18 September 2019
Ruth Petzold, Anchor Hanover's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, talks about National Inclusion Week
National Inclusion Week runs from the 23rd - 29th September 2019 and aims to help employers to build a more inclusive workplace.
Ruth Petzold, Anchor Hanover's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, discusses her role at Anchor Hanover and how she is striving to produce an inclusive workplace.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Sunderland, but have lived in Yorkshire for over 13 years. I live with my husband and 5 year old son. My career so far has been in various HR roles, including recruitment, engagement and recognition, policy and HR projects. I’ve been working for Anchor Hanover for around 4 years.
Will your work be across the whole organisation or just some of the following: housing, care homes or central support services?
My role will be across the whole organisation, including housing, care and central support. Each of these areas has its own opportunities, so a large part of my role will be to engage colleagues in to understand what they do well already and where their specific challenges are.
As my role focusses specifically on colleagues, I will be working closely with the Customer Engagement and Insight Manager and Service Improvement teams to ensure our strategies and initiatives are aligned across both colleagues and customers in care and housing.
How big a challenge will this job be for you?
In many ways I am lucky in that Anchor Hanover has some good foundations to build on. For example, there are already some colleague networks in place (BAME, Rainbow, Disability and Inclusive Ambassadors) that I can develop and work alongside, and there is a high level of engagement and support for the equality agenda at senior levels.
However, Anchor Hanover is a large organisation which operates 24/7 at locations across the country. This can bring challenges such as how to ensure campaigns and communications reach all colleagues, especially as not all colleagues have access to the internet and e-mail as part of their role. Also, the care, housing and central support areas of the business each have their own challenges, all of which are different.
Another challenge is going to be identifying which opportunities to tackle first! Equality, diversity and inclusion is such a broad subject with many different aspects, all of which are important and emotive. It is simply not possible to focus on everything at once, so a strategic plan is going to have to be developed identifying early priorities.
How can organisations benefit from making such appointments?
‘Organisations’ are not material things, but rather a collection of individual people each with their own personality, identity, skills, experience, dreams and challenges. Most people would agree that working to create an inclusive workplace is simply the ‘right thing to do’, however there are also strong business reasons for this.
Research over recent years has shown businesses with a strong equality and diversity agenda enjoy better recruitment and retention rates, higher engagement scores and lower absence figures. If colleagues are happy and engaged at work they are often more willing to put in the ‘discretionary effort’ needed to ensure business performance.
For an organisation to be as successful as it can be, every colleague needs to be working to their full potential and feel engaged with the organisation as a whole. Most individuals can only do this if they are able to bring their ‘whole self’ to work. Ensuring a diverse workforce also helps us to make sure our colleague base reflects the customers they serve, therefore contributing to them feeling welcome and supported in their home.
How are such appointments more than just lip-service?
To be more than just lip service, EDI Managers must facilitate real change in a business. It is not enough simply to celebrate National Inclusion Week and attend Pride events (although these are good to do!), EDI Managers must study the data, recognise potential opportunities and identify ways to exploit them. I also feel it’s important that any initiatives introduced have real longevity. I hope to ensure that programmes I bring in are not just reacting to a current fashion or trend, but rather will continue to bring real and tangible benefits to colleagues, customers and the business for years to come.
What is the biggest challenge organisations will face if they don’t start thinking about equality, diversity and inclusion?
Two of the main challenges would be negative PR and struggling with recruitment and retention. The world and the culture we operate in is changing and if organisations fail to evolve alongside it this will result in difficulties in these areas.
Campaigns such as #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and gender pay reporting have been highly visible in recent years. If organisations aren’t seen to be serious in addressing potential discrimination or inequality in their business there is the possibility of lasting and prominent damage to their employer brand, which could result in candidates choosing to apply, or customers choosing to look elsewhere.
Expectations around things like work/life balance and flexible working have risen steadily over recent years, and organisations who do not have this kind of culture can struggle to attract and retain colleagues – particularly young people and working parents or those with caring responsibilities. Equally, there are increasing numbers of trans individuals, older people, those with disabilities and many other groups in the workforce, each of which may have specific needs. If these needs aren’t addressed those individuals will take their skills and experience elsewhere.
Why did you want to encourage Anchor Hanover to get involved in NIW?
National Inclusion Week is an annual campaign which we have participated in for the past two years (albeit on a much smaller scale). One of the reasons we have promoted this campaign particularly is that it celebrates ‘inclusion’ in the broadest sense of the word rather than focussing on any one characteristic. This means that hopefully every colleague can identify with some of the activity, and we can use it to highlight and educate on a whole range of different topics.
I also like the recurring theme for the week ‘everyday inclusion’. It asks us to focus on the small, simple things everyone can do or say each day to support inclusion, rather than thinking about big projects or campaigns.