Director of HR, Bord Gáis Energy
Having a robust Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) strategy — including active community networks and better, braver communications — is a boost to employee wellbeing.
Organisations that put Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) at the centre of everything they do will have happier staff, happier customers and a better business, says Angela Hoey, Director of HR at energy and services company, Bord Gáis Energy.
Motivating colleagues for growth
“If you create an inclusive culture of equal opportunities where difference is valued, colleagues will feel able to bring their whole selves to work,” Hoey says. “We want to help colleagues expand their knowledge, grow in their roles and truly feel as though they belong here. And we want to do that because it’s the right thing to do — not because it looks good.” DE&I has to come from the heart, she says, and not be bolted on as an afterthought.
An important way for any organisation to foster an environment of inclusion is to develop active networks. Bord Gáis Energy has four of these: REACH, which is dedicated to strengthening the inclusion of all ethnic minorities in the workplace; Bród, an LGBTQI+ network; The Women’s Network which champions gender equality; and the Neurodiversity Network which aims to make the workplace inclusive for neurodivergent people, such as those living with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia.
In a psychologically safe workplace, colleagues will feel able to challenge the leadership.
Networks should set bold objectives and targets
Networks require executive team sponsorship and support. However, Hoey stresses: they should be driven by individuals from across the organisation who are willing to commit their time and energy, rather than management. A ‘top-down’ approach doesn’t work.
Plus, each network must set bold objectives every year. For example, in 2022, the challenge from the the company’s Women’s Network was to increase female participation in middle management positions and above. If targets are not met, network representatives should feel able to take the leadership team to task. “In a psychologically safe workplace, colleagues will feel able to challenge the leadership,” says Hoey. “Equally, leadership must be happy to listen and help improve the situation.”
A diversity and inclusion engagement committee — featuring a breadth of representation from across the organisation — also has a major role to play. At Hoey’s organisation, the D&I engagement committee’s key activity is to run workshops that teach colleagues about the importance of building and maintaining an inclusive environment in the workplace and society. “Plus, it consolidates our networks’ overall strategy,” she says. “It generates enthusiasm by asking: ‘What are we doing next in the DE&I space?’ Because no organisation can afford to rest on its laurels.”
Making DE&I second nature
Organisations should embed DE&I into their practices and processes, such as recruitment, marketing and communications and sponsorship initiatives. “Our recruiters are trained to be aware of the importance of DE&I,” says Hoey. “When writing advertisements, we use gender-neutral and inclusive language; we create a gender-balanced interview panel where possible; and when shortlisting candidates, we aim for a 50/50 gender balance.”
The organisation has also committed to being braver with its communications to be more reflective of modern Ireland and has developed an inclusivity logo for all service engineers’ vans and uniforms. They partner with organisations that share their values and approach to DE&I. As long-term sponsor of the Senior GAA Hurling Championship, Bord Gáis Energy used the platform this year to promote the message of inclusion in team sports.
If your organisation is only just setting out on its DE&I journey, the first step is to understand the issues that are important to your staff. “Speak to them and encourage their engagement and involvement in networks and activities,” says Hoey. “Remember that getting DE&I initiatives up and running requires teamwork — and give them time to flourish and become part of the fabric of your organisation.”