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Sarah Dewar

Everyturn Mental Health

Chief People Officer

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National Inclusion Week 2023: How to create an inclusive workplace

Sarah Dewar outlines some steps that can help guide organisations on how they can take action and create a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.
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This year’s theme for National Inclusion Week is Take Action, Make Impact – a call to action to get organisations and individuals thinking about what actions they can take to make a positive impact for its marginalised colleagues.

Here are steps that organisations can use to take action and make an impact in creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

  1. Start by being honest

Start with an honest assessment of where you are now, as an organisation. Have the confidence to face the reality of how your people are feeling, how inclusive your policies and communications really are, and face any uncomfortable truths.

At every turn, we invested in an external diagnostic audit and engaged the diversity and inclusion consultancy, EW Group, to undertake focus groups, surveys, and a desktop review of our policies and communications.

Then you can communicate the ‘where we are now’, with honesty and transparency, to your workforce. By sharing the good and the not-so-good, and acknowledging what needs to change, your colleagues will feel included in the process.

Engaging your board and executive team in these discussions is also important. Be honest and frank and invite their input.

The voice of your colleagues will help shape policies that bring about the most impact

  1.  Utilise your data to form a plan

Formulate an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) plan based on the ‘where we are now’ and engage the whole organisation in forming this plan. EDI isn’t just for the HR function, make sure the plan is realistic and focused and don’t try to do everything at once!

Listening to colleagues and making sure there are opportunities where they have a voice, can share feedback, and comment and suggest improvements is vitally important.

Whilst doing so, think about your data – if you don’t have good colleague diversity data, don’t just keep asking people for it. Explain why you would like to use the data and the impact that could have – for example reviewing promotions through the lens of protected characteristics.

Think also about the data you collect. Have you been collating the same data for years and can you expand this? For example, we started to collate information on gender identity and

personal pronouns.

Colleague feedback is also a key part of helping develop and shape policies to create a more inclusive environment, listening directly to those whom the policies are made for, and helping to determine whether they are making a substantial impact.

  1. Share the stories of your people

It’s also vital to create a psychologically safe environment for colleagues to share their stories and ask questions. At Everyturn Mental Health, we’ve set up a recorded ‘In Conversation With…’ series of videos, in which members of the executive team have reflective conversations on a variety of topics with colleagues from underrepresented groups, as a way for everyone to listen and learn.

The voice of your colleagues will help shape policies that bring about the most impact, and it’s especially important to amplify the voices of marginalised groups.

An example of how we’re doing this is through colleague discussions on wellbeing through the lens of the different people in our organisation in our employee network groups – neurodiversity, LGBTQ+, and Black, Asian, and Ethnic communities. This ensures we don’t have a ‘one size, fits all’ approach, our neurodiversity group, for example, suggested some specific, practical ways to support the wellbeing of those with dyslexia.

  1. Embed EDI into your everyday work

EDI shouldn’t be seen as a standalone or ‘extra work’ – it’s important to link it to your wider organisational strategy, so it becomes an everyday part of the whole workforce.  For example, ensuring everyone has pronouns on their email signature will help alleviate stigma.

Keeping colleagues connected, communicating updates, and encouraging involvement are also important. Sharing EDI updates through internal communications and demonstrating how certain policies or actions are being implemented, will help to reassure your workforce that the plan is being actioned, and they are being listened to.

EDI should never just be a box-ticking exercise

  1. Be a champion of culture

As an HR leader, challenge yourself to think differently, engage your senior peers, and champion diversity and culture.

Celebrating your achievements as your organisation implements its EDI plan will help reassure your workforce that you are listening and actioning feedback.

  1. Continue to challenge

Just because you’ve got a plan and you’re implementing it well, does not mean that your organisation doesn’t need to be challenged. EDI should never just be a box-ticking exercise.

Keeping the conversation front of mind and ensuring that plans are adapted to fit the needs of your organisation, will always ensure your colleagues feel listened to.

Keep EDI on the agenda with your senior leadership – it has as much of a place in board and executive meetings as the finance update!

Remember, every organisation is different and it’s important to adapt these steps according to your people. That’s why listening to your colleagues and understanding what it is they need to ensure they feel supported, is so valuable.

This helps shape your strategies to create a workplace environment that is inclusive of everyone, allows you to take the right actions and in turn, has a more meaningful and profound impact, that makes a real difference to your colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

Read more in National Inclusion Week: Inclusion vs belonging: How to take action and make an impact

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Sarah Dewar

Chief People Officer

Read more from Sarah Dewar
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