How an inclusive culture enables diversity to thrive at RBA

The Risk & Business Analytics segment of RELX Group (RBA) has embraced diversity and inclusion as part of its culture, including establishing 11 D&I employee forums to help drive that strategy. In this first of a two-part series, we talk to Jo Portlock, RBA’s diversity and inclusion director, about the key factors influencing the company’s approach. 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Actually, I would put it the other way round and call it ‘inclusion and diversity’. I think that if you focus more on inclusiveness, and incorporate that in your culture, then that is an environment where diversity will thrive. If you focus too much on diversity and don’t worry about your culture, then diversity will not succeed in your organisation. So, by putting D&I the other way round it kind of rebalances and says that this is about an inclusive culture for everybody.

What does the role of a D&I, or rather I&D, director involve?

Firstly, it’s a lot of senior leadership stakeholder management and engagement, and education around I&D. There’s also a lot around our general communication and engagement with the wider business. We have a number of employee forums and affinity groups that I oversee, and I advise on how to get the best out of those groups.

Some of the bigger focuses, for now, are around senior female development, which we know is a gap; delivering unconscious bias education and conscious inclusion education for everybody in the organisation; and then thinking about our recruitment best practices, both in terms of our selection tools and devising those processes, but also how we create an attractive employer brand proposition for diverse talents to apply to us and be recruited.

Why is incorporating a D&I strategy into a company’s culture so important?

Having your employees fully engaged and fully included in your organisation is absolutely critical to drive retention and engagement, and to really extrapolate the best value from them. If you are fully included you are far more likely to engage with the organisation, to share your ideas and to see a longer-term career development plan.

There is so much research now that clearly demonstrates that the more inclusive and diverse your organisation the better you are at idea generation and innovation. The more engaged your employees are the more their wellbeing improves; sales and, ultimately, the revenue of your organisation improves as well. I think that has helped put D&I, not as an HR initiative on the side, but at the heart of the business strategy.

How did the idea for D&I forums come about?

They started with the Women’s Network, which has been going for three years, then the expansion into the other 10 forums [including disability, LGBT, religion and even new fathers] – happened in May last year, and that really came about because although the Women’s Network is great it doesn’t touch other areas of diversity within the company.

I think the role models [the forums have generated] and having those individuals as visible role models to the wider business is crucial as is [the forums’ role in] connecting people. Plus, we’d just delivered unconscious bias training to staff, so it helped to have a very obvious organisational symbol that continues that conversation about D&I.

The business has been very supportive. We have a not insignificant budget that enables us to fund everything from lunch and drinks at discussion groups right through to experts coming to talk to us and to run development programmes.

Most forums meet monthly or every other month and then the forum leaders get together quarterly, which is where we share what we are doing and also plan ahead.

What are the forums’ aims?

The first step is very much to communicate and educate to the wider business. I think when colleagues and employees do that it is much more authentic. The next stage is for them to look at the business from an employee value proposition perspective and to get involved in recruiting and reaching out to more diverse communities.

Some are evolving into advising and guiding the business around our activities. I think it is really important that the forums feel they can change and influence the business. That’s everything from the Religion Forum campaign for better prayer room facilities right through to the Women’s Network talking to senior leaders about gender equality within the organisation.

>See also: Agility through diversity


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Phil Clisby

Phil Clisby is a freelance journalist.

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