Our inclusion journey: 10 years of Inclusive Employers

This week we continue our celebrations of 10 Years of Inclusion by reflecting on what inclusion looks like in the present day. Our Managing Director Operations, Claire Williams talks about everything from the Inclusive Employers launch, the lack of inclusion landscape 10 years ago, the positive change we have seen in that time and what her ultimate focus and goal for inclusion is.

May 2011 seems like a lifetime ago. 10 Years since Inclusive Employers began! We had a really fancy launch event on the roof of the National Theatre – such a happy memory. I had forgotten to put my phone to silent and was terrified it would ring during the speeches, from its unreachable position inside my handbag underneath the speakers lectern! But luck was on our side and amazingly it didn’t ring… maybe a signal of so many good things to come.

Inclusion, society and the workplace

Planning this blog, my initial sense was that actually, over the past 10 years, the world has become less inclusive, less unified. I was thinking about Brexit, the impact of Trump, of Covid. But of course, looking back and doing some research shows that 2011 was the year of the Egyptian revolution, terror attacks in Norway and the Tottenham Riots and shooting of Mark Duggan. Sadly, our human race continues to experience shocks and jolts, fear and sadness.

As an employers organisation, we need to be aware of the wider societal issues that impact our members and staff but obviously our focus is the workplace. My personal reflections go all the way back to June 1988 when I started work on an HR grad scheme. Aside from compliance-based Equality and Diversity training, nothing was happening and this was the case for so may years … tumbleweed. No one was thinking about organisational glue, the impact of cultures where people can just be themselves.

Ten years ago, when we started this amazing little business, we had many, many conversations, explaining to people what we mean by inclusion. There was no McKinsey data to lean on. All we had was our years of experience in workplaces dealing with discrimination and learning, a deep belief in social justice and an unmovable instinct that inclusion was the way to go.

Inclusion today

Now, inclusion is widely understood and we see it referenced in all parts of our lives. It’s wonderful. Our recent survey results show a fantastic leap in organisations that have co-ordinated inclusion and diversity initiatives in place:

  • From 2% of organisations in 2011 to 48% of organisations today in 2021

It was also wonderful to see that 100% of organisations surveyed said they have at least some inclusion and diversity initiatives in place.

We are still engaging with employers on a daily basis who are completely new to inclusion and diversity. We are all at different stages of our inclusion journey and that is fine – beginning the journey is key. We meet organisations where they are, and they benefit from all our expertise and learning over the past 10 years. We are also working on so many well developed and sophisticated approaches with our members and clients. It is very inspiring. We are so lucky to work in this space and I’m excited about the inclusion and diversity developments that we will see over the next 10 years.

The future of inclusion

There are some major themes for the future that I am thinking about:

  • Keeping the conversation relevant and relatable to the shifts within the working population e.g. age demographics, which relates not only to what we say but how we say it.
  • How we can demonstrate the return on investment in inclusion – we know it’s happening but it would be wonderful to have better data to support the great work that is being done.

Ultimately, my focus has always been, and will always be, about practical approaches to behaviour and attitude change: how to open peoples minds to difference, and give them the personal confidence to embrace active inclusion.