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Leaders Like You

Organisational culture change

Programmes to change organisational culture are located in a context of an organisation’s diversity and inclusion policy and practices. A review of the government’s 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) conducted for the Leadership Commission found that the uptake of formal written equal opportunities is higher in the wider West Midlands region than in any other region of Great Britain. Over three quarters of workplaces in the West Midlands have adopted a formal written equal opportunities (EO) policy that makes explicit reference to gender and ethnicity, with 71% referring to disability.

However, adoption of a policy does not always mean that practice changes. The review therefore also looked at the adoption of the following five EO practices:

  • monitoring of recruitment and section;

  • recruitment and selection procedures reviewed to identify indirect discrimination;

  • monitoring of promotions;

  • promotion procedures reviewed to identify indirect discrimination;

  • reviews of relative pay rates.

It found that adoption of these practices is very limited across all regions of the UK although the adoption rate is higher in the West Midlands than in several other regions of Great Britain and the national average. However, uptake of special recruitment procedures for disadvantaged groups is lower in the West Midlands compared with many UK regions and with the Great Britain average. Uptake for LGBT, disabled and women returning to work particularly low. On the other hand, the West Midlands adoption rates of family friendly practices are higher than the Great Britain average although these adoption rates remain very low with the exception of financial help with childcare. This was available at 36% of workplaces surveyed in the West Midlands compared to 30% for Great Britain.

Other information collected for the Commission’s research suggested that the following practices were effective in bringing about organisational change:

Establishing network/affinity/advocacy groups. These give employees space to discuss and organise their own initiatives and sometimes advocate for change. They may be open to all employees, for example, those interested in obtaining leadership positions, or be organised for specific groups such as women’s groups or Black workers groups. They may be established by an organisation’s management or by employees themselves.

Ensure there is someone accountable at a senior level for making change happen. Without such accountability, the risk of the push for organisational change fizzling out increases tremendously

Review recruitment processes. Are they fair? Are the recruitment panels diverse? Are panel members trained in how to avoid unconscious discriminatory behaviour? Would ‘blind’ application forms make a difference? Is there scope for positive/affirmative action to improve diversity representativeness?

Make internal promotion processes simpler and stream-lined and ensure confidentiality so people are not embarrassed if they fail.

Prepare people for the process of applying for promotion or even jobs – coach them for interviews and help people to cope with the organisational culture.

Offer internal work experience where employees can shadow leaders.

Help people to handle rejection – always give positive feedback.

The Focused Women’s Network: an example of an affinity group

The Focused Women’s Network was launched by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in March 2007 to support RBS in actively attracting, retaining and developing talented female members of staff. The network supports the development and career advancement of all RBS employees by giving them further opportunities to network internally and externally, to get involved in activities that will enable them to excel and challenge themselves, and to gain access to additional personal development. The mission of the network is to:

  • provide employees with numerous opportunities for personal development;

  • develop a diverse workforce, resulting in a more successful and sustainable business;

  • to be a voice of change and influence the culture at RBS;

  • enhance RBS’ reputation as an employer with strong representation of female role models,

  • where female talent is developed and retained;

  • increase collaboration amongst colleagues and create new business opportunities through networking;

  • influence the behaviour of leaders; and

  • give back to the local community and contribute to RBS’ corporate social responsibility principles.

Starting in London in 2007, the network now spans across the globe. In 2014 they delivered personal development workshops, programmes and online training, a wide range of networking events as well as inviting inspirational speakers to speak to its members.

RBS introduced unconscious bias training to all employees in 2014 and introduced gender targets to get more women in senior leadership roles. For the eighth consecutive year, they have been recognised as a Times Top 50 employer for women