Ednah Otieno: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt this year?

The biggest lesson I have learnt this year is that nurturing an inclusive culture is enabled by having the right policies, principles and practices on future or emerging trends.

At Diageo, we are committed to nurturing the most inclusive and diverse culture, not just because it helps our business to grow but because it is the right thing to do.

Creating a philosophy and setting ambitious targets is an important starting block to nurturing an inclusive culture. However, one of 2023’s biggest lessons was that to be recognised as a genuine inclusive and diverse (I&D) leader, organisations must create leading policies, principles, and practices to complement their commitment.

Diageo’s ambition is to attract, develop, and retain the most diverse talent that reflects our consumer base and delivers on our bold ambitions. And to achieve this, we provide tools and learning opportunities to upskill our people and accelerate talent. From our parental leave policy which gives all UK employees 26 weeks of fully paid leave, to pregnancy loss guidelines that raise awareness of an area that is often poorly understood, policies have become essential to reinforcing and institutionalising our I&D commitments across the business, to foster an inclusive environment that supports every employee.

We have built on this commitment over the past 12 months with the launch of our fertility support guidelines for UK employees in February, which was a key factor for Diageo being accredited as a fertility friendly employer. This was the latest example of a policy being an integral component of Diageo’s I&D recognition, with Bloomberg’s latest Gender-Equality Index, published in January 2023, referencing our pregnancy loss guidelines and the rollout of the Balance+ menopause app, with Diageo’s number one UK ranking in Equileap’s 2023 Gender equality global report, published in March 2023, also citing our family leave policy.

Creating a philosophy is one thing, but to truly make a difference, businesses must implement a diverse collection of effective policies to complement their existing narrative. Diageo has learned that a structured approach that is driven by data and benchmarking allows us to set the right precedents and explore various options. It will not happen overnight and businesses that are starting this journey must listen to their employees, learn from others, and keep their ears open to the important conversations happening in wider society. But once they do, they can truly foster an inclusive culture that allows all employees to thrive.

Ednah Otieno is HR director, Great Britain, at Diageo