28 February 2022

In conversation with the VIMA Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Committee

Written by VIMA Graduates 2021/2022

In our third blog post, we spoke to Andrea Thresh, Committee manager of the VIMA DE&I Committee, to learn more about what DE&I means at VIMA Group and learn about some of the work the DE&I committee does.

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) is extremely important, both in and out of the workplace. It is a vast subject that encompasses many different themes and can mean different things to different people, depending on their personal background and perspective.

Read on to hear about Andrea’s thoughts on DE&I.

Q: What is your definition of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion? What does it mean to you?

A: A nutshell definition is to ensure we are a fair employer, that we do not discriminate against people for being who they are, and that we have practices in place to ensure our staff have equal opportunities to learn, progress, have a voice and feel valued in the organisation. For me personally, DE&I is all those things, but also, it’s challenging the way we think, understanding our biases and societal influences, addressing them where we can, and improving our empathy and understanding of others.

Q: What has influenced your thinking around DE&I?

A: There are several influences, personal experiences where I have and haven’t felt valued, research papers from professionals regarding good practice to follow, and the headline-grabbing statistics that we get in the media. They all have an impact on my personal point of view, but equally, they allow for open discussion on what we can do, as a team, to improve in the future. The thinking around DE&I is not just one point of view, it’s the point of view from many, and collectively it has challenged me to be more open-minded.

Q: What has motivated VIMA to create a DE&I committee at VIMA Group?

A: The creation of a D&I theme was the wish of Dean Taylor, the CEO, I believe, towards the end of 2019. We were a very small organisation at the time, and I volunteered mainly due to being one of a handful of female consultants. I wanted to represent the female voice and help the business develop. Primarily the aim was to provide initiatives to attract and retain good employees to the business. Whilst still an aim today, some of these activities are now part of the wider People organisational function. The message of DE&I in 2022 has a wider spectrum, including engaging, valuing, representing, and fair treatment of staff, the motivation is to do this well to create a positive working environment.

Q: What do you think an inclusive organisation looks like?

A: It’s simple, it’s a place where you feel you belong. Whether you have a unique perspective and/or talent, are introverted or extroverted, have an interesting hobby, have unique ways to express yourself, you should be able to bring your whole self to a workplace, feel accepted, and feel that you are a valued part of the team.

Q: What are the main barriers to having a diverse and inclusive organisation?

A: If looked at from the perspective of statistics, we do struggle to hire more female consultants, particularly in senior positions and ethnic minorities. On mainstream hiring platforms, when looking for talent with the skills we want, the available talent pool is somewhat diversely limited, and our personal networks, used for internal referral, tends to lack in diversity too. Therefore, we need to solve the problem of how to reach these groups as much as feasibly possible, after all our target groups may not want to work in management consultancy so we equally need to show ourselves as an attractive place to work. From a more general perspective the biggest barriers are our personal biases, some of which are unconsciously made. Whilst we can’t necessarily make everyone be each other’s friend, to be inclusive we need to respect and accept our differences and avoid confirming bias.

Q: What are the long-term consequences if we ignore the need for DE&I within the organisation?

A: Without DE&I we would be an organisation of ignorance and be more unsuccessful because of it. Staff would have to fit ‘in a box’ of a specific want, likely resulting in reduced innovation, growth, and potentially poor staff retention. Several studies exist to confirm that diverse workplaces are the most successful due to the mix of input and perspective gained, fair treatment of staff helps retain them too, so these are elements we strive to achieve.

Q: How do you ensure that you implement DE&I in a meaningful way?

A: It’s important to set goals and plan for the direction we want to head towards, by doing this, we never lose sight of our aim. Implementing DE&I within the organisation is no different to creating, designing, and realising a project. You start with the vision the organisation wants and then breakdown the tasks and activities for how we achieve it. Equally, measuring the progress made is important, such as measuring promotions, retention rates, and advancement statistics. Everyone in the business is a stakeholder too, so we must ensure that all staff are informed, as a minimum, on our DE&I message and aim.

Q: Do you have any advice for how individuals can help make their organisation more diverse, equal, and inclusive?

A: You can do some simple things, such as take the time to listen to each other, this could simply be regular chats between line managers and line employees, but it could be any catch-up conversation. Why? Because when we as employees feel respected and understood, we are more likely to be engaged in our work and bond as a strong team. Also, ensure that you use inclusive language when conversing, or instant messaging and try to talk about subjects that don’t exclude some people in the room. This is something everyone can do, and it will deliver a huge wellbeing benefit.

Q: What is the most surprising thing that you have learnt about DE&I within the organisation since setting up the committee?

A: That it is such a vast subject! As much as we would absolutely love to cover each aspect, we can only focus on certain elements or themes at a time. But we’re always open for others to get involved!

We will be continuing our discussion around DE&I by talking to other members of the committee at VIMA, so keep an eye out for future blog posts!