More than just words

As many of you will know, this week is National Inclusion Week; an opportunity for businesses and individuals to share best practise and inspiration on how to create a more inclusive culture, remove bias and promote diverse approaches towards business challenges and initiatives. It is also a chance for people to feel empowered to challenge processes, behaviour and terminology that may cause feelings of inequality.

Although the importance of National Inclusion Week cannot be understated, the fight for an inclusive culture takes more than seven days once a year. The work towards inclusivity, equality and diversity within organisations is something that should be kept at the top of the agenda 365 days a year and be present throughout everything they do. National Inclusion Week creates a sounding board for change, but it is up to us to continue that work indefinitely.

The answer as to why diversity and inclusion in the workplace is so important will differ based on who you ask however, to understand why a business should have such a consistent focus, they must first look at the benefits.

Communication and Engagement

First and foremost, the most important benefit of creating an inclusive workplace culture is the happiness of your team and when employees feel listened to, included and understood, they are more likely to feel engaged and content at work. It's extremely important that team members know they can bring their true and authentic self to work every single day but also that they feel empowered and comfortable to challenge non-inclusive behaviour.

Uniqueness and Creativity

Without a diverse approach to business challenges, they will remain exactly that – challenges. Effective problem solving and innovation requires a diverse and unique team of people to ensure the phrase “But we've always done it that way” is not the default when discussing change. With a more diverse team of people in place, problem solving, decision making, and innovation becomes a much more exciting and prosperous process for individuals and businesses alike.

Preparing for the future

Having a diverse and inclusive culture will not only make for a happier and more productive team of current employees, but also helps set a business up for the future. Times are changing and working for a business with a clear focus on diversity and inclusion is now one of the deciding factors in people choosing a place of work. Without practises in place, your business could well be missing out on new talent, with a wide range of skills and passion for innovation.

Now, these are just a few reasons why an inclusive culture should be at the top of the agenda for organisations and it is something that we have a continuous focus on across our Retail and Commercial businesses and the Wessex Water Group.

Ultimately, we are a people business and it's very important to not only ensure we have a talented, diverse and happy team in place, but that we also understand the needs and wants of our customers. Fairness and equality for all ensures a diverse team, which in turn provides a diverse and varied approach towards our business challenges and ensures that we are innovating for the future.

I am extremely proud to work with such a passionate team of people who are continually looking for new ways to ensure every single member of our business feels included and listened to. Now whilst we still have much to learn and are always looking to understand what we could do differently, the key to any success we have had so far, is ensuring our initiatives and team member networks are run for the people, by the people. I find the most successful way to encourage a culture of inclusivity is to empower team members to put forward their own ideas and take ownership for making real change happen.

Other activity that has supported an inclusive culture, is the work that takes place across our businesses with real social purpose. Whilst this is a topic in itself worthy of discussion, working with communities and charities, running education programmes, supporting an ever growing green economy and being true ambassadors for our social mobility pledge all help our people get involved in rewarding initiatives and truly feel part of something real, where their contribution matters!

It has been fantastic to read so many stories so far during National Inclusion Week of the work of businesses and individuals creating a unique and happy work environment, so in the interest of supporting this week's conversation and encouraging others to share, I thought I would detail some of the work that has taken place across our group of businesses that is supporting our workplace to feel inclusive for all #EveryoneBelongs

Working Parents Network

Our Working Parent Network was set up to provide a forum for working parents to discuss challenges they may face when trying to balance work and family life. The group is also a great place for our team to share ideas and top tips, with family holidays and discounts always being a firm favourite! Our flexible working and family friendly policies were subsequently improved following open and honest dialogue with the network.

'Pride Patrol'

Something that we look forward to every year is Bristol Pride and when it comes to celebrating, our Pride Patrol are on the case! I am always overwhelmed with the passion and creativity that goes into organising our attendance each year and it has been fantastic to see the group grow and grow.

Disability Confident

In 2019 we were very proud to achieve our ‘Disability Confident Committed’ status. This scheme is in place to support employers to make the most of the talents that disabled people can bring to the workplace. We now guarantee interview slots for anyone applying for a job with us who has a disability. In addition, our managers are expertly trained to understand disability requirements and how to support with adjustments.

Healthy Conversation

Miscarriage. Cancer. Menopause. These are all topics that can be seen by some as taboo, but we wanted to change that. In 2019, we launched our Healthy Conversation programme with a different focus each quarter. Every quarter we receive some extremely honest and emotional stories from team members who have wanted to share their experiences. I am extremely proud of everyone that has not only shared their story, but who has been brave enough to include their name, meaning team members who may be going through a similar situation themselves can reach out for support.

Women in Business

We are proud to be a signatory of the Women in Business Charter which was created to inspire and support Bristol businesses to create gender equal workplaces. Each of our businesses has made a list of commitments for how they plan to achieve this with each being held accountable for providing a clear and concise annual progress update.

We are always looking for ways to further improve our culture of inclusivity, and I would love to hear from anyone who would like to share successes within their organisations and hopefully together, we can inspire even more change! #Collaboration