In the early days in my new role, I remember explaining to people the meaning of yet another acronym: the three little letters EDI, meaning equality, diversity and inclusion, and explaining that this was something that should be fundamental to every organisation; Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is good for business, and helps remove barriers to success.
In those first days, I spent time gathering information from across the business and I discovered that there were pockets of both excellence and some great EDI practices across the business. So, my starting point was to identify the ‘good stuff’ that could be replicated and built upon, as well as making sure I flagged some areas for improvement.
Diversity in the workplace can have numerous benefits. Put simply, the greater the mix of people in our business, the greater the mix of skills, experiences, perspectives and ideas we can draw on.
Building a plan
I was very keen to not only look internally at our business’ activities, but also at other businesses’ practices within our industry and even wider afield. I was very mindful that the bigger the pool of ideas, the better the plan would be going forward.
Having attended several industry events, one thing that really struck me was that the sector, as a whole, does recognise the need to change and the importance of EDI, not only as the right thing to do for society, in the workplace and for individuals, but also in our broader industry. EDI is no longer a differentiator between contractors, and as such key industry bodies are actively encouraging collaboration and the sharing of plans and activities, so that the industry as a whole can make progress in this area.
As VolkerWessels UK has been proactively engaging with industry bodies, we have been involved in discussions driving change within the industry, and have been invited to attend, contribute and present at a number of workshops and events. We and other contractors are all looking to develop a joined-up approach in which we all have a part to play, working together for a better future.
Support and commitment
VolkerWessels UK not only to has the full support of the board, but also sponsorship at a senior level from our Chief Finance Officer, Naomi Connell. This commitment to the programme is demonstrated by the roll out of EDI awareness training across the whole business.
Accreditation and foundation
As a business, we decided very early on to partner with a recognised accrediting body who offered us a ‘tried and tested’ structure to follow, which was tailored to our own business needs, so we have been working with the National Centre for Diversity to achieve Investors in Diversity accreditation.
We have also been working to build foundations of excellence around EDI, ensuring the strength and robustness of our approach and commitment for the future. These foundations are not ‘one size fits all’ and have been tailored to ensure they work for each of our individual businesses.
Of course, neither I, nor the board, have a monopoly on good ideas, so we wanted to get feedback from all possible sources, to help define the direction for our EDI journey. To gather this feedback, we ran two EDI surveys, face to face focus groups and one to one discussion sessions, as well as the annual Employee Engagement survey, making sure we captured every possible perspective.
What would utopia look like?
This is a question that I sometimes get asked; the obvious answer would perhaps be: to have the same number of men and women working alongside one another, at the same level and all being paid the same. But it isn’t that simple.
Every industry is different and has its own challenges. Take for example, the fashion industry, predominantly run for and by women – yet the majority of the top roles are held by men.
EDI is a journey which we will need to review, change and adapt as we go along. There is no final destination, and the world around us is quicksilver, moving and reshaping constantly.
My end goal is to ensure that everyone is treated with fairness and respect and that opportunities are visible and accessible, so that everyone can succeed in a way that is right for them. There should be no barriers to success and we should encourage and empower every individual to achieve their potential.
Policies alone are not enough to build an inclusive workplace, and inclusion should not be a box-ticking exercise. Our goal is to engage with our people, to raise awareness and ultimately to enhance our culture, helping to remove perceived barriers and recognising the skills and talents of every individual.
Perhaps instead of EDI, the three little letters should actually read: ALL.
You can review VolkerWessels UK’s Gender Pay Gap report - here.
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