How to understand and embed workplace inclusion

This May we celebrated 10 years since Inclusive Employers began, and we took a moment to look at the impact on inclusion is our work currently having.

Working with Inclusive Employers, as partnership members, over the last four years has enabled Grant Thornton, one of the world’s largest accounting networks, to accelerate its inclusion and diversity agenda. Here the organisation’s Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director, Jenn Barnett, explains how working together has helped to expand and focus its inclusion and diversity work.

Inclusive Employers, a personal approach

Grant Thornton chose Inclusive Employers as its external partner for inclusion and diversity membership because of our personal approach. Their Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director explains how they were inspired by the passion of their Inclusive Employers account manager:

“…it is very personal approach. It was very easy to connect with Richard, our account manager, on an individual level. That’s what I needed… one-to-one approach and support.”

One of the key objectives was for inclusion and diversity to become a core part of business, a consideration for everyone’s role. Previously the organisation had a big focus on social mobility, but wanted to broaden its reach across the strands, as well as understand and embed inclusion.

Inclusive Employers supported by advising on how to put a structure in place to make that happen – where to start and what to prioritise. This combination of internal vision and expert inclusion and diversity advice means the working partnership has delivered on its objective and continues to work together to make inclusion an everyday reality.

Successful outcomes when you take action on inclusion

By choosing to prioritise inclusion Grant Thornton has hugely amplified its inclusion agenda. Expanding its inclusion and diversity resource has been an important factor in achieving this:

“One of the earliest bits of advice we received from Inclusive Employers was to get our resource set up to deliver this properly. It’s taken a bit of time to get there, but it is where we have evolved to – we have more people involved and engaged.”

Jenn Barnett, Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director

Her own role has developed from two days a week to full-time and she is accompanied by another full-time role, alongside support from teams of seconded colleagues.

Alongside additional resource, Grant Thornton’s inclusion and diversity progress includes:

  • From 0-250 inclusion allies. Inclusive Employers supported the organisation to develop its allies programme.
  • Developed a reverse mentoring programme. This started small and has now greatly expanded, due to high levels of interest.
  • Fantastic buy-in from the CEO and leadership team.
  • No. 2 on the Social Mobility Employer Index and within the top 20 employers for Working Families Index.
  • Greater awareness about the work that needs to be done. The external pressures of the pandemic have galvanised the organisation to focus and accelerate its work on ethnicity and mental health.
  • Treating inclusion and diversity as business critical.

The Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director recognises that inclusion and diversity is in a completely different place to where it was ten years ago:

“… All of our clients are asking about it, about 90% of our bids ask us about it. It is imperative that we get it right. It is no longer just about the people and culture agenda, it is part of the business agenda, which is where we always wanted it to be.”

Advice for your inclusion journey

Grant Thornton is now moving away from a strand-by-strand approach to one that is intersectional, holistic and inclusive. Its focuses include talent acquisition, retention and development. An area they are really focusing on is culture. As its Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director Director says:

“If you create a culture where people feel like they belong and feel safe you can actually retain much more diverse talent.  We are also trying to build our networks, employee resource groups and external support.”

They also recognise that inclusion and diversity:

“…can feel quite overwhelming, it’s complex and there is a lot to do.”

Their advice to other organisations on their inclusion journey includes:

  • Work with an external partner, like Inclusive Employers. A partner who will help you understand where your organisation is at and support you to strategically map out the next steps. They will help you to identify what is most important for you to focus on and how to make that happen.
  • Get traction on what is most important for you (as you will have identified in the step above). Work on these focus areas and move them forward before starting on other things. Engagement and buy-in on your priority areas will enable you to move them forward quite quickly. Once this has happened then you can expand your areas of focus.
  • Equip yourself with dedicated resource. Whilst it is important to involve and engage as many people in your organisation as possible with inclusion and diversity, it’s essential that you have expert resource in-house whose role is dedicated to I&D.

Positive progress for inclusion and diversity

Inclusion has never been higher on the agenda of organisations around the world. Grant Thornton’s Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director reflects on this:

“I feel very optimistic about that, almost like we are just at the start of things. We know we have got loads to do and it will mature as we progress. It’s going to become foundational to everything that we do. It is about creating a culture where every single person feels that they belong. They feel safe to contribute, safe to challenge and if you can get people in a position where they feel safe to challenge you will get the best diversity of thought, productivity and it massively improves people’s mental health.

Inclusion is all about being able to have different conversations in slightly different ways with different people, flexing style, understanding your impact, thinking about your own emotional intelligence.”

Thank you to Grant Thornton’s Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Director for sharing your experience and insight with us.

This May we celebrated 10 years of inclusion and 10 years since Inclusive Employers was founded. Now working with over 230 members and established as leading-experts in the field of inclusion and diversity, it is wonderful to read about how our work has inspired and has positive ongoing results for our members and clients.

To find out how we can work with you to embed inclusion into your culture and business agenda please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.