EXCLUSIVE: Building an inclusive culture must start from the top

inclusive culture

Employee Benefits Live 2018: Building a diverse and inclusive culture requires full understanding and buy-in from the organisation’s leadership.

In a session titled ‘What does an inclusive workplace look like?’ Catherine Garrod, head of inclusion at Sky, Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, Philip Wilson, head of assessment and diversity at the Cabinet Office, and Sarah Guerra, director of diversity and inclusion at King’s College London, discussed their experiences in building a culture of inclusion at their organisations as part of the diversity and inclusion stream on 3 October.

Codd explained that it starts at the very top: “We went right the way back to basics. It is leadership’s job to ensure we have an inclusive culture and I sit on that leadership team. So for us it’s been absolute buy-in from the top, led by the chief executive and myself.”

For Codd, empowering people to speak up has been key, as well as acting on what they say. “It was about giving people the ability to call us out,” she said. “People are reluctant to speak out if the problem involves someone more senior, so we set up respect and inclusion advisers and helplines.

“But the most important thing is we have acted. Where someone raises an issue, we have been unafraid to remove the responsible party from the organisation, no matter how senior the individual in question. That has been the focus for us, building the cultural foundation and ensuring all our people are respected and included and can call it out when that doesn’t happen.”

The Cabinet Office has also put emphasis on inclusion leadership. Wilson said: “We have programmes, but it’s more about behaviours and recognising the uniqueness of individuals and not stereotyping.”

Wilson also believes inclusivity is a learning experience. He explained: “We’ve just finished an autism programme for people on the autism spectrum. It’s very much an exchange in terms of the organisation learning about people on the spectrum and also improving their skills and career prospects.”

Guerra explained that while she does not have a board-level position, her job involves communicating the issues to the top of the organisation. “The work streams we have put in place are very much around helping leadership understand the roles they play individually. But more than that, how things work in an organisation like Kings, and where the barriers occur through people, process or policy.”

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Guerra emphasised that good intentions are not enough to build an inclusive culture. She said: “We’ve been focusing a lot in this last year on what we call structural inequality. You can have the best intentions in the world and you can have good leaders, but if they don’t recognise how the organisation actually works, how people behave under stress and what happens in micro-situations that all add up to an organisation’s culture, you’ll only ever ending up stating your intentions. So we’ve been working to uncover those situations and resolve them.”

For Garrod, the focus is on creating a culture where all employees work to their full potential with creativity and innovation. She said: “We want to make inclusion mean something for everybody. Unless you’re actively including people, you’re probably accidentally excluding them. So we’ve been asking everybody to do one thing that will make a difference.”