Laura Watkin, Diversity and Inclusion Partner, talks about what Diversity & Inclusion looks like at NPL
I often get asked if I could summarise the work that we do at NPL on Diversity and Inclusion into a single slide and my answer always is there’s no way I could do it justice. Building on successful work over many years, our programme of activity has grown to a point where our work is so diverse, covering a broad range of themes, that communicating it all would be far too long. So instead, I’ll share some examples that illustrate our approach, ethos and how things are changing at NPL.
Central to our work is the belief that change starts with a conversation. We need to understand the barriers that individuals and/or groups face to be able to respond effectively. Whether it is feedback on an issue, a discussion about needs or a session where we build on each other’s ideas, conversations help us take informed action. No one, not even someone like me who works full time in Diversity and Inclusion, can see everything from every perspective, all the time, which is why initiatives like our latest campaign are so important.
Our Diversity and Inclusion strategy was built from conversations; it sets out why this is important to us and our vision for what we would like to achieve as an organisation. Our Executives are all signatories of the strategy and sponsor our 11 staff led special interest groups, ensuring that it’s not just another corporate document but something we all play a part in. Beneath the strategy sits what we describe as ‘a rolling prioritised programme of activities’, this means we have a plan of what we want to do, but it’s not locked in or static. The plan evolves with us as an organisation, shaped by the voices and experiences of our community, adjusted to prioritise new areas, and allows for unexpected/unforeseen things to emerge.
Back in 2021, post pandemic, we identified an emerging need for more support around mental health. While not planned, we reprioritised to focus on ensuring that we had the support that our staff needed. During this time, we distilled a deep dive into the research down into an easy-to-use learning microsite, designed to reinforce our existing resources such as our Mental Health First Aiders, promote the range of services in our Employee Assistance Programme and give more information on supporting your colleagues. Since then, it’s been easy to add in new features and resources as part of our planned activities, such as our bespoke NPL Wellness Action Plans. Further microsites have followed on topics like disability and gender equality, all hosted on our internal Diversity and Inclusion hub.
Like most organisations we have big projects that we work on, these are either new things we are introducing as part of the strategy or something that we have had feedback on that has led to a new project. As one example, last year we launched our new in-house mentoring programmes which were designed based on staff feedback on previous schemes, combined with new capabilities through a digital mentoring platform. Those on our Grow mentoring programme can match on interests in diversity and inclusion, meaning they don’t have to disclose personal information to participate, a key barrier that some potential participants were facing.
Each year the projects rotate, so this year we are focusing on improving our support for line managers to ensure they can support those who are neurodivergent, with plans around new resources that complement our existing disability and long-term condition policy. These projects are always changing and are the activities or resources that we promote internally, and everyone sees.
Of equal importance are the smaller or less explicit examples that don’t make the headlines, but they often make a big difference to a smaller group. Some are small and quick, with an almost immediate impact; like installing screens in our prayer room after feedback from our Muslim colleagues. Some are focused but change the way we think. Last year we, as an organisation, had our first request related to surrogacy, (look out for this story later in the campaign), it revealed some gaps in the way our policy was written, and we quickly found some simple ways that we could more explicitly support people going through this process. Not only is the policy improved but it emphasised the importance of getting diverse perspectives on policy improvements, something we are taking forward into our work in this space. Other actions are small but powerful, like the development of our accessibility checklist. Something intended to support individuals is now providing the organisation with a practical resource and has allowed good practice to spread and embed into our training and communication approaches.
Reflecting on the initiatives we've undertaken at NPL, our approach to Diversity and Inclusion continues to evolve, not just as a series of actions. Each step we take, each program we implement, is a learning opportunity and a chance to deepen our understanding and enhance our strategy. This evolution is crucial as it ensures that our efforts are not just responsive to immediate needs but are also shaped to try to anticipate and adapt to the changing dynamics around us. In embracing this culture of ongoing growth and adaptation, we're not only upholding our commitment to inclusion but also reinforcing our values that are at the heart of NPL.
As part of our journey, we wanted to find a mechanism for people to share their stories with each other, to allow others to see and understand the diversity of people that we have within our organisation. Not as numbers or statistics, like we traditionally report, but as people and experiences. The stories in our campaign represent just a selection of individual perspectives from within our organisation, that get shared behind the scenes and inform our work. The power of real stories can never be underestimated, they build empathy and understanding, and inspire us all to do what we can to make NPL, and organisations like it, a better place for all.