Personnel Today Awards 2008: Award for Diversity in the Workplace

This award recognises teams that have not only demonstrated a diverse workforce and the measures taken to achieve it, but have also shown the value and business benefits of a cross-cultural, gender and age mix. Entries showed inclusive recruitment policies, meaningful diversity training programmes and strong links to local communities.

Award sponsor

Pinsent Masons is an international law firm, with more than 275 partners and almost 1,000 lawyers worldwide. It has a range of clients in the private and public sectors.

Award judge

Catharine Pusey is chief executive of the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), an independent network of employers who recognise the value of an age-diverse workforce. Pusey is responsible for leading the strategy, running the membership operation, determining key campaigns and developing the EFA’s relationship with the government and the media. She was previously director of BFI Trading, responsible for founding and managing the commercial division of the British Film Institute.

Bank of Scotland Corporate

The team: HR
Number in team: 46
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 9,000

About the organisation

Bank of Scotland Corporate operates in the financial services sector, where it specialises in corporate finance, delivering funding solutions across a range of markets.

The challenge

Through staff feedback, the team discovered that only 2% of colleagues had participated in diversity training, and that gay and lesbian staff or those with a disability reported significantly lower levels of inclusion than their white, male counterparts. They also found that staff heard little about diversity even though they saw it as important, and that just 25% felt diversity was well supported by the company.

What the organisation did

  • The team developed a colleague engagement strategy, and positioned diversity as part of corporate responsibility to encourage ownership

  • HR made sure the diversity agenda was promoted by senior management, and implemented tailored diversity plans across each business

  • The team also reviewed and challenged recruitment and talent management processes.

Benefits and achievements

  • An inclusive culture

  • 91% of colleagues now understand the important of equal opportunities and diversity

  • Flexible working encouraged at all levels

  • Equal pay analysis conducted annually

  • Visible and consistent leadership has been backed up by a robust governance framework that is driving culture change.

The judge says: “A good example of using staff feedback to identify the scale of the diversity challenge and making a long-term commitment to change. Improvement on all measures was impressive, as was the involvement from all levels.”

Kent Police Force

The team: Recruitment
Number in team: 9
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 750-1,500

About the organisation

Kent Police provides policing services in Kent and Medway, which covers 1,509 square miles, and has a population of 1.6 million people.

The challenge

To find ways of breaking down negative cultural preconceptions held by potential recruits in the Asian, Sikh and Muslim communities, to support ethnic applicants through the selection process and beyond, while avoiding disadvantaging applicants from Western backgrounds.

What the organisation did

Following a review of the recruitment process, the team launched four new initiatives:

  • A better-targeted recruitment campaign

  • A personal family visit to all applicants

  • Workshops to explain the mechanics of the selection process, to present a positive self-image and to emphasise that Kent Police values its minority ethnic officers

  • Presentations to the workforce to raise wider understanding and gain further support.

Benefits and achievements

  • A significant rise in the number of minority ethnic applicants

  • On target to exceed government-set recruitment objectives

  • Strong relationships with Asian, Sikh and Muslim communities

  • Increase in the membership of the staff support group, Kent Minority Ethnic Police Association

  • Interest from other police forces keen to learn.

The judge says: “This organisation had a set of difficult and interlinked challenges. While not all of the techniques that it employed to meet them were new, the team made considerable efforts to engage with target communities and in particular with the friends and families of potential recruits. The results of the team’s activities speak for themselves.”

British Gas Services

The team: Recruitment
Number in team: 30
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 2,500

About the organisation

British Gas Services, part of the Centrica Group, is a domestic central heating and gas appliance company, providing customers with maintenance and breakdown cover.

The challenge

The team wanted British Gas Services to become an employer of choice, and for its engineering workforce to closely reflect the diversity of both its customers and changing UK demographics. Its 2007 plan was to recruit 10% of trainee engineers from the female population and it is now working towards 12.5% this year.

What the organisation did

  • The team designed and developed a curriculum-based series of workshops to involve and enthuse young women about engineering, speaking at schools and appointing engineering ambassadors

  • Held women-only open days and advertised in appropriate media

  • Hosted more than 650 students at its training centres and developed a games console-style interactive challenge.

Benefits and achievements

  • Promoted positive engineering and career opportunities to 750,000 women, young and under-represented people

  • A 10% increase in female trainee appointments in 2007

  • Good relationships and recruitment ties with women’s groups

  • Now recruits for attitude, rather than technical skills.

The judge says: “The entry demonstrated creative thinking and showed how outside-the-box methods were able to reach the target candidate pool. The investment in building a relationship with young people before they enter the recruitment pool has clearly delivered results. A four-fold increase in female trainee engineers is proof enough of the success of the plan.”

Stockport Council

The team: HR
Number in team: 85
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 11,000

About the organisation

Stockport Council provides key services such as education, social services, housing, planning and transportation, community and leisure services, environmental health, and finance to a population of 280,000.

The challenge

To create opportunities and ways into the organisation for people with learning difficulties. To convince managers that people with learning difficulties could add value.

What the organisation did

  • Began by simplifying its recruitment policy and introducing new practices, such as job carving – creating roles from within roles, and customising them to suit the skills of people with learning disabilities

  • Worked with its supported employment partner to sell some of its new ideas to local businesses, sharing policies with them and holding best practice events

  • Attended regional events to help other supported employment agencies and helped host national events run by the Employers Forum on Disability.

Benefits and achievements

  • Stockport Council now employs 25 people with learning difficulties

  • 19 of them work for more than 16 hours a week

  • Six of them work on a programme called ‘hours work’ and are supported in their duties

  • The Value in Public workshops have helped 30 people find work in public sector agencies.

The judge says: “The organisation identified people with very specific needs who were under-represented in its workforce. Analysis of job specifications and adjustments to the complex recruitment process led to the creation of opportunities for people to enter employment for the first time. This is an interesting example of an employer adopting flexibility and increasing diversity.”

Enterprise Rent-a-Car

The team: HR
Number in team: 65
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 3,300

About the organisation

Enterprise, founded in the US, is one of the largest car rental companies in the world, with an annual turnover of $9bn (£4.9bn), and more than 6,900 locations worldwide.

The challenge

To create a culturally aware workforce and a culturally competent organisation that mirrors the make-up of the communities it serves. To develop an innovative diversity strategy that makes a clear link between business strategy and diversity, while building awareness of diversity among employees and attracting and retaining talent from under-represented backgrounds.

What the organisation did

The diversity strategy is led by a national diversity steering group and delivered by the business. Initiatives included:

  • A diversity training programme, created and facilitated by specialist diversity consultants

  • The Come Alive recruitment campaign, an inclusive, ‘wide-net’ campaign

  • Encouraging supplier diversity

  • Community links

  • Encouraging flexible working.

Benefits and achievements

  • Increase in ethnic minority recruits

  • Improvements in staff retention

  • External recognition

  • Increase in minority suppliers

  • Marked increase in the number of employees returning to work after maternity leave

  • Attracted new business partners and customers who share its diversity philosophy.

The judge says: “This entry showed clearly how diversity-aware employees can make a difference to business performance. In addition to improving the diversity and opportunities for its own workforce, the company encouraged its supply chain to adopt diverse employment practices and so increased opportunity and business benefits across the communities in which it operates.”

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