Fact Sheet #15a) Proactive Communication

Level 3

Element: Communication and Consultation

Outcome 15: The organization proactively communicates and consults regarding all aspects of human rights and their impacts on the workforce and the workplace.

Indicator 15a): Communication strategy on human rights is designed and implemented to reach the whole organization.

Possible Measures and Data Sources

  • Communication of equity metrics throughout organization and with employee associations/unions on a regular basis.
  • Regular communication on human rights.
  • External communication is respectful, culturally appropriate, in plain language and available in alternate formats.
  • Messaging on recruitment measures that are inclusive of designated group members and accommodation/human rights requirements.
  • Human rights messages for different audiences.
  • Designated group members representation within all publications, advertisements and websites.

Indicator Description

Being proactive means doing something before an event or crisis situation takes place - act, don’t react. A communication strategy is one of the most effective and useful tools available to an organization. It will ensure that the message on human rights, i.e. anti-discrimination and employment equity, is clearly understood across all sectors of an organization. A good communication strategy allows you to clearly share the human rights priorities the organization is aiming to achieve. In doing so, it helps removing any doubt and encourages proper planning by reaching the organization as a whole. Through consultation, the communication strategy helps foster an environment where dialogue is encouraged and promoted. Employees and managers will feel that their opinions, ideas and thoughts have been heard and are considered. To foster an environment of communication, tools should be accessible to all employees, unions, employee associations and members of the public and clients.

At Level 1, an organization has started to communicate its vision regarding anti-discrimination and employment equity and has started to consult with employees and unions regarding employment equity and the handling of complaints. At Level 2, the organization communicates its policies and practices, as well as tools, processes and resources available to its managers and employees to foster a human rights friendly environment. At Level 3, the organization is building on its internal successes and expanding its communication strategy related to human rights, in order to reach its clients in addition to its stakeholders.

For example, an organization may use alternate formats for regular communication regarding human rights and employment equity issues, in order to ensure that it is accessible to all employees and clients within the workplace and workforce.  Alternate formats are generally used by those with disabilities such as visual (legally blind, low vision), intellectual, cognitive or social (learning, illiterate), physical (motor skills), and so forth. Alternate formats could include large print, Braille, audio format, plain language brochures and assistive technologies. By providing alternate forms of communication, employees and clients can access the information.  Requests for accommodation from employees or the public need to be answered and dealt with in a promote manner in order to ensure that they are addressed in a respectful manner.

Suggested Approach

It is suggested that the organization utilize both interactive and passive methods of communication to reach targeted audiences. Interactive communication can include seminars, meetings, and human rights celebrations or use other participative tools. Passive communication, which generally is written communication, can consist of emails, posters, website information, newsletters, etc. 

To convey its message, an organization may choose the following approach [1] which comprises 6 specific steps:

  • Analysis: At this stage the organization will analyze the issue and the message that they want to share with their employees. They will also determine what are the targeted audiences such as human rights practitioners, frontline managers, union representatives, employees who interact with the public, etc. An environmental assessment of each target audience may also be valuable to understand how to position the human rights and employment equity messages.
  • Strategy development:The information collected in the analysis phase will be use to lay the foundation and establish the guidelines of the communication strategy for effective culture change with regards to human rights and employment equity.
  • Program and communication design: Following the guidelines established during the strategy development, the organization will determine the message, the visual or audio effect, and the medium they will use for each audience.
  • Pre-testing: To ensure the maximum impact and retention of the message by the entire organization, it is very useful to test the communication product on small sample of each targeted audience, especially if it involves significant production cost of the said material.
  • Implementation: At this point, the communication will be delivered to the audiences.
  • Evaluation and feedback: Finally, the organization may want to assess how well the message was received, what impact it may have on the culture change objective, which part of the communication strategy seems to have the greater success and the least success as well. Although evaluation is the last step on the approach, it is also an overarching step as feedback is required along the process.

Promising Practices

  • Communication and alternate formats: The Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) provides a wide range of alternate formats for most of their brochures and publications and also has recently launched a plain language guide to understanding the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Commission adheres to the regulations set out by the Treasury Board of Canada for to the Common Look and Feel for the Internet 2.0. The policy was created to ensure that communications across the Government of Canada is properly coordinated, effectively managed and responsive to the diverse information needs of the public. [2]
  • Accessibility: A federal government department has on their website an “Accessibility Features Statement ”, indicating their commitment to making their website and forms accessible to all and indicating the options for those who require accommodation. It is important that organizations review their external communication on a regular basis and ensure that it is respectful and culturally appropriate. Additionally some organizations offer programs and tools to assist employers to accommodate their employees and/or members of the public. [3]
  • Diversity and Inclusion: A number of financial institutions websites are providing information to potential employees and customer’s information on diversity and inclusion and why it is one of their priorities. They are providing definitions of what is diversity and inclusion, why it matters, what they have learned, their objectives and provide resources and links. 
  • Plan: A Canadian university has set out clear objectives in their communication plan in order to reach their employment equity goals and to achieve compliance with the Federal Contractors Program. In order to reach these goals, all members of the university community are responsible to be aware of the objectives of the plan, to support the strategy, to be aware of the benefits that the communication plan has on all community members and to know what the benefits of diversity are.
  • The university has indicated in their plan a number of recommendations in order for the communication strategy to be successful:
    • That an announcement be made to the University community that the plan is available and members can provide feedback and input.
    • That the President accepts the plan and work with senior management to proceed with the proposed recommendations.
    • That the plan be available on their equity website; and
    • That information sessions, on employment equity and the employment equity plan, be directed to a number of groups within the university.
  • Consistency and Frequency: Some organizations have developed a practice of regularly communicating with their employees regarding human rights policies and procedures and employment equity matters. Keeping employees and clients regularly informed will promote and create an inclusive environment. This can be done via newsletter, email and intranet for employees.  Information could also be posted on the Internet for clients and the public (e.g. news releases).   

Useful links and tools

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Calendar of Events - Canadian Heritage

First Nations Communications Toolkit - Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Communications Policy of the Government of Canada - Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Making information accessible - Government of Ontario

Persons with Disabilities Online

Treasury Board of Canada

Diversity for Growth and Innovation - Royal Bank of Canada


This fact sheet was developed in part using material from:

Wilfred Laurier University

ehow.com – Proactive communication – Nelson, Lauren, ehow Contributor, May 10, 2010

International Development Research Centre – Chapter 6:  Developing a Communication Strategy

Weinreich, Nedra Kline, Hands-on Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Designing Change for Good, Sage Publications, Inc; Second Edition, October 12, 2010, 328 pages

[1] The social marketing approach presented here is a summary of the approach suggested by Nedra Kline Weinreich in her book: Hands-on Social Marketing, A Step-by-Step Guide to Designing Change for Good, second edition, October 2010.

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