Inclusion: How an ambition for gold starts with a shared path

Lynne Connolly, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion

Progress in inclusion doesn’t happen overnight - it’s a progressive journey which relies on sustained effort and everyone playing their part. And we know it’s a shared journey; the same path is being followed across many companies and industries. Learning and collaborating with each other will quicken our pace. As a diversity and inclusion practitioner who is committed to driving change across our industry and beyond, this blog is one way to share with others where we’re headed.

So where are we now?

At Standard Life Aberdeen, we’ve experienced two significant corporate transactions in the last 18 months – our merger and the sale of our insurance operations to Phoenix. In light of all this change for our business, and our people, we’ve been refreshing our priorities, reflecting on the progress we’ve made so far and the external context were doing all of that in.

There’s a lot we can look at based on best practice guides and trend forecasts. They tell us that -  alongside diverse representation -  working culture, intersectionality, visible executive leadership, inclusive products and ‘speaking out’ are all important.

But the most important source of information is what we’re told by our people – and to that end our employee survey, inclusion committees, regional forums and employee networks bring important employee input to develop our action plans.

What are we doing?

We have worked with our people to develop our new corporate values. They bring together culture, inclusion and innovation - elements that are heavily inter-dependent.   These values, alongside our inclusion vision, give us a shared ‘glue’ to frame our actions.

We recognise that while conversations about inclusion regularly take place at Board and Executive Committee levels, they are not always visible. And so, each Executive Committee member has been firming up the practical actions they are taking for their business.

Through employee conversations on ‘Creating Inclusion’ we are working on the practical things which make a difference to people every day.

We have re-established our Global Inclusion Committee, which represents each part of the company as an advisory committee to the CEO and our Chief HR Officer.

We see developing inclusive leadership capability as key and are implementing a curriculum to cover unconscious bias and creating inclusion.

Our inclusion strategy is a guide to tackling our specific diversity priorities of gender and ethnicity. Our data shows an imbalance in these areas so they are our current focus, albeit leaving room so not to exclude others to whom they don’t directly apply.

In these priority areas, delivery of our first gender action plan has supported an increase of 7% in the gender balance of our CEO-2 pipeline (the population of people reporting to our CEO and their direct reports).

We know we’re on the right lines - through benchmarking in our first Bloomberg and Equileap Global Gender Equality Index listings - but we also know that there is more to do.

In becoming one of the founding signatories of the UK Government’s Race at Work Charter, we are also delivering our ethnicity action plan to build a more ethnically diverse workforce.

Looking ahead

There’s a lot going on. And I think it’s important to make a distinction. Diversity and inclusion are different, but we can’t succeed in one without the other. While we may run important diversity ‘initiatives’, inclusion is the less tangible but important reality in which our people are encouraged  to bring all that is unique about them  - their thinking, experience and background, as well as their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age and capability – to help our company perform and progress.

But inclusion can be seen as a folkloric ‘silver bullet’ for organisations - easy to say, difficult to realise. Instead, I like to think of it as the gold standard. It’s not something we’ll achieve tomorrow or the next day, but we’re committed to first scoring bronze, then silver before reaching the top of the podium. And as I said at the start, I like to think it’s a team effort.

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