Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has topped the list of many HR leaders as a renewed focus for the year 2020 and beyond – 36% of HR leaders surveyed predict that diversity and inclusion will increase in importance in 2021. Our own internal DEI journey began a few years ago, with a focus mostly on gender and ethnicity, where the People Team worked with the rest of the business to craft our first-ever Diversity Statement and started an annual Diversity Report so others could have more transparency in the makeup of the 400+ RGers around the world.
While we had made strides, the racially charged events of 2020 put DEI in the spotlight even further, with many of our employees using our Speak Up value to share their insights on the unfolding events.
One of our employees shared that she felt it was 'our job to lead this conversation,' and that we weren’t doing enough as a business to lend our support and make our diverse employee base feel as supported. And she was right.
That leads me to my first lesson, which is to create an environment where others can speak up.
True to our Speak Up value, our employees told us we need to focus on race. A bigger conversation was needed. We needed to encourage openness to understand our failings. We needed to remove any blockers to our employees trusting us to do the right thing.
While we had spent the better part of the last couple of years exploring our own Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy to further educate employees (and ourselves!) about improving diversity at work, I share this example as it highlights the importance of having open and honest communications at work and how it can spark even further change. Our CEO Doug Butler responded directly to her concerns and we immediately became more proactive in communicating our initiatives, which started in 2019, and have since expanded their reach in the past year, becoming core to our internal people strategy. Here’s a look at the journey we’ve been on, and are still continuing:
Don’t pretend you’re the expert
Race is a subject that many had never felt comfortable to talk about at work.
We needed to allow our employees time to speak and share their true experiences of working at RG as a Racial Minority individual and we needed to provide them a safe and private space for them to do so.
In 2019, working with Tunde Banjoko, a Racial Diversity expert, we designed a new approach to understanding the Racial Minority experience at RG, where he identified three key areas of focus for us in Recruitment, Progression and Leadership. We offered 90 minute, one-on-one, off-site interviews for our Racial Minority employees where they would be interviewed by Tunde on their experience of first impressions, recruitment, progression, leadership, inclusion in our company.
With Tunde and his 25 years experience of working with Racial Minorities, our employees felt safe that he would provide an anonymised, unbiased, expert and neutral response to all answers. He led workshops with our employees where we collaboratively explored ways we could address our challenges together which resulted in over 40 ideas for the People Team to explore. The programme created a report on our Racial Minority Experience and became a key driver and data source for the creation of our forward strategy.
We launched a global learning and awareness course on conscious inclusion and anti-racism with Ruth Turner and Jessica Nordquist, and have since expanded this work to our Bulgarian and Australian offices, working with local providers to get the right training in place for our people.
These courses are focussed on active conversation rather than Powerpoint Presentations to get all employees to start talking about race. We delivered this through local diversity specialists that kept us on the right path of thinking global, but also delivering on a local level to ensure the unique histories are reflected correctly.
Widening the scope in existing channels
To really make an impact, you have to support the companies and the organisations that are involved with being a core part of the change you want to see.
We also looked at our RG Foundation, which is a grant-giving charity supporting people who are making the world a better, fairer, safer and more equal place to work. We created a new round of grants to focus on supporting organisations that are improving racial equality within the workplace, funded by a personal donation from our CEO Doug Butler. I’ve also seen a number of internal channels pop up for others to speak freely about what they’ve been seeing and hearing in the news and how it makes them feel.
In addition to other Networks, we created a Multicultural Network to open up the floor for other RGers to lead the conversation and actions related to race, ethnicity, religion and other cultural identities at RG. As part of the Network plans, we began a We Are Human video series with our Leadership team having open conversations with employees on all aspects of diversity. These included conversations with Black employees on the racial equality movement in early 2020, and conversations on racial trauma inflicted by micro-incivilities, plus other areas of diversity including pride and generational differences.
Creating new homes for conversation and education
The projects opened up an environment where employees now want to learn more on anti-racism. With a wealth of books, podcasts and blogs being shared across our internal communications channels, we wanted a place to centralise the information and keep it continually updated so others could find it.
Our ‘How to be an Ally and Anti-Racist’ Resource Hub is hosted on our internal communications platform, boom! alongside our other Network and Allies hubs (Accessibility, Intergenerational, LGBTQIA+ and Women’s). Our DEI Resources hub also has an internal newsfeed where our Network leads share updates on actions throughout the business and personal stories aligned to the Networks’ missions.
We created the hub in a matter of hours, and have since added loads for employees to further their education, such as videos on systemic racism.
Keeping lines of feedback open for more positive change
We know that we’re not done with our journey here at RG – far from it. Using our employee surveys tool, each of our Network and Ally hubs have a special spot where employees can speak up anonymously to Network Leaders so we can continue to gather feedback and make sure we are making our world a better place to work, for all.
While the change in our people is first and foremost, I can’t ignore the business impact that we’ve seen as we’ve focussed on DEI:
- eNPS score stayed above 70% during COVID when we had D&I as a priority with actual growth.
- Lowest turnover in six years at 13% globally for all reasons for leavers
- 135% increase in applications
We’re still learning every day from our employees and from others on how to open up the conversations and actions about race at work. If you fancy a chat, or want to know more about anything I’ve shared in this blog, please reach out to me on LinkedIn.