New research finds that ‘responsibility structures’ including employee networks or inclusion taskforces are fundamental if diversity initiatives are to succeed within organisations.

A new report commissioned by Business in the Community (BITC) in partnership with the bank Santander and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London identifies what proven steps can be taken to make working cultures in organisations more inclusive.

The key recommendations from the report highlighted these factors to improve diversity and inclusion within the workplace:

  • Encouraging both prevention and promotion when it comes to fostering work environments – The demonstration that the organisation both believes in positive values and will also actively address behaviour which is not inclusive
  • Focus on behaviour change, active learning and promoting dialogue between different groups – This allows unconscious bias to be overcome and habits which exhibit this to be broken
  • ‘Responsibility’ structures including employee networks/inclusion taskforces help – These structures make diversity initiatives more successful overall by holding leadership accountable
  • Fostering a ‘community responsibility’ – This enables employees to confront and call out behaviour that is not inclusive
  • Leaders and managers and their interactions with wider staff – The perceived values and ethos of those in charge can make or break a company’s culture, the report states
  • An ‘identity conscious’ approach – This is better than an ‘identity blind’ approach as it celebrates difference rather than ignoring it
  • Ensuring wider systems are fair and bias free – This ensures some demographics are not treated worse than others

The report states that by implementing actions linked to inclusion such as fair processes, inclusive leadership, diversity communication, the hiring and promoting of diverse employees, this could have a host of benefits for the organisation. This includes positive workplace relationships, talent retention, improved job performance and satisfaction and better wellbeing.

In addition, this report also suggested that a vital way to champion diversity and inclusion is through the use of confrontations by allies. In order to avoid perpetuating non-inclusive behaviour, research has found that confrontation by those who are not on the receiving end of the behaviour can be particularly effective.

For HR leaders, it states that diversity and inclusion can be improved by leaders making an attempt to personally get to know each employee and refraining from using language which could exclude some.

Charlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Campaign Director at Business in the Community, said:

Even before the pandemic hit, many British workers were experiencing micro aggressions at work, with a knock-on impact on their health and wellbeing. But we also know that it can be hard for employers to stamp out such low-level, pervasive bad behaviour. This research gives organisations the clarity and confidence they need to make sure their culture works for everyone. 2020 has shone a bright light on the divisions that exist between us. It’s time for employers to play their part in healing them.

Damien Shieber, Head of Culture, Inclusion and Experience at Santander, said:

At the heart of our inclusive culture at Santander is an ambition to create a thriving workplace that promotes diversity and inclusion, prioritises wellbeing and develops our people’s skills. This report, with its findings and summary actions, will further support our focus and approach in promoting a culture of respect and everyday inclusion – to enable everybody to feel valued and to be their true selves.

*This research was taken from the report ‘What Really Works? Ensuring Inclusive Working Cultures’ commissioned by Business in the Community (BITC) in partnership with the bank Santander and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London,





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.