Recruitment consultancy Better Placed is determined to build a culture where its employees feel respected and valued for who they are, as well as what they bring to the organisation.
Here Alison Livesey, Director at Better Placed, explains how it has been inspired by one of its clients, Greene King, to commit to becoming an organisation that prioritises equity, diversity and inclusion.
Eighteen months ago Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) wasn’t a topic on my agenda and if I’m completely honest, it was something I was hesitant to bring up for fear of “getting it wrong”.
Fast forward to now and it’s a subject myself and colleagues are focused on and actively encouraging conversations internally, as well as externally with our clients.
We understand how important it is for people to feel valued, safe, able to perform to their best ability and have a role which allows them to be their authentic self. We know that having diversity of thought and approaches and different perspectives can only make us better.
We’ve taken time to engage with experts, do our own research and reading and look inwardly in an honest manner at how we’re performing.
What has come from that is an updated ED&I policy for 2023 as well as a Statement of Intent, where our aim is to build a culture where our employees feel respected and valued for who they are as well as what they bring to the organisation. In turn, we will provide encouragement for every employee to embrace others for who they are, irrespective of any perceived or invisible differences.
I’m proud to have been part of the team that has written the policy and statement, where we fully commit to encouraging equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our organisation.
Looking ahead, our vision is for our employees to be representative of all sections of society and for each individual to feel respected, valued and able to bring the best version of themselves to work. In tandem with this, we will extend the same ethos to our clients and candidates, endeavouring to leverage our position as an employee-owned, people-centric business to influence and drive equity and inclusion in all we do.
I’m privileged enough to work with the board and alongside colleagues who are incredibly passionate about ED&I and driving real change within our business. We’re now running D&I workshops and have broadened our definition of what a diverse workplace looks like. We express our preferred pronouns, have hosted D&I webinars and podcasts and are gathering more data than ever before.
These are some of the first steps we have taken in an ever-evolving journey but we’ve also been lucky enough to speak to some great people and clients along the way to share advice and take guidance.
One such client is Greene King, the UKs leading pub retailer and brewer. Garry Clarke-Strange is its Head of Inclusion and Diversity and was kind enough to share some of his time and speak to me about ED&I. The business has clear goals and a mission:
“To be the trailblazers on inclusion in hospitality. We’re raising the bar high to not only drive change internally but to influence it externally. We aim to be proud to be seen to be driving change and making a difference to our team members and customer experiences”
Not every business is able to have a dedicated specialist like yourself so we wanted to ask what you think are the best first steps businesses can take on their journey to recruiting a diverse workforce?
GARRY CLARKE-STRANGE: It’s a difficult journey to commence and there is definitely a fear factor which can make it a hard topic to address. I think it’s important for companies to be authentic and work out their intent. The “why” they’re embarking on this. It needs to be meaningful and not a box-ticking exercise to get full buy-in. Inclusivity can enable individuals and a business to achieve real success.
It’s so important to be honest about where you are on the journey. Understand your people, listen better, look at the data you have on their profiles and then decide on that intent.
Look externally for support too, speak to experts in the field about where you are and where you want to be, go to events, go to talks and then start to make things happen!
It’s clear that in order for diverse talent to thrive, businesses must create an inclusive culture. What do you think employers can be doing to foster supportive environments to encourage a diverse workforce to meet its potential?
GARRY CLARKE-STRANGE: This is clearly a journey we’re on and none of us have all the answers to all these questions but for me it is important to focus on creating a culture of inclusivity where talent can thrive. We don’t want to go out and actively recruit diverse talent into the business and bring them to an environment that isn’t supportive. I believe we’re doing more damage to people’s careers by not enabling people to be their best and feel welcome.
Look at the leaders in your business and think about how you can educate them on what inclusion can bring and ensure they buy into the journey, which again goes back to intent. This isn’t a box-ticking exercise, it’s part of overall culture change and business success. The more we talk about this subject the more it becomes a lived reality for our people and they feel more comfortable in expressing their feelings and thoughts and the more change we can drive.
Greene King is doing some great work in this space, shining a light on the topic with thought provoking content such as this video talking to employees about their own lived experiences. The video ends with “it’s OK not to know everything, but it’s better to know more”. Do you have any thoughts on how we can encourage discourse amongst teams and individuals on what can feel like an intimidating subject?
GARRY CLARKE-STRANGE: Taking a look inwardly at the business and being open and honest about where you are on the journey is a great start. Talk about your intent, where you are currently, your vision and what are the drivers that will help you achieve this vision. It’s important to try and remove fear to encourage investment from employees. It’s OK for us to admit we don’t know everything about this topic and it’s OK to feel a little vulnerable talking about it in a business. It’s better to get a few things wrong on the way and learn more than learn nothing at all.
I was really lucky to join Greene King at a time of great change, with new leadership and a new real focus on people and culture which had buy-in at that senior level. We’ve been pushing the narrative around our journey, our intent and the activities we’re running to be clear we are not there yet but we talk openly about wanting to have cultural change. I think trust and honesty will help that, we’re at a point where we have 90% of employee profile data and that has helped us create a real strategy based on data.
Last year we launched Ability, which is an employee-led inclusion group which will support our team members with disabilities and aims to encourage more disabled workers to join Greene King. The group will raise awareness around different disabilities, both visible and non-visible, and the different challenges they present to employees. Ability joins our other groups Village Greene, Unity and Greene Sky who support our LGBT+, ethnic minority and female communities respectively. We will soon offer our hiring managers training around how to provide reasonable adjustment to candidates interviewing with us to make the process as accessible as possible on top of our initial Inclusive Leadership training which we launched last year.