For a large organisation operating in many different countries, an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) agenda can be a complex and challenging prospect to unroll. At the same time, doing so both creates a happier and safer working environment for employees and shows the company’s interest in the local populations of the places they operate.
Co-host of The Interview Luke James spoke to Wayne Palmer, Human Resources (HR) Director for Corporate Functions and Talent at Britvic, an international soft drinks company whose products include Robinsons and Tango. Over the course of their conversation, they discussed how EDI enriches an organisation and directly contributes to a deeper understanding of the customer base. This in turn leads to better products and increased sales.
I began working on HR project work, then moved into business partnering before moving into organisation design and broader organisation development probably about fourteen years ago. I worked at BT for fifteen years — which is, of course, a big global organisation — ending at Openreach, their engineering broadband division. Since then I’ve done a broad portfolio of roles at various start-ups and interim projects for things such as the London Stock Exchange and Sainsbury’s, but always in that organisation design/development space.
We’ve been doing an amazing job at Britvic raising awareness of our EDI agenda. We have passionate network groups that are fully active and starting to create real change. Recently, we’ve made one of our main goals to achieve gender balance in leadership and increasing the ethnic diversity of our leadership population. But we don’t want to stop there. We want to move from awareness into advocacy, driving systemic change across the organisation. We’re starting with our broader people agenda, looking at the end-to-end employee experience. But we’re also conscious of looking upstream regarding our marketing and sales capability, so we’re truly reflecting the communities we serve. And also, of course, looking at the downstream end and our supply chain. Are the people we partner with to make are great products also driving an EDI agenda?
Last year, we ran a great leadership programme called Fizz, which was about empowering female leaders in terms of driving their careers. We want to take the best of what we learned from that and integrate it into other leadership programmes so it becomes a central part of what we do. We’re starting to create more cohesion in the agenda and intrinsically think about everything we do through an EDI lens rather than it being seen as an additional thing to do. EDI is complex change. We’re not just tackling issues at an organisation level. You’ve also got to consider society as a whole and that society has certain norms, mindsets, etc. The challenge is how we influence thinking at all of those different levels.
We have to tackle it from multiple dimensions. We’ve got great sponsorship from our executive leadership team. They led a number of sessions that articulated our goals for the next couple of years, so they’re very involved and helping to shape and drive the agenda. The next challenge is bringing that to life outside of the head office and engaging all workers including our frontline employees who make our drinks. Our network groups recently ran a Wellbeing Roadshow on the factory floors across all shifts (some of which are 24/7) so workers could come along, see, access, and debate what diversity means for them. And we’ve seen a real increase in engagement. It’s helped address the perception of them (our manufacturing sites) and us (head office). It’s given them a space to take a break, and have dialogue. We really learned we have to be much more present and physical in these conversations to have real impact.
I think fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace directly contributes to our company's success. By embracing diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, we cultivate an environment that nurtures innovation and creativity. Diverse teams bring a wealth of ideas, enabling us to develop our products, services, and strategies that resonate with a broader customer base. Inclusive practices enhance our ability to adapt to changing market dynamics and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving business landscape.
In addition, a diverse and inclusive workforce boosts our employee engagement and retention. When individuals feel valued, respected, and included, they are more likely to be committed, motivated, and loyal. This leads to higher levels of productivity, collaboration, and teamwork, all of which contribute to us achieving our commercial objectives. By prioritising EDI, we have created a workplace where individuals can thrive, bringing their whole selves to work, and unlocking their full potential. In addition, a commitment to EDI aligns with our customers' expectations and preferences. I personally recognise that in today's socially conscious world, consumers are increasingly expecting businesses to demonstrate their commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion. I believe that our dedication to these values enables us to build trust, strengthen our brand reputation, and enhance customer loyalty. Our customers want to support organisations that share their values, and prioritising EDI allows us to connect with them on a deeper level.
I also believe that promoting equity and diversity within our organisation helps us attract and retain top talent. As an employer of choice, we want to attract the best and brightest individuals from all backgrounds. By cultivating an inclusive workplace, we become an attractive destination for a diverse range of candidates. In turn, this enables us to access a wider talent pool, bringing in fresh perspectives and unique skills that drive our commercial success.
Surround yourself with good people. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, your output will always improve if you have excellent support. Also, there are only so many hours a day, so you need people to test and challenge your ideas. You don’t just want yes people. I’ve never had an experience where something hasn’t been finessed and improved by others around me. And when it comes to their work, you don’t need to micromanage them or have an autocratic style. Get great people, let them do their own thing.
Surround yourself with good people. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, your output will always improve if you have excellent support.
And also, you don’t always have to have the answer immediately. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Can you just give me some time to think about that and I’ll come back to you?’ Particularly in the field of HR, some people are looking for an expert answer immediately. But don’t always jump in with the solution. For a complicated question, it’s okay to take that time and space.