Inclusion and Diversity Matters

09 December 2020

With the events of 2020 serving to highlight the need for every one of us to be there for family, friends and our wider community, we speak to our UK Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Nerys Thomas, about the first six months in her role and why she is excited about the future direction of the business.

“I think it’s important to take the time to take stock of everything that has happened – especially this year,” says Nerys, reflecting on the last six months.

“When I returned to Leonardo in June following my maternity leave, there was so much going on, not only in the company, but around the world. We were in the midst of responding to the pandemic; our people’s health, safety and wellbeing, supporting our customers and finding new ways to enable our people to do their day–to-day jobs in a safe and supportive manner, were our top priorities.

Developing a community

“It was amazing to see just how much was going on,” enthuses Nerys. “The IT teams were working overtime to ensure people at home could not only work, but also feel keep the sense of team-working. The communications team worked alongside all the corporate functions including Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) to ensure people were informed and educated about the challenges they were now facing and still feeling a sense of belonging. This included articles on working from home and the importance of mental health and fitness, dedicated intranet pages with webinars and features on how to build personal resilience, STEM activities for families to try together and lunchtime learner sessions that everyone could join. There were even quizzes on our UK Instagram account for employees and external followers to test themselves on.

“There genuinely seemed to be a sense of community, which extended beyond what was expected of people, with many working extra hours to support the national call for PPE equipment, as well as doing what they could at home to support the NHS and key workers.

“Working to ensure the wellbeing of everyone in the company was something our team is rightly proud of,” continues Nerys “so we were all absolutely delighted when it was announced earlier this year that we were one of the first companies to be awarded the 'We Invest in Wellbeing' gold level accreditation by Investors in People.”

The value of network groups

During this period, just as they have throughout the whole year, Leonardo’s I&D network groups – Pride (LGBTQ+), Carers, and Equalise (Gender Balance) – continued unabated to raise awareness, educate and improve the working environments for the communities they represent.

The underlying objective for Leonardo is to be a welcoming, inclusive place to work for all our people. Our I&D Plan for 2020+ promises that we will ‘strive to build an inclusive, diverse culture where individuals can thrive, feel safe and perform at their best.’

Nerys continues: “The network groups have been fantastic in the campaigns they’ve driven for us as a business; they’ve really helped highlight how we as individuals can change our behaviour and how together we can adopt working practices to further support all our colleagues. For example, one positive, although accelerated by social distancing, has been our attitude towards flexible working. Seeing our working culture evolve so easily and so readily has allowed us as a business to introduce a custom working policy that empowers people to flex their working hours while ensuring customer requirements are met.

“Not only has this allowed us to make life a little easier for those already working for us and who may have personal commitments – such as caring for a loved one or dealing with additional childcare – but we can now offer favourable working conditions for those who may have otherwise been struggling to re-join the workplace. This is reflected in us recently launching our STEM Returners Programme with some of our mid-careers vacancies, promoting our flexible working scheme and approach to learning and development that will strongly support those looking to return to work after some time out.”

Looking back and moving forward

A key milestone this year for Nerys was National Inclusion Week in September, which not only offered the opportunity to celebrate the work of the network groups and the strides forward in I&D, but also consider the goals still to be reached.

“Alongside the Network Groups, I am passionate about and committed to accelerating our progress with our I&D agenda in the day-to-day work of all of our people. Therefore, during National Inclusion Week, we encouraged everyone to come together to talk about I&D and take on ‘inclusion challenges’ that promoted every day inclusion and conversations. This was very successful, and we’ve made these available for everyone to promote inclusion 365 days a year, with the aim of keeping the conversations going. It was a great opportunity for so many of our leaders to support our activities during the week and it’s exciting that each of our network groups will have a new executive sponsor to support their work in 2021.

“We are also excited to have recently launched ‘Enable’ – our new Network Group focusing on what we can do to further support our people with visible and invisible disabilities, and make the most of their talents. This responds to feedback we’ve received from our colleagues who are passionate about having a group that will provide more education about neurodiversity. We are pleased to be working together on something that is so important to so many people.”

Looking back on 2020, Nerys is keen to acknowledge everyone who has supported the I&D agenda, and she is actively looking ahead to the work still to be done.

“We’re extremely grateful to our colleagues for embracing our I&D goals throughout 2020 and, just as importantly, for openly sharing their views on how we can respond to challenges we still face; we will keep engaging with our colleagues across the business to ensure we continue to build on our progress in creating a welcoming, comfortable environment for everyone working at Leonardo.”

With this ambition in mind, Nerys is particularly proud that Leonardo was able to announce a new partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK) shortly after interviewing colleagues from different backgrounds as part of Black History Month. “We share the same aim to increase the number of engineers from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and support young people exploring a career in engineering,” says Nerys. “This is an exciting new relationship for Leonardo, and as the first UK aerospace and defence company to forge a partnership with AFBE-UK, we’re confident it will support us in responding to the feedback and focusing on inclusion as well as diversity.”

Nerys is also delighted with the “significant interest” expressed by employees wanting to join the new People and Inclusion Sub-Committee that will oversee the implementation of the I&D Plan. “We invited volunteers within our business to apply and have been overwhelmed by the positive response from across our UK workforce. This demonstrates that our people share the company’s ambitions to put pace into our progress and work together to achieve the desired outcomes,” adds Nerys.

“In closing, we have achieved a lot this year, we are gaining momentum and engagement, and to quote Homy Masud, one of the colleagues we spoke to in our Black History Month interviews during October, ‘We are diverse as a business…and we are becoming more diverse as a workforce, in our cultures and ways of thinking…and that is something we should really celebrate.’”