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Using the six pillars of inclusion to shape an impactful inclusion campaign

The six pillars of inclusion are the model we use at Inclusive Employers to shape the advice and support we offer to the organisations we work with; it also forms the framework for the Inclusive Employers Standard, our inclusion accreditation tool.

These pillars are interconnected and together form a strong foundation for best practice, future-proofed inclusion approaches.

To illustrate this model in real life we spoke to East Midlands Railway (EMR), who were awarded a silver accreditation in the Inclusive Employers Standard in 2022, about how they used the six pillars of inclusion to shape their extremely successful Period Dignity Project.

East Midlands Railway’s Period Dignity Project

The period dignity scheme aimed to improve the employee experience, by offering free period products at any staffed EMR location. This would create a more inclusive workplace for menstruating colleagues, by giving them access to products essential for their comfort and wellbeing.

In addition to this, the customer-facing ‘Package for Sandy’ campaign aimed to improve the customer and employee experience by offering free period products for anyone who was ‘caught short’ while visiting one of their stations and to consciously reduce the barriers faced by employees and customers to accessing period products.

The phrase ‘Package for Sandy’ was taken from a national inclusion campaign for free period products, to allow discretion for customers who may feel uncomfortable openly asking for period products. Customers just need to use the code phrase ‘Package for Sandy’ at a supervisors’ office and they will receive a discreet package containing sustainable, ethically sourced TOTM period care products completely for free.

The project has the six pillars of inclusion in its DNA. This blog showcases how each pillar is embedded in the project and how using the six pillars as the foundation for any inclusion project can help you to build strong, sustainable inclusive approaches in your organisation.

Pillar 1: Engage – How employee engagement methods were used to inform the campaign

The initial idea for a period dignity campaign was put forward as an employee suggestion through Balance, the EMR women’s employee network group.

Data around employee numbers and toilet facilities at stations, depots, and offices was used to launch the scheme for staff at all staffed EMR locations. After the successful launch of the staff scheme, data around passenger numbers was reviewed to pilot a similar customer scheme.

Derby station was highlighted as it was a larger hub station and central to the EMR network. Twelve envelopes of period care products were stored in the supervisor’s office at Derby station and posters were used to launch the trial. Following the launch, the trial was extended to a further 7 key locations, with future plans to extend the campaign to on board trains by 2024. The scheme was promoted through posters and social media channels.

Engaging with employees means that EMR has established clear channels for colleagues to feedback ideas and comments, so they were able to collect great ideas like this one, that can be truly impactful on the quality of experience for colleagues and customers. EMR had an understanding of their colleagues and customers through diversity data and local census data, which meant they were able to identify the key areas that were most impactful for this campaign. They then enhanced the impact of the campaign by using communications methods that were most appropriate for engaging their target audience.

Pillar 2: Equip – How employees were equipped to implement the project

EMR made sure that colleagues all felt they had the skills and awareness needed to successfully implement this project and support customers requesting period care products.

The methods they used included emails, posters in stations and a social media campaign. Supervisors were contacted specifically, to makes sure they understood 1) the process that customers would follow when they requested period care products, and, 2) their responsibility as a supervisor in the implementation of the campaign in their station.

Equipping colleagues at all levels so they feel comfortable to implement it, is vital for any inclusion campaign to be successful. This support can come in several different ways depending on the responsibilities and complexity of the project. In EMR’s case this was achieved  by giving the necessary information and guidance through targeted verbal and written communication. For more complex projects organisations may need to implement specific training, policies, or guidance documents to equip colleagues.

“The Inclusive Employers Standard underpins the way that EMR approach diversity and inclusion.”

Nicky Shearer, EMR Organisation Development and Culture

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Pillar 3: Empower – How EMR empowered employees to develop and lead the project

For anyone who works in inclusion and diversity you will know that you cannot do it alone, and your key resources are your people.

After the project was suggested by members of the women’s network it was clear that working collaboratively with the network was the best way to implement a strong, impactful and sustainable campaign. The initial design was led by the network leads who carried out the scoping exercise and put together a business case to secure funding to implement the scheme.

To ensure the project is sustainable key representatives from the network monitored stock levels at their locations, and informed the network leads when more stock was required. This ensured that stock availability and uptake is monitored and managed locally, as well as centrally. The scheme has been supported at all levels of the business, including a clear message from EMR’s Managing Director and leadership teams who have promoted the scheme internally.

Empowering colleagues to lead on inclusion campaigns has a number of benefits. Firstly, colleagues are often closest to the challenge, so in the best position to offer interesting and engaging solutions. Secondly, decentralising inclusion work and engaging more people across the organisation ensures projects are more viable in the long term and less impacted by workload changes. Finally, engaging passionate and knowledgeable colleagues allows the organisation to benefit from their expertise and experiences, as well as allowing the individual to build new skills for their personal development.

Pillar 4: Embed – How the project embeds into organisational strategy and key KPIs

EMR’s strategic vision is “Customers at the heart of our sustainable railway for the East Midlands”.  The period dignity campaign feeds into several aspects of the EMR strategic approach, by providing a visible commitment to inclusivity in the workplace for both colleagues and customers, and by contributing to their vision around sustainability.

EMR chose to partner with the sustainable and ethical supplier TOTM, because their organic low-waste products are in line with EMR’s ethical and environmental goals. In addition, for each box EMR purchase, £0.10 is donated back to Endometriosis UK as a further strategic commitment to furthering health research and development.

Embedding inclusion is key. At Inclusive Employers we describe it as the golden thread that connects all the work throughout an organisation. This approach ensures that inclusion work is impactful and leads to meaningful change. When considering different inclusion campaigns always go back to your strategic goals and explore how the campaign can contribute to achieving key organisational and inclusion goals.

Pillar 5: Evaluate – How regular evaluation is built into the project to understand impact

EMR have consciously built evaluation into the project to allow them to understand the impact across different stations and explore how the project can be developed in the future.

They capture qualitative data through employee and customer feedback, both verbally and in writing, to understand the experiences of how people engaged with the campaign. They also monitor stock levels and other external data points to understand which stations and areas are in greatest need. For example, during the pilot process they noticed that stations with no shops or facilities nearby such as Kettering and East Midlands Parkway, used up the stock of products significantly faster, so the decision was taken to ensure these stations were provided with more stock in order to keep up with demand. EMR are currently handing out an average of 20 period packages to customers each month and approximately 600 products a month to employees across the business.

Evaluation is often thought of as something that is done at the end of a project, but by building evaluation into projects from the beginning the correct information and data is gathered allowing for future decisions to be informed by evidence. It is best practice to have a mixture of quantitative data (numbers) and qualitative data (words) to best understand the impact of your campaign at all stages.

Pillar 6: Evolve – How the project being used to evolve the rail industry and beyond

This project is a great example of how a suggestion from a passionate colleague can build into an impactful and engaging project that benefits hundreds of people. It is really important when we deliver impactful inclusion work to talk about it both internally and externally, which allow others to learn from our success.

EMR have been actively sharing their learning and success from this project with other rail operators and businesses who are keen to implement similar schemes. These include Network Rail, Transport for Wales, LNER, and Greater Anglia, which will have an untold positive impact on customers and rail colleagues across the UK.

The women’s network have been interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Nottingham, and BBC Radio Leicester regarding the scheme and promoting the positive benefits for menstruating colleagues in the workplace, and the scheme has also been noted as a case study for the Department for Transport for customer experience, to understand if this can be implemented further.

Using the six pillars and the Inclusive Employers Standard has helped East Midlands Railway shape their ever-growing inclusion approach. Nicky Shearer, EMR’s Organisation Development and Culture Manager said:

“The Inclusive Employers Standard underpins the way that EMR approach diversity and inclusion.  Inclusive Employers are a supportive and valued point of contact, and their online webinars, resources and regular update meetings provide us with training and guidance, increasing our confidence in our approach.”

How can the Inclusive Employers Standard support you?

If you are interested in exploring how the Inclusive Employers Standard can support your organisation to measure and progress its inclusion work then the Inclusive Employers Standard team would love to support you to do this. The Inclusive Employers Standard is currently open for submissions until 28th June 2024 and you need to confirm your registration by 24th May 2024. You can ask the team any questions you have by using the form below:

Grow your team

When you become an Inclusive Employers’ Member you grow your I&D team.

Your account manager works with you to understand your goals, your challenges and achievable next steps.

Do you need more support for your inclusive culture to thrive?

Learn about membership today

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