How to implement inclusive email signatures in the workplace

Creating a gender-inclusive workplace benefits everyone. And although getting to grips with certain changes may seem like a challenge, there’s plenty of simple changes businesses can make to promote and expand diversity, equity, and inclusion in their hiring practices and workplaces.

Organisations are starting to promote the use of personal pronouns, like Marks & Spencer giving its staff pronoun badges as part of the retailer’s inclusivity drive

With this in mind, I will explore how email signatures are an effective tool for boosting inclusivity in the workplace, shifting company attitudes, and why this is beneficial for businesses. 

Why share pronouns?

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace isn’t easy to get right, but we shouldn’t let perfection get in the way of trying. 

Mis-gendering can be hurtful, even if accidental. So, normalising the act of considering the pronouns before you use them is a big step forward.

It’s worth noting for some LGBTQIA+ people, disclosing their pronouns may be a source of anxiety, so it shouldn’t be forced upon anybody. Instead, allowing employees to decide for themselves if they want to include them or not gives them the freedom to do so without the fear of criticism.  

Many businesses are increasingly embracing the practice of sharing individual pronouns in the workplace as part of diversity initiatives. For instance, Ministry of Defence officials have been encouraged to publicise their preferred pronouns on email signatures, social media profiles, and at the start of meetings to alleviate stigma and make their transgender and non-binary colleagues feel more comfortable.  

Adding pronouns to simple but visible parts of ‘work-life’, like including it in a professional email signature, is a great first step to building gender inclusivity in the workplace. 

It may be a small action, but it can make all the difference. 

Inclusivity is key

A truly inclusive work culture ensures that every employee – regardless of their identity – feels supported and respected. 

A recent study revealed the first year of employment is critical for LGBTQ+ employees, as they will either come out during their first 12 months on the job or not at all. 

For companies of all sizes, creating a workplace environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their identity carries significant rewards. 

To retain talent, most organisations offer generic benefits like paid annual leave, competitive financial bonuses and most recently flexible working. But none of that works for an employee who doesn’t feel comfortable in their work environment. 

A recent study revealed that companies that encouraged disclosing pronouns led to more positive attitudes towards their employer, as well as an increased confidence that the company would treat all employees fairly. 

A work culture focused on gender inclusion has the power to elevate previously unheard voices and value diverse experiences, which fosters an environment of respect and trust. This type of environment not only attracts more diverse applicants, but also has all of the structural supports in place to set them up for success. 

It’s suggested that the growing number of employees sharing their pronouns is likely to mirror broader corporate efforts to support a more diverse employee set. Including gender pronouns in company email signatures not only acts as an internal reminder to fellow colleagues, but also builds awareness externally. 

This can help forge meaningful connections with customers and suppliers as it’s been reported almost 80% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values. In addition, nearly 70% of consumers have stopped supporting brands that don’t align with their personal values. 

This makes it clear that consumers are only investing their time, money, and attention in brands that have a genuine commitment to important principles they care about.

Keep it optional 

LGBTQIA+ inclusivity should always be a top priority, and all businesses should operate effective inclusion strategies to ensure all employees are valued. 

As part of a company’s strategy, organisations could let employees include their gender pronouns in their email signatures. However, they mustn’t mandate it. Instead, they should give their employees the option to do this if they feel comfortable. 

If you decide to include gender pronouns in your email signature, it’s best to keep it simple and add them next to your name. You don’t need to add anything over-complicated or explanatory – just a simple addition of your pronouns will be enough for others to know how to address you in future email communications. 

Pronouns alone shouldn’t be treated as the only effort to be more inclusive – they should be met with training and educational seminars as core elements of a company’s inclusion strategy. This is because inclusivity training is still in its infancy, and not all employees will be up to date on inclusive terminology and behaviour. 

Businesses should educate their teams on the importance of considering their use of pronouns and the impact of making automatic assumptions. It’s the responsibility of the employer to encourage people to use more inclusive and gender-neutral language when communicating with others.

Rolling out short, regular training schemes that work around employees’ schedules will encourage higher levels of staff involvement. 

Businesses can then share their inclusive training and policies within their email signatures. Embedding a link to the company’s diversity and inclusivity policy within a disclaimer offers an extra layer of support that employees and consumers can easily refer to it at any time if needed.

To minimise headaches for the internal IT department, introduce a third-party email signature management solution. This makes it easy to tailor contact information quickly, guaranteeing it’s correct for everyone irrespective of department, region, and country, while simultaneously maintaining a consistent brand image. 

At B2B Marketing, we know we’re not perfect, and we need to keep these things in mind as much as anyone else. If you have any ideas for content to keep this discussion at the fore of our industry, please feel free to drop us a line at: editorial@b2bmarketing.net

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