping people wanting to come into the office a couple of times a week. And people will hide behind all sorts of different reasons, right? So, it's too long a commute. You know, I get home, there's no point in me coming to the office and having to sit in on teams all day. And all of those things are true.  


But in my experience, Julie, when there's meaning and the support, and there's an opportunity to collaborate and connect, then you'll find that people are more than willing to come into the organization if they feel safe enough to do so. So, I will always say leaders, if you're struggling to convince your population to come into the office, then I would look at the rationale and the ‘why’ and ‘how’ you're communicating that because no level of breakfast in the mornings or lunch given and things like that will entice them, it will be around connection and community. 


Julie Ford 29:51 

Yeah. So, they do need to dig deeper into those conversations and ask people to truly understand what's the true reason that they don't want to come back into the office and how can that be addressed. I think that's great. 


Advita Patel 30:05 

Especially if it's a demographic that's underrepresented, you need to look at your data points. And we talk about personalization quite a lot in the book, because we are in this habit of broadcasting, broad brushing, a lot of information. But as a leader, you need to look at your demographics and see if there's a pattern of behavior. And if that pattern of behavior is impacting a certain demographic, then look into that opportunity. Are your policies fit for purpose? Are you giving people plenty of opportunity in terms of flexibility? And I think sometimes we can make assumptions based on the narrative and the biases that we have within us. So that's what I would say to any leader, or any comms professional listening, look at and break down the data points into the various different demographics that you have. 

Julie Ford 30:53 

Definitely, always go back to the data, you can't make assumptions. So, do you have any other real-world examples of organizations that have created positive changes in their internal comms and overall inclusivity? 


Advita Patel 31:03 

I'll talk about a UK brand, of which I've heard lots of great things. Sky, is a company that provides cable TV, as you can call it in the North American regions. And they've taken some pretty bold moves when it comes to their inclusive strategy and their diversity agenda. And I applaud them for it, they got a little bit of kickback when they first announced what they were doing. But from what I see a lot here, and some of the colleagues I know that work there, have had a very positive experience. And the reason they've had a positive experience is because they have stuck to what they said they were going to do. And they've been reliable in terms of the deliverables, and they've taken action. And a lot of leaders have aspirations to make change happen, and they'll say some great things, and they'll do a plan or an action plan. But when it becomes a little bit tough, it's kind of slept on the side, or they don't follow it through or something else has taken priority. So, they kind of leave on the side, or worse, you know, they expect their employee resource groups or colleague resource groups, to deliver against that agenda on volunteering basis, which will never succeed, because you're putting too much pressure on those individuals to achieve those very important objectives. So, Scalia's definitely one organization. I mean, I haven't worked for them personally, but the people I know who've worked, the people I've spoken to who work for them have said good stuff. And I think that's important to recognize. 


Priya Bates 32:36 

Yeah. And a couple of examples that we shared in the book that I could talk to you about, one is PepsiCo. When I was reading information about PepsiCo, and the plans that had been created years ago, to drive diversity way before it was the ‘in topic’, by the leader who was in place at the time, who really believed that this was a business strategy. And he paved the way with the changes to introduce to bring Indra Nooyi, to the CEO position. And it was a long-term strategy that has paid off tenfold from a PepsiCo perspective, and it really is part of everything that they do and has translated into success. The other one that I thought was worth, it's a Canadian company, that actually started out in a bit of trouble years ago, which is Lululemon, when they were talking about the size, they were part of the size debate, andthe size of their products, and it's only for what they called fit individuals. And we weren't in the market, for people who are larger, because I don't know if they actually said that, but I think the CEO at the time, the founder, was actually taken off the board eventually, because of the press that the statements got in terms of buying the sides conversation.  


And Calvin McDonald, who I had a chance to work with at Loblaw years ago, is now the CEO of Lululemon. And what he's done since then, in terms of stepping in, is to really being inclusive in terms of advertising in terms of products, in terms of all of the programs that they offer and looking at their financial results. It's translated into some really great opportunities. We've heard like McKinsey's done studies for years, that is good. Including everybody.  Being more inclusive is an opportunity for these organizations and that's not the only reason you do it. But it's definitely a compelling reason to say, “let's really do this right”, instead of “check a few boxes and pretend!”. 


Julie Ford 35:15 

Well, it's better for the employees, it's better for the culture, it also sounds like it's better for the future growth of the business. So why wouldn't you make this part of your organization and embed it everywhere from the top down? So, it seems like a no brainer to me. And thank you so much for sharing those great examples. I do remember the Lululemon one. And I have noticed that the lululemon.com site has changed dramatically for the better. So, I think that was really a great example of how this can really benefit both the business and everybody, the consumers, the employees, everyone across the board.  


Priya Bates 35:56 


Julie Ford 35:57 

So as the landscape of DEI continues to evolve, which it will, wondering if you have any advice for internal comms professionals? Like, how can they stay informed, and adapt their practices to ensure ongoing inclusivity and their communications? 


Priya Bates 36:11 

Start by reading our book. But I think that one of the things that was really interesting in writing the book is that there was so much that we didn't know. So, our approach was, let's learn as much as we can, let's read the books that are out there, because there's a lot out there. Let's read that with a lens from an internal communication perspective. And really say, what is it that's going to help? What's the thinking that's going to help us move forward? And I think that, I'd probably say, I don't know, if I've got the right number here Advita, that, 70% of what we bring to the work is our internal communication expertise, right? So, we apply that change management, because it's a big change management project, right? Changing the way, the entire organization thinks is change management. So, people still go through those processes, shock and anger and resistance. It shouldn't be a surprise, this is what is part of the work that we do. And we're applying that internal communication, employee engagement employee experience lens, to the work.  


So, if you're good at internal comms and employee engagement, you're most of the way there. Now we need to address, use those same best practices, gather the data, do your research, understand what the goals are, all of those things still need to apply. This is a ‘must have’ project not a ‘nice to have’ project, right? And then the key is still formed. Keep listening, like we did the research, we were listening to perspectives, chances are those perspectives are going to change. And their new learning and new thinking, as we've gone through the conversations, the things I'm learning from the indigenous community here in Canada is really brand new to me. It's not something that I paid attention to, I have to admit, it's not something I paid attention to a lot. What I'm learning about transgender and the LGBTQ community, those conversations are evolving and changing. And that's probably why we're seeing some of the backlash, because there are powers that want to keep things the same. So be open to new perspectives. Because, again, this is not just professional, it's personal.  


And what we've noticed is we've changed our thinking, because there are a lot of systems that we've grown up with and there are a lot of myths we've grown up with, there's a lot of things that we thought were facts that aren't, because there's a lot of misinformation and disinformation out. So, do your research. Whenever you hear about something, whenever you hear whether it's in your favor or not in your favor. Do the research and find out where the facts are, so that you can apply them realistically and then don't expect what works for another company will work for yours. So, we talk about progress not perfect. Where are you today? Where do you want to be? What's it going to take to get there? If you keep asking the questions and rechecking and doing your metrics, and measurement, it'll help you and guide you as well. 


Advita Patel 39:29 

I will start with that. Also look at your community that's around. We get asked frequently as Priya said about, how do we keep on top of what's happening because it changes every single day. My biggest piece of advice is look at the people that surround you and your community. Hear what you are leaning into for advice and write those things down? I always say to people write down the top 15 people in your world that you ask for advice, or you get advice from, or you learn from, whether that's socially or whether that’s in person, and what's the similarities between you all, what you might find? I did this exercise a few years ago, I found this, I had people who were very similar thinking to me, because it's comfortable, right?  


It's really comfortable when you happen to think the same as you who agree with your points of view, and you feel quiet, happy about yourself, and egos are out there a little bit as well. But you really have to kind of think about ‘Hang on. if everybody's the same information bubble and echo chamber, then what am I learning?’ So, my advice to internal comms professionals who are often in a very small team and don't see as much diversity is, look up the community that you're surrounded by, and make sure that you have a range of people that you can learn from. Not harass by the way. I've known some people who have had several DMs from others asking for help, or can you just check this cons over for me and make sure I'm saying, that's not what the marginalized or underrepresented people are there to do.  


By all means, engage with them or have conversations, but not to let them do your work. And you have to work, and you have to learn, listen, connect, and build your community around you so you keep learning from different perspectives. And that's the way you're going to learn. And why I was saying, progress perfect, which we share in the book, but try and be 1% better than what you were yesterday. We're not asking for you to be the fall to have all knowledge in every single area, but at least the effort to be 1% better than what you were yesterday. 


Priya Bates 41:38 

And bring in the experts like bring in support. I think that it does help when you're looking at who you're bringing in. And that's something, as consultants, we realize too, that people tend to hire people like them as well. And that's where their comfort zone is. Whereas sometimes we're going to engage with you in uncomfortable conversations, because maybe that's what you need to hear. Because that's a different perspective, it's something you weren't expecting, and that has to be seen as a positive versus a negative, for progress to occur. 

Julie Ford 42:13 

Yeah, it sounds like the common thread, through both of your comments, is learning and an openness to learning. And it also sounds like it might be uncomfortable at times. But that means that you're learning, and you're evolving, and that's going to help you get to that 1% better than you were last year. So that's all such valid, valuable advice. And I think I like how you make it realistic and achievable. By not saying you need to be 10%, better 1% anyone can do that. And you can do that through learning and listening and keeping an open mind. So, any final thoughts you'd like to share? Before we sign off? 


Advita Patel 42:52 

The only thing I would say is, Priya shared this, a workshop we did, not so long ago, is you have to choose hope, over fear. And I think, this is an inclusive practice and inclusive conversation, diversity, equity, belonging, justice, whatever you phrase it, any organization can be scary, and it can bring fear into our world. But I would say to anybody who's listening, is that if you feel a little bit scared, it's a normal reaction. It's not something that you should fear. It's about learning. And to your point Julie, it's okay to be uncomfortable while you're learning. And it's important that we do choose hope, over fear, because what's the alternative? 


Priya Bates 43:33 

Right, we need to progress, we need to be forward, and we need to make a difference. And if we can't do that, if we stay in our comfort zone, feeling sad, and be conscious of the divisions that are being stoked, right? These are the things that are changing. And I think I'm a big believer that the reason we're seeing all the noise, we're seeing all of the negatives that are designed to get us divided, is so that we're not actually collectively working towards change together. And I want the world to be better, I want the world to be better for my children, and for the future generations, and imagine what that world could look like it's not some people thriving and other majority not, we really do need to work. And that's kind of our role as internal communication professionals that we’re there where the voice of the employee, where the voice of the collective is. At times, we're in the middle of talking to those leaders who are very privileged. And there is an opportunity, we're all doing this for the right reasons, in the right purpose. 

Julie Ford 44:43 

Amazing. I love the idea of choosing hope over fear. I think that's good advice, even beyond this conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion. Fear is just going to hold you back from creating a better world for yourself and for the future. So, I love ending on a really positive note and focusing on hope going forward. So, thank you so much to both of you Priya and Advita for joining me today, it's been a true pleasure. What's the best way for our listeners to connect with you? 


Advita Patel 45:13 

If they visit aleaderlikeme.com, then all our details are there as well, and then obviously they can connect with us on our LinkedIn sites, but aleaderlikeme.com as Priya said earlier, we've got the assessment there, you've got leads to purchase our book. We've also got some downloadable things that you can have as well as details on how you can connect with our individual work that we do through inner strength for Priya and comes trouble with me as well. So aleaderlikeme is the first point of call, I would say. 


Priya Bates 45:43 

And definitely give us a follow, on LinkedIn and Twitter and now threads we’re all we’re in all of those places. 


Advita Patel 45:50 

Instagram, TikTok everywhere. 


Julie Ford 45:53 

We can find you everywhere. 


Priya Bates 45:54 

I don't do anything serious on tik-tok, I need to work on that. 


Julie Ford 46:00 

Well, that's a whole other conversation. All right. Well, thank you both again, and I will be talking to you soon, I'm sure. 


Advita Patel 46:10 

Thank you, Julie. Great conversation.  


Priya Bates 46:12 
Thank you, Julie. 


Julie Ford 46:13 

Thanks for listening to the ICON podcast. This podcast has been brought to you by Sparrow Connected. Head over to SparrowConnected.com to learn more about the internal comms platform that is elevating the internal comms profession. And be sure to follow ‘We Lead Comms’ on LinkedIn. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channels and tune in for the next episode. 

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