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Becoming an inclusive company means truly understanding who we are being inclusive for

Zone’s Employee Experience Strategy Director Jacquie Leitch shares some of the actionable changes that can be made to create greater inclusion

Jacquie Leitch, Zone

Employee Experience Strategy Director

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We’re at an interesting paradox. I’ve never known a time in my career when we’ve been so aware of improving work culture as we navigate such shifts in practices. However, we’re still far from being near to the right levels of inclusivity. 

I’m fully aware as I write this piece that I'm sitting in my home office, enjoying lots of comfort. I do understand that this is far from the case for a lot of people across industries and including many whom I work closely with at Zone.

It’s quite extraordinary to look at how most of us have adapted and coped over the last three years. As a consultancy, we are used to working closely and advising big, global brands on customer experiences that will keep people digitally engaged for more than five minutes across purchase journeys, which isn’t an easy feat. Businesses have suddenly required employees to become digitally engaged for eight hours a day, five days a week, without question. This gives you a good idea of the momentous challenge of maintaining something that works for the many and not the few.

The culture of work is now incredibly multidimensional; there are complex variables, but good facilitation means we can start to find solutions that aren’t one-size-fits-all and that show a deeper understanding of those we work with

Jacquie Leitch, Employee Experience Strategy Director at Zone

Just how we’d advise a brand, breaking up the experience into different brand touch points is key. And for employees, those touch points need to feel like something they want to be a part of — something they are helping develop, mould and perfect as we navigate this new world together. But to truly become more inclusive, we first must ask: who are we adapting for? Because you can’t design for a better future without addressing what the key is to effective inclusive thinking — the ‘who’. The culture of work is now incredibly multidimensional; there are complex variables, but good facilitation means we can start to find solutions that aren’t one-size-fits-all and that show a deeper understanding of those we work with.

We have done many focus groups with employees across different topics, and it’s been quite fascinating. Take social events, for example. Where the monthly social get-together was a few drinks after work, we’re now more aware than ever that this doesn’t suit everyone — far from it. Many people don’t want to socialise that way, so changing it to accommodate them and keep it fun and relaxed has been important.

Similarly, flexibility is paramount. Coming into work now holds a completely different value and meaning than before — carers, working parents, and those from further away feel that sacrifice more now. So, bringing social time into the working day has been something we’ve introduced, and we’ve seen an increase in productivity and engagement. Where we haven’t mandated an office-working policy, we want people to want to come into the office on a day of their choice, and we recognise we must show our appreciation in more meaningful ways. For office days, we’re orchestrating more social connection points: takeaways for meetings, masterclasses on offer to attend, and more. We want people to feel valued when travelling into the office, feeling it’s worth getting up earlier, tackling the commute, and trade-off on child care. Therefore, we continually ask, how can we be more intentional on those moments of interaction?

We moved our end-of-day meeting to within work hours, wrapping up by 5pm for those who need to get home. We continually remind people of our flexible working arrangements and future plans so they can make the most of it. We are also transparent with clients on these changes and are pleased with how positively they’ve been received.

And we’re helping clients tackle the same challenges. We worked with one recently on implementing meeting etiquette on video calls that looked at the different barriers various people face. For example, establishing if you can type whilst listening, raising your hand to ask a question, ensuring everyone’s tech is working properly, and giving everyone a platform they feel comfortable with. This may sound obvious, but the key here is intention. The client wanted to prove that their employees were central to the thinking and felt listened to — and this goes a long way no matter how simple the idea is.

Despite still being only a short way down the path, I’m incredibly proud of the work we are doing at Zone to address real inclusivity and in adapting how we work for the long term, for the better and for all. We’ve recognised that simply putting initiatives in place isn’t enough — we need to be held accountable, which is why we’ve partnered with an outside agency to do this. We also challenged them to not measure us against the industry baseline because that means we’re already behind.

We want to do better and be part of those setting new standards across the board — because the crucial thing is not just looking at the here and now but how we create richer, future-focused experiences for prospective employees we want to hire. They must see a company that has moved away from old-fashioned thinking and prioritising employee experience with transformational changes rooted in a real sense of purpose and inclusivity for all. Having open-minded decision-making that challenges the status quo and cultivating a culture of listening and being mindful means you can positively harness collective energy. If companies can create and maintain good and inclusive culture now, it stands them in much greater stead for a positive future.

Guest Author

Jacquie Leitch, Zone

Employee Experience Strategy Director

About

Jacquie Leitch is Zone’s Employee Experience Strategy Director, managing a diligent and dedicated team. She designs future-focused people initiatives for the company's clients across the financial services, online retail, engineering, and technology sectors.

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