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Becky Norman


Managing Editor

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Virtual roundtable: Fostering inclusion and connection at work

Many organisations need to address diversity and inclusion in a radically different way to have real impact.

We’ve been given several dark reminders recently of just how urgently we need to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in both our businesses and wider society. But the current approach by many organisations has been vastly inadequate for such a complex, deeply ingrained, systemic issue.

In this virtual roundtable discussion, recorded in June 2021, HRZone’s Editor Becky Norman was joined by three individuals who are striving to bridge employee connections and create inclusive businesses through tumultuous times. The panel consisted of Shakil Butt, D&I consultant and Founder of HR Hero for Hire; Cheryl Allen, Head of Culture and Transformation at Atos; and Adam Harwood, Head of L&D at D&D London.

It’s like any strategic initiative. If it’s not measured, if it’s not reported on, if it’s not sustainable, it’s going to wither and die.

In this virtual roundtable, we explored:

  • The lack of progress made with diversity and inclusion efforts

  • The role of community building to support inclusion

  • The importance of data, listening and feedback to DEI

  • Inclusion from a learning and development perspective

Community building takes persistence, but the benefits are worth it

Pre-pandemic our physical workplaces were often a hub for meeting and connecting with people who are different from ourselves. The lockdown made our physical worlds much smaller and the need for creating a culture of togetherness while apart became a priority. For Adam at D&D London, efforts to keep employees communicating evolved into a thriving online peer learning community. But building such a community can not be taken lightly. 

“Permission is such an important thing,” highlights Adam. “We showed that we want you to share your knowledge, we want you to collaborate, we want you to connect with one another.” It takes persistence, encouragement, even hand holding at times, but with perseverance you can create a space where your people want to connect, support and develop one another.

To learn more about how D&D London transformed a communication platform into a truly flexible and inclusive knowledge sharing platform, read Adam’s story here.

Diversity and inclusion should be embedded in the ecosystem

Progress in diversity and inclusion is not being made and that’s because it’s being approached in the wrong way, Shakil stressed. In many organisations, it’s been left for the HR practitioners to solve, or diversity and inclusion roles have been created to tackle the challenge in silos.

It’s also approached as if it is a project or one-off initiative, when really it needs to be considered within every nook and cranny of the organisation – from employee journeys to business messaging to products and services.

“It’s like any strategic initiative. If it’s not measured, if it’s not reported on, if it’s not sustainable, it’s going to wither and die,” says Shakil. “You know you’re having an impact when you’re changing the ecosystem of the industry you’re part of. Otherwise you’re not going to make any difference.”

Learning from the data and lived experiences

Being data led is critical to any meaningful diversity and inclusion efforts. For Cheryl and the Atos team this involved not only acting on the results of employee pulse surveys but also setting up listening sessions to understand and learn from lived and shared experiences. 

This approach was critical to understanding how certain events/issues through the pandemic impacted different groups of people. For example, from these sessions it soon became clear that women were disproportionately disadvantaged due to having to cover additional childcare. This led to the creation of the Atos Families Virtual Summer Camp, with over 30 educational and fun sessions delivered, ranging from arts and crafts and story times, to French lessons and technology skills. 

“It’s very easy in pandemic times for things like diversity and inclusion to fall off the radar, but having it front and centre has been critical for us to ensure we didn’t go back on our journey,” says Cheryl.

Read more about Atos’ innovative approaches to supporting wellbeing and togetherness in Cheryl’s story here.

The Culture Pioneers Awards

Both Cheryl and Adam worked tirelessly during the pandemic to nurture employee connection and inclusion, and were recognised for their accomplishments in HRZone’s ‘Culture Pioneers’ programme last year. Shakil was responsible for reviewing and selecting the successful inaugural Culture Pioneers last year and is also head judge for the Inclusion category of this year’s Culture Pioneers Awards. Entries close on 16th August, 5pm (BST).

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Becky Norman

Managing Editor

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