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Building an inclusive workplace: our experience of using benchmarking tools to support change

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Back in 2019, a small group of colleagues – from the LGBT+ community and allies – came together to start The King’s Fund’s work on LGBT+ Equality. At the time, there was no outward sign that the Fund was LGBT friendly – no staff network or mentions in the diversity and inclusion (D&I) priorities or on the intranet, queer staff often quiet about their relationships or identity. Through starting to have more open conversations we found some of our queer colleagues, and started to build our network.

Group of The King's Fund colleagues

That year we celebrated our first Pride month, encouraging colleagues to learn about how to be allies, and started a rainbow lanyard initiative to visibly show support. But we also wanted to understand more systematically how our organisation supported its LGBT+ community, and how – if needed – we might improve. The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index (WEI) gave us a ready-made tool to start to understand the ways that we could be more inclusive, and as we assessed ourselves in the summer of 2019, we realised that we had a lot of work to do. Things like ensuring our policies were inclusive of LGBT+ staff, creating greater visibility among the organisation and senior leadership, and training and awareness on LGBT+ equality, to name a few. Our ranking in 2020 reflected this – 482 out of 503 organisations.

This group agreed to look at things we might be able to change – either quickly or in the longer term, and in our teams and directorates we started making small changes. These included organising awareness and discussion sessions, signposting and celebrating key dates internally, and identifying policies for review. The pandemic disrupted the work, but didn’t stop it – in 2020 we held virtual pride month celebrations and continued to meet and share progress virtually.

The King's Fund pride quiz

But of course LGBT equality isn’t the only inclusion issue in our workplace. Improving equality for all, and tackling racism in particular, became urgent following the events of 2020. As part of our Black Lives Matter work, colleagues identified the enei Talent Inclusion and Diversity Evaluation (Tide) measure as one way to hold ourselves accountable in making progress towards having a diverse and inclusive workplace. In part, we reached this decision because of seeing how using the Stonewall criteria had provided focus and helped improve our EDI work. Our first submission to enei Tide in 2021 saw us receive a mark of 43 per cent against an average of 56 per cent, and ranking 100 out of 136 organisations completing it. We joined both the Stonewall diversity champion scheme and the enei network to get some expert support in these aims – for example, thinking more strategically in how to prioritise our equality work – and examples of good practice from other organisations.

When the Stonewall WEI reopened for 2022, filling it in was a harder job – we had far more to talk about, and so much more evidence to gather! We were pleased to rise in the rankings – up to 239 out of 403 – and receive a Stonewall Bronze Employer award. Similarly, our 2022 TIDE score rose – to 60 per cent, and we were awarded a Tide Bronze Award.

So, what were we up to? Here are just a few things: Our Head of D&I and HR colleagues focused on updating and improving our policies to better reflect and include diverse experiences, and an official D&I policy was approved by senior management. We self-organised to set up staff networks – initially for Black staff and LGBT+ staff, but broadening out to staff with disability and long-term health conditions, working parents, and women. We set up an internal comms group to highlight and celebrate important calendar events. We also organised external speakers to talk to us about key issues, like the experiences of trans and nonbinary people at work. While there were many factors influencing these changes, Tide and the Stonewall WEI have both helped accelerate changes with their yearly progress checks and clear steps to making change.

When we received our Stonewall WEI result for 2023 we were amazed. We ranked 75th – one of their top 100 employers – and received a Gold award. We’ll hear about our Tide result later in the year, but we’re optimistic it will also reflect our continued progress on this journey.

It’s not all been plain sailing, as other colleagues have discussed. But we’ve also had some moments of joy. Marching in London Pride in 2022 was a particular highlight. And we’re slowly feeling like we can bring more of our whole selves to work. A colleague, recently back from maternity leave, said that the Fund feels different now – more relaxed, more welcoming. We want to be an organisation where everyone feels like they belong. While benchmarking and indexes can only take us so far, they are a great way to keep us accountable for our progress, and to help us see what good might look like.

The King's Fund staff getting ready for the Pride March 2022