Making a difference

What are public sector HR leaders doing to tackle diversity issues? Personnel Today asks four organisations

Department of Trade and Industry

Shirley Pointer, HR director, says: “Our policy is to encourage employers to maximise the benefits of diversity in their own workforce. We also deliver services, such as those offered by Business Links, to a diverse community of customers and stakeholders.

“For our own staff, we have concentrated on building an infrastructure that supports their diversity. We have made diversity an integral part of our performance appraisal system and established diversity champions in business units. We have established a network of employee-led equality advisory groups, which we consult about a wide range of policy and change issues.

“We are committed to building on this in the future, particularly as we implement our department-wide change programme. We are conducting race, gender and disability impact assessments to ensure that our plans do not have a negative effect on the diversity of our workforce. We are also working to move from centrally-led initiatives to mainstreaming diversity into the way we work, making diversity a core element of our employment proposition.”

Department for Work and Pensions

Dr Barbara Burford, director of diversity & equality, says: “The Department for Work and Pensions is a government department with the potential to touch the lives of all UK citizens. We believe that equality of opportunity and outcome, as well as actively valuing diversity, is morally right, socially desirable and makes good business sense.

“Our philosophy is based on the concept that ‘to treat me equally, you may have to treat me differently’.

The DWP’s strategy ‘Opportunity and security throughout life’ sets out three clear goals:

  • To provide greater opportunities for people to work
  • To support families and children
  • To provide security and dignity in retirement.

“In support of these goals, our diversity strategy ‘Diversity with purpose’ focuses activities and seeks outcomes which will promote diversity across the DWP covering all aspects of its role as a policy maker, an employer and a provider of customer service.

“There are several examples of tools and products that have been mainstreamed into the DWP as part of our commitment to ensure that diversity issues are at the core of all our work. These include the ‘impact assessment framework’ – a tool to guide decision-makers when assessing policies to ensure that they do not disproportionately affect any particular group. ‘Race to improve’ is a series of products aimed at ensuring all our services are accessible to older and ethnic minority customers, while the ‘diversity toolkit’ is available through our intranet, covering all aspects of diversity legislation, guidance and good practice.”

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service

Nick Mernock, personnel manager, says: “We are building relationships that ensure the service fully represents the communities we serve.
We continue to develop the procedures to actively encourage participation by community groups and their leaders as diversity partners to support and develop our practices and the profile of the service.

“This is supported by clear actions to ensure that everyone who wishes to pursue a career in the fire service is given every opportunity to do so.
This involves pre-recruitment assistance in both mental and physical skills; open access to all our buildings and managers before application; clear and transparent policies and participation in initiatives. For example, we are an approved user of the disability ‘two-tick symbol’ – a recognition given by Jobcentre Plus to employers who have agreed to meet five commitments regarding the recruitment, employment, retention and career development of disabled people.

“We want everyone to have access to the service and we continue to develop our community advocates programme with the appointment of bi-lingual advocates, including Chinese, Asian, Somali and Yemani speakers. We have also appointed advocates to work with the deaf, disabled, older and younger members of the community.”

Essex Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Kim Nurse, director of human resources, says: “Promoting equality of opportunity, good race relations and eliminating illegal discrimination must be at the heart of all modern services, and the NHS is no different. As an NHS organisation we have been developing our capacity to set goals, assessing our own performance, and demonstrating improvements in health and healthcare. This has also included measuring progress in diversity.

“We recognise that making progress requires leadership, sustained commitment, resources and managerial attention. We have invested in leadership development programmes for all our managers, and diversity courses are built into our professional training courses and annual development updates for all staff.

“We constantly improve our ethnic monitoring data, both by reviewing our existing workforce and throughout new recruitment episodes. The percentage of women entering the profession has increased significantly over the past few years, partly because of our flexible working arrangements and family friendly policies.

“We have a mentoring scheme where managers volunteer to support staff from minority ethnic backgrounds. All our new emergency medical technicians are allocated a mentor to support them through their first year of professional practice. This two-way process is excellent in providing the trust with information about where we might address our training and development focus in the future to improve patient care.

“Working with our occupational health advisers, existing and new staff – who may require aids adaptations or support to enter or remain in employment if they have a disability – have been actively pursued to ensure our services continue to benefit from their experience and expertise within the workforce.

“The NHS is a growth organisation. It is essential that we present ourselves as a model organisation with modern employment practices. As a county-wide emergency service our trust strives to engage with all community groups and to grow our workforce to reflect our communities. We are striving to create an organisation in which diversity issues are integral to all decision-making and the workforce is well balanced and continues to deliver a patient-centred service.”

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