Building an inclusive culture at one of the UK’s largest property development companies
British Land is a FTSE100 commercial property company with a focus on high-quality retail and office spaces, and over £18 billion of managed assets across the UK. They pride themselves on creating ‘Places People Prefer’ – to work, shop and live.
British Land saw an opportunity to be at the forefront of the propco sector by creating a strategy for diversity and inclusion, and so increase their ability to attract and retain diverse talent. Central to this was their desire to create workplaces where people would feel comfortable to be themselves. In practice, this meant building an inclusive workplace culture where everyone is aware of the organisational impact of unconscious bias, and how unconscious bias can be managed day-to-day.
Client-led design, actor-based training delivery
Our team, led by Rachael Wilson, worked closely with British Land to develop a fully bespoke Building an Inclusive Culture programme for all staff in 2017, covering:
- The Executive Committee
- All People Managers
- All Staff
The design phase included spending time on-site and in conversation with various grades of British Land’s people to learn more about the existing company culture. These on-site interviews revealed certain behaviours that were inhibiting staff from feeling able to bring their whole selves to work. One example was a perceived cultural bias towards people with university degrees or from a particular socio-economic background.
“The team at British Land provided a clear direction on the key messages their course should convey: people should feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work, and the Executive Committee should lead the way by fully engaging in inclusive leadership. British Land were keen to further understand the neuroscience behind unconscious bias, but also wanted something practical for their people to take with them into their everyday roles.”
Yvonne Howard, EW Group Consultant
As a result, we wanted to create and facilitate opportunities for British Land to:
- Explore the cultural codes that arise from unconscious bias
- Develop their capacity to manage unconscious bias in recruitment and selection
- Raise awareness around unconscious bias in decision-making and its adverse impact on talent retention and progression.
To do so, we brought in our team of role-playing actors. Our acting team worked alongside our consultants to design, script and rehearse a set of bespoke workplace scenarios that set out how inclusion and inclusive leadership directly tie in to British Land’s own strategic goals.
Competitive advantage – how inclusive working cultures attract and retain diverse talent
To drive senior buy-in to the diversity and inclusion agenda, we started by working with the Executive Committee to determine a collective view of what inclusive leadership looks like. We focused on raising awareness of the business benefits of diversity and inclusion specific to British Land in the sector they operate in and the culture they wanted to build. We then rolled out sessions to all British Land’s People Managers, as well as all staff.
Our live experiential approach using actors allowed us to explore various scenarios of recruitment, retention and progression, including:
- How patterns and behaviours are formed, and the impact of stereotyping on organisational fit and access to opportunities
- How it feels to be excluded at work, and the impact this has on team performance.
To embed the learning from each scenario, we invited participants to actively engage with our actors in real-time. This allowed our facilitator to draw out greater insight into the root causes of the behaviours at play in each scene. We also gave participants the chance to direct the actors to replay the scenarios in a more positive and inclusive light, highlighting the differences inclusive working can make. The acted scenarios then served as a launchpad into facilitated discussions and exercises on the practical steps to take to mitigate unconscious bias at work.
Our actor-based sessions were very well received all round, with feedback including:
- “Great sessions. Interesting, informative and inclusive! Good to get thinking in different ways.”
- “Good vibe in the room!”
- “Great presenter, really engaging and talked about topics I could relate to.”
As a final part of each session, all staff at British Land committed to a pledge to building an inclusive culture and laid out a plan for how they were going to do it.
Measures of success – building awareness, confidence and skills in diversity and inclusion at work
Our inclusive culture programme at British Land has been incredibly successful. As part of programme design, we collaborated with the British Land team to create a set of bespoke evaluation metrics. The results after the all-staff sessions speak for themselves:
- Awareness: The percentage of learners who felt highly aware of unconscious bias increased from 5% pre-course to 84% post-course.
- Behaviours: 100% of staff said they had a clear idea of ways to behave more inclusively.
- Challenging others: 96% of staff felt very confident or confident in intervening in situations involving inappropriate behaviour.
- Confidence: 98.3% of staff felt confident and capable in talking about diversity at work.
“We couldn’t have wished for a better company to partner with for our inclusive culture and unconscious bias training sessions. From the beginning, the EW Group team did everything possible to understand our company and culture, with a genuine care to move us along our inclusivity journey. The results have been incredible.”
Nikki de Vet, Organisational Effectiveness Manager at British Land
Next steps – The British Land Diversity Manual and taking the Inclusive Culture Pledge
In November 2017, British Land CEO Chris Grigg joined the panel of speakers at our 25th anniversary event in London to discuss the need to develop inclusive cultures as part of the workplaces of the future. Chris and his British Land colleagues were also on hand to sign up to our Inclusive Culture Pledge.
“The leadership on diversity and inclusion needs to come from the top. This is not something you can delegate.”
Chris Grigg, CEO at British Land, speaking at our 25th Anniversary event in 2017
In 2018, we built on the all-staff Inclusive Culture course by developing an in-house Diversity Manual for British Land managers and staff, including chapters on the following key themes:
- Equality, diversity and inclusion – key concepts
- Building an inclusive culture
- Bullying and harassment
- Unconscious bias
- Diversity and inclusion – barriers and enablers
- Flexible working
- Maternity and paternity leave
- Reasonable adjustments
- Inclusive recruitment and selection
- Retaining and progressing diverse talent
- Performance management
- Coaching, mentoring and sponsorship.