https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2015/09/04/diversity-and-inclusion-a-must-for-organisational-health/

Diversity and inclusion: a must for organisational health

Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats

No organisation can hope to succeed without fully embracing diversity and inclusion. They are a prerequisite to building a successful and sustainable enterprise, not to mention integral parts of the Civil Service Leadership Statement.

I’m fortunate to work at the Ministry of Justice, where excellent work on creating the right culture has been going on for many years. Ann Beasley, our diversity champion, has provided great leadership on this. (Incidentally, we are in that minority of organisations where there are more women than men on our executive committee.) Also, at the Legal Aid Agency, our champion Ruth Wayte’s efforts were rewarded with two out of 18 nominations at the last year’s Civil Service Diversity Awards – way beyond the law of averages.

There are plenty of reasons to take these issues very seriously. Time and again it’s been shown that accessing the skills, knowledge and insight of people from all parts of society leads to better results for the organisation.

Overwhelming case

In the Civil Service, it’s particularly important that we are representative of the public we serve. And there’s our obligation to provide more opportunity to protected groups. Getting the right people into the right jobs, and promoting social mobility, is essential, too. We need to manage our talent to maximise our potential.

All this adds up to an overwhelming case for taking action and going beyond mere compliance.

For me, as a chief executive and leader, there’s an additional reason to act. I’ve concluded that the way we deal with these issues is a sign of how healthy the organisation is. We all need to be open-minded, flexible and collaborative. These attributes are much more likely to co-exist in an organisation where diversity and inclusion are given the highest priority. Embracing this agenda helps avoid group-think emerging and helps us stay focused on the needs of our colleagues and partners.

I want to work in an organisation that has the right culture, and a lot of my job is about creating this. I work hard to lead organisations that are positive and outward-looking, that promote teamwork and common purpose, and that take a real pride in what they do.

Exceptional support

I also think it’s really important that we do our best to look after each other, something that often seems hard to do in large organisations but can make all the difference to their people.

I’m pleased that there are plenty of practical instances of this approach. For example, one of our employees was diagnosed with autism as a result of the exceptional support he received from his line manager liaising with health professionals.  I’m proud that the other members of his team, far from turning away, have supported him to maximise his contribution, taking time to understand how his condition affects the way he works.

We’ve been using case studies to great effect in our awareness-raising work, and have just finished a deaf-awareness week. We’re also helping BAME staff achieve their potential with support from senior leaders. Our leadership programme for emerging talent has 61% women on it. We’re making sure that our approach to flexible working prioritises those with disabilities, taking steps to respond robustly to the recently refreshed Talent Action Plan. In the wider MoJ, we aim to give people more flexibility and control over when and where they do their contracted hours. This has benefits for all staff but most obviously for parents, people with other responsibilities as carers, and those who face long or difficult daily commutes.  

I want to ensure that our approach to diversity and inclusion is stitched-in at the deepest level, and helps promote organisational growth. Developing the right approach to line management, and investing in the skills of the leadership team is central to this. In the end, it’s about how people in the organisation behave. Everyone has a role to play.

11 comments

  1. Maggie Morrison

    Really encouraged to see the MoJ leading the way on this.

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  2. Buster Friendly

    It is a great idea, and it is a shame that it isn't followed in MoD Civil Service, where 93% of people forced into band 3 markings and being given PIPs have one or more Protected Characteristics.

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  3. Kevin

    Why restrict it to Protected groups "And there’s our obligation to provide more opportunity to protected groups"

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  4. Hugh Neill

    It is indeed interesting to read what Matt Coates has to say. But I wish I could read more about organisations understanding the importance of tapping into diversity with a small 'd'. Taking the employee diagnosed with autism as an example. First, its a bit surprising (and a reflection on someone, somewhere?) that this condition wasn't identified until MoJ managers identified it. Second, rather than just highlighting the 'support' aspect, I'd like to to hear more about how an organisation might be matching up people with this condition to work for which they may be exceptionally well suited to (see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-hidden-potential-of-autistic-kids/ for just one discussion of this). I suspect that historically, those with an eccentric talent were as likely to be recorded as gifted than as flawed. Have we gone backwards perhaps? And what about people experiencing mental health issues. Mental wellbeing is something that is being increasingly linked to issues in the workplace and to employer expectations. In my experience, those who have suffered work related stress and depression are often the more diligent, caring and genuinely deep thinking employees. Where was the small 'd' when needed to stop that happening. It may appear as a big 'D' (Diversity/Disability) after the event, but even then it too often does sufferers a dis-service through a slightly patronising organisational attitude that implies that 'WE need to understand THEM' better, glossing over whether WE might have contributed to THEIR problem. I often reflect on how Churchill's depression might have been exacerbated by being labelled (by the then political leaders) as a crank for persisting in flagging up the threat from Nazism.

    I'm grateful that Matt Coates has written as he has, but I have to admit to getting a slight whiff of political correctness and self-promotion from his piece.

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  5. Lisa Young

    Feels a little like preaching to the converted (incidentally I am one of the converted). My struggle is proving the D&I case...

    "Time and again it’s been shown that accessing the skills, knowledge and insight of people from all parts of society leads to better results for the organisation." - where is the actual evidence of this?

    "We all need to be open-minded, flexible and collaborative. These attributes are much more likely to co-exist in an organisation where diversity and inclusion are given the highest priority." - is this backed up with evidence?

    Until we can prove the benefits in financial and/or business results terms the senior supporters will be few and far between...

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  6. Thomas

    I agree totally that the workplace should reflect the society from which it springs , but we need to reflect also diversity of temperament, approach to work and personality within the diverse groups that we seek to represent.Too often for example the management strata in a diverse workplace seems to take its leaders from the outspoken/ extrovert class of people, lets be inclusive and really reflect everyone, not just those who seem to fit an outmoded ideal of what a leader looks like or sounds like

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  7. Simon

    I find myself agreeing with Hugh i have multi conditions Phyisical and Mental all "hidden " Haveing a reoccurence of PTSD after a 30 Year break was eye opening my managment support at first was appaling in its ignorence and obstructive manner ..so much so i was seriousley thinking of giveing up the job.
    How ever a new line manager and Managment change (twice now ) has resulted in persons who want to understand and realise there are no cut and dried "ways "
    Now although i am and will most likely remain in the bottem 10% it is NOT A FAIL as although compared to the average for my grade I may not be able to do all things to meet the crieria i can and am effective and my contributions are being acknowledged .. indeed i find it useful in that i now get the support and help .
    So IF your department use PMR as the BIG STICK get them to read this and all the comments .

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  8. Bill Phillips

    Why is your leadership programme for emerging talent having 61% women on it good?

    • If your workforce is 61% women then you have got it correct.

    • If your workforce is more than 61% women then you are discriminating against women.

    • If your workforce is less that 61% women then you are discriminating against men.

    So we need to know the composition of your workforce to assess that figure.

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  9. C Wilson

    There is a lot of work to do on the flexible working scheme. The rules are not very clear and managers need to use their discretion in most cases. I think the policy needs clear rules. For example, I applied for flexible working and I was given a short trial period. I was told when I asked to extend the trial period after a short hiatus that I could only make one application per year. Had I known this I would have acted differently in the meeting before my trial period ended. It was not made clear that if I did not ask to extend at that point then I would have to wait until after January the following year. I made the application in November and I was given a trial period in January so it took 2 months to process. I have been told I need to wait until January to apply again and not November. This means that it could take 8 months to process an application, in theory, and the applicant would have to wait a further 12 months after that date to reapply. It hardly seems fair on the applicant and in order for all staff to have equal treatment and opportunity there needs to be a better policy with more information for applicants.

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  10. Nguyen an

    Mental wellbeing is something that is being increasingly linked to issues in the workplace and to employer expectations. In my experience, those who have suffered work related stress and depression are often the more diligent, caring and genuinely deep thinking employees

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  11. C Wilson

    In addition to my earlier comment I agree with the previous comment about lack of evidence. It is all very well saying that you have a great policy and that awards are being won but my experiences as a disabled member of staff have been poor there must be a department lottery? The MoJ sickness policy is draconian and discriminates against the disabled in my opinion. I have had disability-related absence and on my return to work my Line Manager turns into Hercule Poirot looking for a pattern. The pattern is disability but it is the only pattern not to be mentioned. I note the absence policy only automatically classes pregnancy-related illness as exempt from action but disability should be covered too. I get so stressed when I have time off for my disabilities to return and have an inquisition about it and have the threat of a warning over my head. I don't have excessive disabled absence (it is actually below the average in my cluster for disabled/non disabled colleagues) and I can't help the absence that I have with fluctuating conditions but the sickness policy adds to my stress and anxiety.
    I also feel that managers lack understanding of disability issues and policies. For example, disability leave. It is not their fault. I presume it is a lack of training and the pressures of targets, CI and other matters. However, this is not fair on the disabled members of staff in their team. I took reduced hours in part to attend disability-related hospital appointments. I now realise that I could have made an application for disability leave for those appointments. Managers were aware of my reasons at the time but this option was not offered to me so I took 30-40 hours of my time to do this. Finally, no attention is paid to reasonable adjustment requests. There needs to be drastic action within ALL departments of the MoJ and across the Civil Service to ensure that sweeping statements are not being made whilst failing a vast number of disabled employees.

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