The major challenge when creating a diverse, inclusive work environment is the fact that while you’re aiming to please the broadest range of employees possible, you have to ensure that everyone individually feels they have a voice and are being heard. This means both taking each individual on their own merits and providing them with the tools they need to grow and develop, while also balancing those needs against the needs of everyone as a collective.
Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, spoke to Sean Greathead, Head of People and Culture at MAPP, a property management consultancy, about how to best achieve this balance in order to encourage productivity and growth—both individually and as a group.
Like a lot of people, I stumbled into it. Most of my family were accountants, but I never felt compelled to follow in their footsteps. I’ve always been more interested in people than numbers. Sensing that in me, a career guidance counsellor suggested I explore HR. I took his advice and started out working as an employee relations consultant after my degree. I found that quite volatile, however, because in that position, I found myself constantly dealing with conflict, which can be hard to solve as I was coming into the situation after the problem had already occurred. The question that began to drive me was how I could make the situation better from the start so the conflicts don’t occur in the first place. How do you create a working environment built on healthy relationships and populated by people who are engaged and happy, and thus working harder and staying with the organisation longer? That’s what truly started me on my journey. To that end, I spent a lot of time in Learning and Development before ultimately migrating into a generalist role with specialist teams underneath me. And I’m still driven by the same goal: creating a workplace where people are fulfilled, feel they have a voice, and are able to grow in their careers.
We often use the phrase, ‘Everybody’s welcome and everybody’s wanted’. This means that each person has the opportunity and right to be actively involved in the organisation as themselves. To accomplish that, you can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all method. Instead, you approach each individual on their own terms. For example, if someone makes a specific request, we start with the premise of doing our best to fulfil it for them rather than shooting it down because it may not perfectly fit our current policy. At the same time, you do have to consider the collective. You can’t satisfy one person at the expense of everyone else or vice versa. We’re here to serve everyone in the business, to help them unleash their abilities in order to accomplish great things.
That’s why one of our key employee value propositions is ‘We want to know you’, and we take that very seriously. Therefore, we have our employees do psychometrics tests and we meticulously analyse their review cycles. Twice a year, we ask every employee to answer two questions: ‘What do you love about your job?’ and ‘What do you loathe?’ Afterwards, once we’ve compiled and delved over the responses, we ask our staff what we can do to fix any issues they may have raised. I think it’s a testament to our success rate that the last time around, 40% of our employees said that they didn’t loathe anything about their jobs. And when analysing what people loved, recurring themes were their colleagues and what they were all accomplishing together. That tells me something quite powerful about our performance and the workplace environment we’ve been fostering.
We also want to make sure that our promotions are equitable and diverse, and we’ve made massive progress in this regard. This year, 60% of promotions were women, though only 15% were global ethnic majority. It’s important to us that practically anyone in the business can look up and see someone like them in a leadership position. I never want someone to feel that they’re never going to be promoted due to a (for lack of a better word) ‘label’ they have. And if someone ever does experience that, I expect them to come and challenge me on it.
It begins with understanding that my team and I aren’t responsible for people’s learning; that’s their own responsibility. We’re here to facilitate and create the expectation of learning, to give people the opportunity to discover and grow. As part of that, during our twice-annual review cycle, we ask each employee, ‘What do you want to learn about your current role?’ and ‘What do you want to learn about a future role?’ Then, we compile the answers into a data map in order to either help connect people with any of the thousands of micro-courses we already have available to help them gain that knowledge, or to know if there are any new courses we should provide. We’ve found that our people are eager to learn. All we have to do is give them the tools, the accessibility, and the knowledge of what we have on offer.
Leadership isn’t about you but rather the people you’re leading. Your job is to serve them and to find ways to encourage them to do their best, not to worry about what makes you look good. Instead, supporting them supports the whole business. And this can often be accomplished through the simplest ways. If you keep track of your employees’ wellbeing and ask them individually how they’re doing—for example, approaching someone who was recently ill or pregnant—they’ll remember those moments of connection more than any policies or grand gestures. Those impressions are what truly lasts.