More than ever, inclusion and collaboration need to be part of every organisation’s cultural identity for it to attract, develop and retain the best talent. And in our “culture-first” environment, it is incumbent on business to lead with and embed behaviours that enable people to bring their true selves to work without fear of discrimination or harassment.
Building a culture of inclusion requires targeted action in several key areas, from employee behaviour and line management capability to leadership and wider people management practices. Alongside this, transparent and reliable data helps everyone see where things are working and where they aren’t. For example, from our recently published D&I Strategy we know that while WSP benefits from above-industry representation among female and Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, a significant proportion of colleagues are reluctant to share their personal information. We need to be sensitive to the reasons for this and a key part of our strategy is to ensure colleagues understand the significance of sharing their personal information and feel comfortable and happy doing so.
HS2: a once-in-a-generation opportunity
I am excited to be helping drive inclusion and diversity across the contracts we are involved in with HS2 – this transformative project represents a unique opportunity to change the skills landscape.
When I took on my role in 2018, our focus was gender parity; we recognised that the historical over-representation of men in rail and construction had produced a greater concentration of men at the executive level. With the average proportion of women working on HS2 contracts at 29% (vs. 17% in the infrastructure sector) we are heading in the right direction. And having signed up to the international female focused jobs board, Where Women Work, we expect further progress.
The Black Lives Matter movement undoubtably sharpened society’s focus on addressing racial inequality. It’s also encouraging that for each of our HS2 contracts the proportion of WSP colleagues from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds is above the infrastructure and engineering sector averages. And on our Rail Systems Support, Old Oak Common and Euston contracts, over 20% of our colleagues are Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
HS2 asks all its suppliers to gain external D&I accreditation (which WSP does through the National Equality Standard). To support HS2’s drive for even greater inclusivity and diversity through its growing number of tier 1 suppliers, WSP’s Procurement Team has formed a Supply Chain Diversity Taskforce. This new initiative is reviewing how we engage with those smaller companies owned by women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, LGBTQ+ and disabled communities, and helping remove barriers to entry with practical support and guidance.
Inclusive by design
The inclusive behaviours we build into our contracts are also being embedded into our designs. I was excited to be part of a test group to help refine a new inclusive design training module that aims to do just that. Developed by my WSP colleague Kevin Mainwaring, The Principles of Inclusive Design is an interactive training module that will help designers better consider what it means to be inclusive.
Technology has a big role to play in creating more inclusive spaces. A fantastic example of this is the virtual reality, eye-tracking and emotion-sensing technology being harnessed to feed stress free wayfinding back into the design of the Old Oak Common super hub. The innovative work my WSP colleagues are doing with CCD Design & Ergonomics and HS2 will benefit millions of station users, particularly those with restricted mobility.
Standing for diversity and inclusivity
We encourage all of our colleagues to speak up against attitudes and behaviours that don’t align with our values, which they can do directly with their line managers and HR, or via reporting tools, such as our H&S hotline. When it comes to issues of intolerance and discrimination, we want everyone to know that WSP has their back.
Influential companies like WSP and HS2, who are proactively making inclusivity part of their cultural identity, will reap the benefits of greater innovation, happier workforces and greater revenues. They also have an incredible opportunity to build a more inclusive society for everybody.