"See it, be it, demand it": weaving equality, diversity and inclusion into the fabric of EIF
Tanya Bunney, head of people at EIF, charts the progress we've seen since publishing our EDI strategy in September 2021, and the importance of finding a personal connection and commitment to the values it lays down for EIF's work.
Of course, we started our EDI journey many months before the strategy itself was published. In fact it was one of the priority projects that I was tasked with when I first joined EIF to lead the charity’s human resource function, just over two years ago. No one who has been involved in writing the strategy, scoping out specific plans or identifying the activities required to achieve the change we’re working towards would say that it’s been an easy task. Indeed, casting a net so wide as to cover and embrace every aspect not only of our workplace but also the work we do, is tremendously challenging. Moreover, for me, it has not been and continues not to be a work-only, professional matter. It is personal.
We have achieved a lot over the last few months, and are making good progress in achieving the objectives we’ve set out across every part of the organisation. We have a strong governance structure in place, with two trustees at the helm, and a steering group that supports and challenges those of us tasked with specific actions to ensure we keep on track.
Some of our achievements have been small changes to the way we do things, and these have quickly become embedded into our business-as-usual processes. Others are broader and with larger or longer-term impact. For example:
- We are currently working on a project – SpeakOut – which is focused on understanding the experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic families’ experiences of seeking support. This project came directly out of the six-month series of ‘action learning sets’ that a large group of EIF staff completed with the guidance of the Race Equality Foundation (REF).
- We have defined a behavioural competency as part of the performance framework on which everyone is assessed annually. All staff have to provide evidence of how they have behaved – not just what they have done – against a clearly defined expectation of competency relating to diversity and inclusion.
- Across the charity, we are using two Teams channels to share research, news stories and resources on EDI and anti-racism, which receive regular contributions from colleagues. This provides a forum for sharing often difficult-to-read evidence on the inequalities surrounding Black, Asian and minority ethnic families and children, and for exchanging ideas on new ways in which EIF might respond through our work.
- To help gauge progress, we have added an expanded set of questions around inclusion to our annual staff survey. The first set of results suggests that we are in a good place, but also that there are some aspects of inclusiveness that we need to understand better.
- Last year, we revamped our recruitment approach to hiring a new cohort of research officers. The resulting applicant pool, shortlisted candidates and appointed staff were the most diverse that EIF has seen across all three of the protected characteristics (race, disability and LGBTQ+) that we have identified as initial priorities.
- We have run training workshops for all staff that stimulated and challenged us all, and there is more to come.
As a member of EIF’s staff, and head of the people team, it is great to see such progress and that tasks on the action plan are being ticked off. But if EIF is truly to become the inclusive organisation described in our commitment statement, we must reach a point where every person who works at EIF has an emotional attachment to it, not just an intellectual one. And that’s the work of everyone, not just the HR team, nor the senior management team (although their commitment and leadership is absolutely essential): it is our managers, as well as staff themselves, who have to see it, be it, demand it.
This collective sense of commitment is growing. At times, developing our EDI strategy felt like a long and sometimes lonely slog, with intermittent input from a smaller group of colleagues. While there was more engagement through the action learning sets we did with REF, which helped us to think about how to include a focus on ethnicity in our work, the broader EDI strategy, perhaps not fully understood, felt at times to be considered “not my job”, but HR’s job. Today, our working group is a vibrant, engaged group of staff who contribute, champion and share our progress with all our colleagues. There is so much we want to do that we have recently increased the number of meetings, just to make sure we can cover everything on the ever-growing agenda. We are challenging ourselves to do more, to get things right. Even more importantly, for me on a personal level, is that it is getting just a little bit easier to raise and discuss matters of difference.
With the energy and enthusiasm of our EDI groups, and a growing recognition of the value and importance of EDI across the organisation, we are clearly building momentum, and I am excited for what comes next.