Diversity and inclusion have been spoken about for a while now. But while we’re finding some companies make real progress and drive change, others only pay lip service, and the lived experience of employees doesn’t match the company line.
But let’s start with what diversity and inclusion even are.
Diversity is the mix of people that you have in your organization. The range of genders, ethnicities, career backgrounds, education, and all the things that make us individuals give you diversity. Inclusion is the behaviours that ensure all your diverse workforce feels seen, heard and valued. And inclusion is where companies can get stuck. Without valuing diversity and embedding inclusive work practices, you won’t be able to harness the true value of your diverse employees.
We spoke to two of WORK180’s Endorsed Employers about what they have in place to remove the social, physical, or mental barriers for a safe and inclusive workplace and drive an inclusive and anti-discriminatory culture.
How Exa Product Development look after their people
Exa Product Development General Manager, Sarah Bardwell (she/her), shared how policy is combined with a culture to remove social, physical, or mental barriers for their team members.
“At Exa Product Development, we encourage ‘Mental Health Days’ (the Leadership team proudly take them too!). However, we’ve found that alleviating the mental barriers to a safe and inclusive workplace requires more than policy generation alone. Our healthy and supportive culture has been built by fostering open communication and trust.”
Through team coaching and high-performance culture sessions, Exa creates a safe space to be vulnerable, understand yourself, and build meaningful relationships with colleagues. The whole company is able to participate in these initiatives because Exa understands the importance of culture for their business outcomes – and for their people!
“Our investments in this area have created a workplace that is emphatic to the experiences of others and enables team members to bring their ‘whole self’ to work.”
How to identify tokenism
The worst thing we see here at WORK180 is companies who talk the talk, but most definitely do not walk the walk. You know the type of company – they say their values include caring for people and embracing diversity, but the people themselves are burnt out, undervalued, and unhappy.
Well at Exa Product Development, it’s not just lip service. And for job seekers trying to work out whether the company culture is the real deal, Sarah suggests,
“Ask your interviewer the tough questions! Do they engage thoughtfully and genuinely with you? Are they excited by your questions, for you to add to the culture of the organization? Trust your gut; if something seems disingenuous, it probably is.”
What it’s like from the inside
Sally Watson (she/her) is a Principal Consultant who joined Exa in October 2021 after ongoing discussions with the leadership team. She’s been so impressed with the team and process along the way that she changed her plan and joined them.
“When they contacted me initially, I wasn’t ready to commit to a permanent role as I was consulting and had just moved house. However, I was impressed with the manner of communication and openness from the start, so, when I was ready to get back to regular work, I saw they were hiring and I reached out. There were many pleasant surprises during the recruitment process that ensued.
“During the interview process, I had the opportunity to meet the wider team which felt very natural and respectful. I was able to build a rapport and the employment offer felt like a natural progression.”
“Exa also agreed to a part-time employment arrangement to support my personal needs without trying to ‘lowball’ me on salary as has happened with other jobs. This, in conjunction with strong ethical and cultural alignment with my own ethos, made accepting the offer an easy decision.”
“Since joining Exa, I have found the employment experience matched the expectations that were set during the interview process. I’m challenged to keep growing as a professional while enjoying the journey too.”
Sally Watson (she/her), Principal Consultant at Exa Product Development.
Kicking goals at Vaultex
At Vaultex, ensuring they are truly an inclusive organization is one of the most important agenda items. HR Manager (Recruitment), Nicole Tomlinson, shared with us:
“We have launched several initiatives over the past year with a key focus on placing accountability for inclusion and signaling the direction we want to take as a company.”
The initiatives include:
- Board diversity targets
- A new DEI policy and diversity strategy
- A Black History month education campaign and a racial inclusivity training module on their E-Learning system
- Signed up to the Halo Code. This is the UK’s first black hair code, championing the right of our people to embrace all afro hairstyles.
- Updated recruitment training to ensure more elements of diversity and unconscious bias are addressed
- Changing all language to gender-neutral in communications
A breadth of impact
Vaultex’s approach to DEI is broad, with commitments in a wide range of areas.
One of the areas Vaultex has chosen to focus on is disability inclusion, ensuring equal opportunity for all. In 2021, Vaultex joined the Valuable 500 putting disability inclusion on the leadership agenda.
The Valuable 500 was formed by 500 CEOs making a commitment to action for disability inclusion in their workplaces. And internally, Nicole says they are committed to supporting their people.
“We offer reasonable adjustments to anyone that needs them, whether this be before interviews, or when someone joins the business.”
They are also increasing their focus on LGBTQ+ people through a range of activities. Training programs are being expanded to make LGBTQ+ training mandatory for all, as well as part of the onboarding process. Their Everyone Counts Open Forums will focus on LGBTQ+ for 2022. Company-wide celebrations and education sessions will continue to raise awareness of the barriers that the LGBTQ+ community face.
Vaultex isn’t stopping there, with additional initiatives around cultural holidays, race, tackling microaggressions, fertility support, mental illness and more. Nicole explains,
“Vaultex offer many benefits to our employees to make sure they feel safe and supported in the workplace.”
How to embed DEI
“Commitment to DEI can be upheld in a few ways. Setting targets which are signed off at a board level is a good start. By playing close attention to statistics, it can help paint a picture of where you are at and it allows for continuous improvement. Empowering employees to put their opinions forward is a key part in ensuring the business are committed to ongoing DEI.”
Want to learn more about how employee feedback is shaping HR policies for the better?
Senior leaders amplifying diversity is crucial for creating an inclusive culture, as leaders have a long shadow. Without leadership buy in, it’s very difficult to create a truly inclusive culture. Vaultex have included diversity on the board targets, giving accountability for inclusion and signalling the direction they want to take as a company.
Additionally, one of their executives is the internal sponsor for the race at work charter pledge. Nicole explains,
“The race at work charter requires signatories to make five commitments – appoint an executive sponsor for race, capture ethnicity data and publicize progress, commit at board level to zero tolerance of harassment, make equality, diversity and inclusion to responsibility of all leaders and managers, and take action that supports Black, Asian, and other ethnically diverse employees’ career progression.”
Not stopping there, Vaultex have formed diversity networks and representatives across all their sites. These networks help ensure diverse and intersectional experiences are highlighted at all levels. The networks act as a platform for sites to be represented and their ideas on D&I to be shared.
To employees wanting to understand the company culture, Nicole suggests,
“When looking for a job make sure you do your research on what they are doing in the DEI space, what are the initiatives, what’s on the agenda, ask yourself how they are making a difference.”
We all want to work in supportive, inclusive work cultures, but it’s not always easy to know if it’s the real deal. Exa Product Development and Vaultex are leading the way, with a broad range of policies and activities to create truly inclusive cultures.