Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox


7 simple ways to make your internal communications more inclusive

< Blog home

7 simple ways to make your internal communications more inclusive

As more and more organisations try to attract diverse talent, is it time we took a closer look at our internal communications and whether they’re accessible to all?

Earlier this year, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, tweeted about a setting on Twitter that describes images for the visually impaired. A brilliant idea, yet most people didn’t know it existed, and probably hadn’t considered it as an issue or something that was missing from their lives.

And how often do we do that internally? Chances are, IC practitioners will be aware if they have an employee with specific visual or hearing needs and will accommodate that. But if we’re to be truly inclusive organisations, that attract a diverse workforce, should it not form a part of everything we do, ensuring that future employees are able to access content we share inside our organisations?

Molly Haynes (pictured), is a content manager in the oil and gas industry and was born with severe hearing loss. She relies on hearing aids and lipreads to follow conversation. Molly’s professional life is conducted purely over email, text message and video Skype/Zoom calls. The organisation she works for has been hugely accommodating and she has also taken an active role in educating colleagues. It’s something she believes more organisations should do.

“I am incredibly impressed with the internal communications where I work. I have an internal comms director who is engaged and interested in finding out about me, my deafness and how to meet my needs and that’s made a world of difference.

“Having now worked in a company where the internal comms is so inclusive and accessible, it’s definitely something that would be important to me if I was looking to move companies. But the essence of it is that I don’t want to move companies. This one is inclusive, aware and encouraging without drawing negative attention to my disability. And while I know that in an ideal world it would be mandatory that companies were like this, I feel incredibly lucky to have discovered one that is.”

Molly makes a great point, in an ideal world, all companies would be as inclusive as the one she works for. However, we know budgets and resources are tight, so it’s not practical or always necessary to create your employee magazine in Braille or hire a sign language interpreter at your town hall if no one in your organisation requires it.

But there are some simple, free things you can do to make your internal communication more accessible to existing and future employees…

1.    Put captions on intranet images

Adding a descriptive caption such as ‘The finance team celebrate their award win” makes it much easier for people using screen readers. It takes a few extra seconds to add that on and could make all the difference to an employee’s experience.

2.    Include subtitles on your videos

Not only does this assist people who are hard of hearing, but many people may be watching videos where playing sound isn’t possible such as a canteen. In our personal lives, many of us now consume video without sound, thanks to subtitles – Facebook reported that 85% of their videos are played without sound. Think about how you consume video in your personal life – nearly all will have subtitles so it’s something your employees will be used to.

And for user generated content, there are free apps that will add subtitles for you. Check out Clips which includes captions generated by your voice (thanks Leah Bowden for sharing this on Twitter!).

3.    Use capital letters at the start of each word when using hashtags

If you use collaboration platforms inside your organisations, chances are you might use hashtags, and to make it easier for screen readers to read, always use a capital letter at the beginning of each word. (Thank you to Michael Carty for drawing my attention to this one!).

4.    Collaboration platforms

Collaboration platforms can be a great way to be inclusive, especially for deaf people (dependant on your organisation and budget). If you have one, consider reviewing your content and channels strategy to ensure all key information is posted on these platforms where it can be easily accessed.

Molly says, “We have a very well-maintained Yammer site, which is very active with groups for all areas of the business and it’s a great place to keep track of what’s going on. Any internal comms campaigns are announced over Yammer and the SharePoint sites have all the additional info. Everything is done online so it’s great to feel as included as hearing people.”

5.    Google doc conversations or Microsoft Planner

If you work with employees who are hard of hearing, why not consider other ways they can join in conversations. Google docs are great for this, as you can chat in real time. I recently did this with Chuck Gose as part of his ChuckChats series and we chatted for an hour about storytelling and it worked really well, both of our personalities came through and we had a record of the conversation.

You can obviously also use instant messaging systems or ESNs, although instant messaging does work better for short chats, rather than long discussions. Ensure your employees know Google docs is an option and provide guidance on how to use it.

Molly also suggested Microsoft planner as it “eliminates the need for lots of calls as updates are posted there between lots of people, tasks are assigned and details are given.”

6.    Skype

Skype can be a great tool, both for deaf and blind people, as long as everyone understands how to use it effectively.

Molly says, “I created a top 10 tips for successful Skype calls with a deaf person guide, which has been circulated throughout my team. It gives advice on not having a light shining behind you as this obscures lipreading, making sure your face is lit up and you look at the camera. It’s been a big success.”

7.    Tell stories

One of the most effective ways to communicate internally is to tell stories.

If you have someone in your organisation that needs to work in a different way, see if they’d be willing to share their story and start a positive conversation. It not only raises awareness and helps colleagues know how they can support each other, but it may also inspire others to speak up about issues affecting them, for example someone coping with a mental health issue.

Molly shared her story in her organisation: “There’s an internal blog platform that colleagues are actively encouraged to post on. I wrote about my deafness to raise awareness in the company of what it’s like being deaf in the workplace – the response was amazing. I am a big believer that if you don’t tell people what it’s like, how can you expect them to know.”

A big thank you to Molly Haynes for sharing her experiences with us. It’s a hugely important topic and one that should be on all IC pro’s radars. And we’d love to hear what’s worked in your organisations…

By Helen Deverell for Alive!

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo