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The Future in Focus

Podcast: Our Planet, Our Plan - Wilfully inclusive

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19 OCTOBER 2023 - 16 MINUTES

LRQA recently launched Our Planet, Our Plan - an internal sustainability programme that outlines our ambitious Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments over the next seven years, underpinned by time-bound performance metrics.

To accompany the programme, LRQA is launching an eight-episode podcast series to explore each of the seven commitments within Our Planet, Our Plan. The second episode, ‘Wilfully inclusive: Why everyone wins with inclusivity’, sees Leanne Halliday, LRQA’s Global Hydrogen Expert and Oceania Territory Manager, sharing personal experiences and practical advice around the challenges and opportunities within inclusivity.

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LRQA: The Future in Focus

Hi everyone and welcome back to LRQA’s Future in Focus Podcast. My name is Holly Wild, I am the Global External Communications Manager for LRQA, and I am very pleased to be recording this podcast today with my colleague Leanne Halliday. Now it’s not your first time on this podcast but for our new listeners could I just ask you to introduce yourself?

Absolutely, so my name is Leanne Halliday. I’m Territory Manager for Oceania and I’m currently sitting in Perth Australia. I’ve been working in the industry for over 20 years now which seems a long time when you say it and I’ve actually been with LRQA for 11 years.

During that time, I’ve had a variety of roles, so started off as Compliance Manager for East Coast Australia, then moved to Singapore where I did just over two years as Sales Manager for SEMEA, South Asia Middle East and Africa, and then back to Perth where I took up various roles.

So, within my role, I look after sales for Australia and New Zealand and also have a global role where I am the voice of hydrogen within the company and help to develop new products for the hydrogen sector.

You may already be aware that we have recently launched our very own internal sustainability strategy called ‘Our Planet, Our Plan’ and a quick recap for those of you who haven’t heard of it before. Our Planet, Our Plan sets out LRQA’s Environmental, Social and Governance ambitions, otherwise known as ESG, to deliver a positive impact for our clients, our colleagues, our suppliers, our communities, our planet, the list goes on.

The plan stretches over seven years and is organised into seven commitments that’s safety, equity, community, environment, education, governance and inclusivity. Through our Future in Focus podcast channel, we’ll be interviewing a technical expert for each of those pillars with inclusivity being our topic for today. So, let’s get down to business. Leanne has kindly agreed to provide us with a bit of an introductory story or anecdote. I asked for something that’s really stuck with you Leanne, or caught your attention recently in the field of inclusivity, so let’s get started, what would you like to share with our listeners?

Yes, I come to inclusivity from quite a few different areas so I guess the first one is I am a woman engineer, so I am, started my career like I said around 20 years ago and actually on my course there was less than 10% women on that course and that’s actually quite a bigger percentage from what I’ve seen throughout my time in industry.

And I always, I have a really good story, so it was probably about six months into my career I went on a training course, and we’re at the bar after the training course and there was 30 people on the course but only me and one other woman. And I went to the bar afterwards and I ordered a white wine spritzer and this other lady actually said to me, oh if you want to do well in this industry you have to order a pint, you can’t be having a white wine spritzer. And for me that was one of the big defining moments for me of what is inclusivity.

But inclusivity is about being yourself in whatever industry or wherever you find yourself and that for me has always been something that I’ve always pushed for within my career and also when I was managing very large diverse cultural teams, it’s something that has really supported me throughout my career and the way that I really push inclusivity into everything that I do.

Now to continue that theme, let’s have an honest conversation here about inclusivity. It sometimes is a controversial topic and it is sometimes criticised within the business context. Can I ask why you think that is?

Absolutely, so when I mentioned earlier about me being a woman engineer, I actually hate that term, because I’m an engineer who just happens to be a woman and I think that summarises why it gets criticised. Because we often feel that people are put into positions or people get jobs because we’re trying to be more inclusive where it actually should be the right person for the right role at the right time no matter what diverse or what background they come from. And for me that is when I go back to the point about saying inclusive means being yourself, that’s exactly what it means. So yes, I have been involved in women in engineering, women in hydrogen and they’re all great to really promote and push people forward, but actually we should remember that we’re in that position because of what we can bring, not because of who we are.

Absolutely Leanne, and to that point we obviously believe that inclusivity harnessed properly is a force for good hence it being one of the pillars of Our Planet, Our Plan. So, for you, what does great inclusivity look like?

Absolutely and it’s the diversity and the diversity people bring from their different backgrounds, their different cultures, their different authenticities, so when I took the role in Singapore, I always say I was dumped into this team, I wasn’t just dumped but I went in with my eyes closed, I was given a team from cultures all over the world and I didn’t realise what that meant.

And so when I went to the initial meetings it was actually quite difficult because I was pushing my thoughts onto them and how I thought things should be done because that’s what I’d always known, the Western way, the way that I’ve always worked within the UK and Australia and now I was working with teams across India, Malaysia, China, and different places. And it actually took me I’d say six months to a year to really sit back and understand what these different ways of thinking actually brought to the programme and also what I brought as a different way of thinking into some of these meetings as well.

So for me the advantage that inclusivity gives is if you sit back and you actually appreciate what all these different backgrounds, what all these different approaches, what all these different options and opinions bring, then you get a completely different look at the world, whether that’s looking at different ways of solving problems and different ways that make up of teams can actually have a different motivational level as well.

Excellent, so we’ve covered some of the benefits there, but you’ve also commented on how challenging and difficult this can be to get right. So, if people don’t quite get inclusivity right in their business the first time, or they don’t give it the time or effort that it needs, what effect does that have, what effect does a non-inclusive work environment have on a business?

Absolutely damages motivation, it damages peoples feeling part of the team so you have to respect everybody’s point of view, you have to respect why they can have somebody off on a Friday, why they actually have to have that holiday, why they’re off because their grandma is sick. Why all these things are happening and not just challenge it but actually ask questions and accept it even though that might not be your point of view. And I think a lot of people think they’re inclusive and they just sit within a little bubble but actually when they start to get challenged or start to wonder why, then we actually see inclusivity becoming a reality.

I’ve got an example of this, so I am the sole breadwinner of my family, we live in Australia we have no extended family, there’s just me, my husband and two children. We made the decision quite a few years ago for my husband to give up work and be a stay at home dad. That was in many cultures and even our own culture is actually frowned upon and people don’t understand that and so when we’re having conversations around barbeques or when I have conversations actually with colleagues, if they don’t understand it, they’re actually quite dismissive of it and that can have a negative effect on both how we feel about that and question if this is the right thing to do within our family. It actually is the right thing to do for us at this point in time and when people are open to that and accept that you can have some really good conversations about it. So that’s an example of how just being open and asking questions rather than just putting your bias on it and then rejecting it first off and thinking about what effect that’s having on the other people.

So, I guess my answer is if you don’t have inclusivity you’re ruling people out, you’re not having a team spirit and you’re making people feel demotivated and questioning their role within the team or within their society.

Thanks, Leanne, I so appreciate you providing practical examples for our listeners it really brings the topic alive, so thank you for sharing that. Can we extend that and can we offer some practical advice for our listeners today in terms of if they work for a company, you know who wants to start doing better work within inclusivity where do they start? Where does a company even begin when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace?

So, the first thing is to stop and ask. So, like I said we all live under this bubble thinking we do have inclusivity but are we asking the right questions, are we being open enough with each other to be able to make sure that we do have inclusivity. Is there a person within the organisation that never comes to events we organise, is there a person that’s always off at a specific time or just sits in the corner and doesn’t necessarily ask the questions why is that? Are we asking the right questions, are we being open enough to understand. Is it something to do with their culture, their background, their preferences, and their family situation and just making sure of that.

So, I’ve got another example here that I can probably give. So, two years ago I came back from maternity leave, bang straight back into it after I was with my first child, I went full time. I realised a couple of weeks, a month into that that I was actually stressed to the max. I just couldn’t do this and it was because in my time of life this was the last child I was having and I just felt like I wasn’t giving, I was torn, I wanted to spend more time with them, I was trying to work full time and it just wasn’t working for me. So, I wasn’t giving my most, I was stressed, I was, I wasn’t completing tasks like I should be and so I actually went to a four day week and I’m still currently on a four day week. And that was to allow me to have that space, have my family life but also, I knew that I wasn’t giving my most in the job because I couldn’t have that balance and work listened. But if they hadn’t listened, I’d have continued to be that stressed person, I’d have probably left the organisation, I’d have continued to not be able to give my most or I’d have been that person just sitting and just, what’s the word just quietly resenting the fact that I was having to work five days a week and not having that time.

So, like I said the advice I can give is watch out for the signs, watch out for the people who are having changes in life and ask why if they are not doing the work that they used to do and just ask them the questions and be open, that’s all we can do. Not pretending everything’s okay, people asking and openness.

I love that and I wouldn’t have thought about that you know you think about this okay what advice are we going to give people to go off and embrace inclusivity and actually, it's about stopping and pausing, observing and listening and asking, so thank you so much for I guess changing our mindset on that. So, let’s prepare our listeners as much as we can, if you know they do start this programme of work to embrace inclusivity beyond the point why they stop and observe and listen and engage with their employees. What are some of the primary challenges they’re going to face, what are the challenges in building a truly inclusive workplace that people should perhaps prepare for?

I think Holly you alluded to this area where you talked about what some of the challenges of inclusivity when people talk about this stuff, sometimes people think you’re just doing it to get your numbers so to look good in your report, right.

So, if we approach it in a way that we’re actually open about why we’re doing it, so inclusivity is not just about getting the right proportion in the right positions. Inclusivity is about being open and allowing people to use their talents and their skills in the right positions. It's also about giving people the right time when they need it, and the right approaches when they need it and being sympathetic of what they need at that time to allow you to get the best out of them.

So I think if we outline all of this at the start rather than people thinking inclusivity is just about getting your numbers right, or your quotas right, it's not about that it's about giving people the opportunities to be able to fulfil their potential, so what are the strategies I guess, I guess that’s what can but, otherwise you can fall into people just thinking oh yes we’ve had all this before, right, yes people just, we want to have the right, we want to have the right numbers on a report.

So I think that’s, it’s a difficult question to answer but it's just about setting out your strategy and being open about what you’re trying to achieve and using real time examples right, that’s how you’re going to get, using examples of people and also getting feedback from people about how they felt inclusive and what inclusivity means for them.

Excellent, yes striving for transparency and looking beyond the numbers, absolutely.

I think that’s a really good summary of my babble Holly and it's exactly right, it's striving for transparency over numbers, absolutely yes.

I think we might have just covered the next question I was going to ask you, but I’ll ask it anyway in case you’ve got any final thoughts. So, the final question Leanne, let's just take a step back, you’ve covered so many different angles in inclusivity and you know the challenges we need to consider and the benefits and what it looks like. But when all is said and done, what should the end goal of inclusivity programmes be, what are we striving towards?

A team where everybody has the right opportunity based on their skills, wants and attitude and a team where everybody feels that they can be themselves and are motivated.

And finally, just a reminder to our listeners that you can learn more about Our Planet, Our Plan on the LRQA website and see our digital dashboard which tracks our progress against all seven pillars.

You’ve been listening to the LRQA Future in Focus podcast, thanks so much for giving us your time and we hope to see you soon.