February is LGBTQ+ History Month[i] in the UK, writes Carol Verner, and an opportune moment for organisations to consider if they are doing enough to promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
A survey by Glassdoor[ii] showed that 76% of job seekers and employees say that a diverse workforce is a key factor when evaluating job offers from companies. A third (32%) would not apply for a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity, but for black and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) job seekers this is even higher at 41 percent.
The time is now
With the war for talent heating up this year, there is no better time to make EDI a priority. Some healthcare trusts are leading the way in EDI and at KGH we have been working on improving EDI for many years. We have recently also done a complete overhaul of our EDI strategy in response in part to the pandemic.
The Trust provides acute healthcare across north Northamptonshire and south Leicestershire and has around 4,600 employees, a quarter of which come from an ethnic minority background. The Trust had several networks in place to support staff from varying backgrounds and walks of life prior to the pandemic, but with the challenges the Covid-19 crisis brought we felt the need to extend these networks to include other groups of staff.
We set about the task to revamp our equality and diversity offering as a change initiative. This was approved by the Trust’s board and included rebranding some of the EDI networks and introducing a training programme designed to promote an inclusive culture.
We decided to relaunch our BAME EDI network, as well as boost our other networks, including groups for disabled and LGBTQ+ staff. We wanted to ensure there was a safe space for people to talk and get the support they needed, so they could address issues when they happened, rather than let them escalate.
During the process we renamed the BAME EDI network as REACH – short for Race, Ethnicity And Cultural Heritage – after an article that was circulated by the government about ongoing discussions over the use of the term ‘BAME’.
Although NHS England has not yet told trusts to stop using ‘BAME’, it has said that they can choose an alternative while it decides the umbrella term to use. We felt ‘REACH’ was more inclusive. REACH started with seven members but is now one of the largest EDI networks in our organisation with more than 400 staff signed up.
In line with the intent to be more inclusive, other networks were also renamed, and a new gender equality network was formed. Each one was restructured so it has a co-chair – who gets one paid day per month to dedicate to running the group – a committee, a board sponsor and a term of reference, which didn’t exist previously.
This makes everyone accountable in the process and allows busy surgeons or doctors allocated time away from their day-to-day duties.
How we did it
We also went a step further to make people truly accountable and help them understand what is considered unacceptable behaviour and set up a training programme. The aim of the training programme, which is now part of the employee starter kit, is to give staff the skills to better manage any issues that might arise.
We have also introduced inclusive recruitment champions, who are trained to spot unconscious bias and help managers make more informed decisions. To date we have more than 30 trained inclusive recruitment champions and since September 2021, all job roles at Band 7 (manager level) and above, as well as all medical and dental posts, will have a champion on the interview panel.
During LGBTQ+ History Month we have taken the opportunity to further educate employees and are celebrating some inspiring members of the community.
Sharing role model stories and experiences is a really positive way to help all our employees understand people from different backgrounds. This also helps to battle stereotypes people may have about a particular group as it shows people come from a variety of backgrounds. We are promoting training opportunities, and information and resources too.
Make a change to see a change
The overhaul of our EDI strategy has proved successful with our workforce and NHS England, and we are starting to see some real culture changes.
For organisations looking to improve their EDI working collaboratively and using opportunities like LGBTQ+ History Month to raise awareness can help create an organisation where people want to work. With some organisations struggling to recruit this has never been more important.
Carol Verner (MSc) is Interim Head of Equality Diversity & Inclusion, Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust