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The roadmap to diverse, equal and inclusive organisations

Min Rodriguez, Head of Culture and Inclusion - NHS Property Services (NHSPS)

Organisational culture is not only important for attracting and recruiting talent, but also for developing, rewarding, progressing, and retaining talented people. According to research, nearly three quarters of the UK workforce believe that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are important to an organisation – this is a call to action for organisations in all sectors to re-evaluate their culture and put a robust plan in place to become diverse, equitable and inclusive, so that they can bring the best out of their people and attract all the best talent.

This week marks National Inclusion Week – now in its tenth year – it celebrates, shares and inspires organisations to develop and maintain inclusive workplace culture. This year’s theme is Time to Act: The Power of Now. As we look into the next decade and beyond, to bring in, grow and keep great people, organisations must embrace, and celebrate, colleagues who come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, experiences, skills and attributes.

Can we move beyond the ‘buzzword phase’ of DE&I?
The pandemic created a seismic shift in the job market where it very much became an ‘employees’ market. Two years of lockdown, furlough and personal changes have shifted people’s priorities and made many re-evaluate what they felt was truly important not just in their lives, but also in work. This has presented an interesting challenge for many organisations, particularly as the job market is becoming increasingly competitive and company bosses are fighting for the same talent at all levels.

The concept of DE&I has floated around for quite some time, with many organisations creating specific roles for people to purely focus on this area. However, there are those who criticise organisations for not doing enough in this arena, using DE&I as a buzzword and a way to make them appear to be a good organisation – a classic case of “talking the talk, but not walking the walk”.

While recent developments have brought about challenges, they have also created an enormous opportunity, for organisations to rethink its culture. Companies must realise the power of inclusion in driving individual and organisational excellence. And of course, excellence must happen across the whole organisation, not just in parts.

Put a roadmap in place
To turn the buzzword into action, organisations must create and implement a robust roadmap, detailing actionable goals. Part of the conundrum is making all components of the organisation at all levels realise the power of inclusion for the benefit of colleagues, and in creating excellent customer service. Every organisation will have a range of diverse roles that all play a vital part in the business.

Knowing where to start is the challenge. For example, at NHSPS – as a key partner to the NHS – we strive to be the best property and facilities provider to the healthcare system. A critical part of delivering on this is our colleagues, and the culture we build and maintain. Given the spotlight on healthcare as a result of the pandemic, a strong and inclusive culture will enable colleagues to thrive and transform the healthcare system for the better.

Like many organisations on this path to achieving true inclusion, equity and diversity, we are not claiming to be perfect in this arena. In fact, we are just at the beginning of our culture and inclusion journey. There is much more to come, including a new Culture and Inclusion Strategy, which we expect to be launched later this year. By placing value on our colleagues and the space they operate in, that together we can truly enable excellent patient care across the NHS.

Celebrate all your colleagues
Education and awareness are key to not only celebrating our colleagues, but also highlighting the importance of an inclusive working environment in harnessing unique talents, experiences and perspectives. Organisations should be proactive in creating a regular drumbeat of activities, such as webinars, networking events, newsletters and blogs, on a range of relevant and interesting topics to actively engage with colleagues. These educational activities should also touch on a broad range of areas – from mental health, neurodiversity, ethnicity, gender, family to disability.  Equipping them with the right skills and knowledge will develop more considerate and inclusive decision making, provide the right support for colleagues’ and customer needs and creates a sense of pride and belonging to the organisation.

Lifelong learning, even if at face value does not appear related to a colleague’s ‘day job’, is about their day job. For us at NHSPS, while our purpose may be about property and facilities, ultimately, it is diverse people who rely on them, which is why inclusion makes absolute business sense. Organisations from all other sectors should adopt this mentality – which will not only help with talent acquisition and retention, but also improving their business and the way they provide services.

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