Can your workplace be truly inclusive?

A shift is taking place in the corporate world. More and more businesses are understanding that acceptance, kindness and empathy are just as important in the workplace as they are outside of it when it comes to making a positive difference.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine Autumn|Winter 2022

Talking Point brought to you in association with Wellbeing International

One good example of inclusivity in action, is the work being done by Wellbeing International through its Menopause Awareness Programmes, which aim to make a positive difference to the hundreds of thousands of women who are considering leaving their jobs, because of how the menopause is affecting their careers. Offering help in the form of gender neutral, company-wide awareness programmes, has been an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate to their team members that they are valued, thereby helping them to stay in the company. 

There has also been a recent push to create maternity and paternity packages, through which mothers and fathers are offered infant massage classes. So, instead of parents worrying that their jobs are at risk whilst they are on leave, when leading companies demonstrate their long-term commitment to employees through such classes, it sends the message that they have job security and are appreciated and integral. 

Being kinder to our colleagues and employees isn’t just common sense, it makes good business sense too. Inclusivity helps give businesses an edge: by introducing a more compassionate vocabulary to corporate life, companies can now demonstrate ‘heart’, thereby making a positive statement about their ethos to the world which, in turn, will help them stand out from the competition. 

But how can you create a truly inclusive workplace?

We asked three organisations what they think:

The Design Council

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Minnie Moll is Chief Executive at The Design Council, the UK’s national strategic advisor for design, championing design and its ability to make life better for all. Their Design for Planet mission was introduced in 2021 to galvanise and support the 1.97 million people who work in the UK’s design economy, help achieve net zero and beyond.

Minnie said that: “Design shapes the world. Every single product, service, and building around us has been designed by someone. For an inclusive society, design should reflect the world we live in and the glorious diversity of people who live in it. This makes it so important that the Design Council strives to have an inclusive culture, so our colleagues are ‘steeped’ in inclusive thinking.

There are lots of things that I believe create inclusivity. Much of it starts at the top with leadership being inclusive, accessible and caring. Leaders must lead by example.

Colleagues need to feel engaged in the vision, purpose and values of the organisation.  Genuinely invited to contribute, question and help shape the plans and ideas for achieving the vision. When this works well people feel part of something and that they ‘belong’. A sense of belonging is great evidence of an inclusive workplace.

An organisation needs to demonstrate that it values difference and understands that diversity of every sort gives a great breadth of thinking, which of course leads to better outcomes.

At the Design Council, we have set ourselves the challenge of developing a world-class culture of wellbeing. We feel this will cover some of the most important elements of inclusivity: physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and social interaction. 

At the heart of inclusivity is making every person feel valued and heard. One of my favourite quotes on this is from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.

Barnardo’s

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Heidi Dennis is Assistant Director of Children’s Services at Barnardo’s. Its work transforms the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year it helps thousands of families to build a better future. Last year more than 382,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through 791 services and partnerships across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers, adoptive parents, training and skills and parenting classes. 

Heidi said that: “Inclusivity is summed up perfectly by our founder Thomas Barnardo. He had a vision of a world in which no child is turned away from the help they need. Today, my colleagues and I continue to work towards this vision in partnership with others across all sectors and will continue to do so for as long as there are children in need of support. 

The scale of what we do is big and complex, but we will always aim to provide the best outcome for every child, no matter who they are, or what they have been through.

As an organisation, we also recognise the diversity of our staff and volunteers as a source of richness, which benefits us all, including the children, young people and families we work with. Everyone is treated as an individual and with respect.

We also value the voice of the child and work hard to ensure that their voices are heard and central to everything that we do. We listen to children and young people, to find ways of improving the services we offer them. We use their views to shape our work and tell others, like the government, what’s important, too. The more we involve children and young people in developing and running services, the better those services will meet their needs.”

UPP

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Craig Cole is Head of Health & Wellbeing at University Partnerships Programme (UPP), the UK’s leading provider of on-campus residential and academic accommodation infrastructure. It has over 35,000 rooms in operation through long-term, bespoke partnerships with 15 world-leading universities. With 1,000 employees, since 1998 it has provided safe and secure homes to over 450,000 students – creating great student and employee experiences.  

Craig said that: “When designing the menopause awareness and training as part of our Wellbeing Programme, it was important for us that the sessions and information provided was inclusive for everyone within our business, regardless of gender or age. We wanted employees to receive the best support and get the maximum benefit from the training, so we ensured that everyone could access it in a way that was most suitable for them, and delivered both women only, and gender neutral, courses.

This approach provides access to important information and guidance, that enables our managers to effectively support their teams. Our Wellbeing Programme is designed to ensure that it covers a broad spectrum of activities, that support the various health and wellbeing needs that exist within the communities we operate.”

Inclusivity is the golden thread that holds a vibrant business together. When companies cultivate a more inclusive environment, not only do employees feel welcome and valued, but this inviting approach also helps to strengthen a company’s profile and public image. 

Promoting inclusion will help you to keep valuable members of your team, save on re-hiring costs and create a happier and more unified company. 

Above all else, when we are seen and appreciated, we feel valued. And that’s something that all of us can benefit from. 

For more information on Wellbeing International and its services and programmes for individuals and businesses, visit www.wellbeinginternational.co.uk

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