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08 Mar 2024

Inclusion & Belonging: Is this DEI 3.0?

TL Karen Blanc Iamp B Web Banner 2

As we began our inclusion journey at Kent in 2021 - a brand new global company with hundreds of years of combined energy projects experience and the heart of a start-up, we started from a completely blank piece of paper. As we listened to our people and did our research, I questioned many times whether this was a blessing or a curse.

On one hand – we didn’t have established employee resource groups informing us and lobbying for change, and there was no informed strategy shaped or evolved over time to reflect on an ongoing journey towards inclusion. We had no consistent data to tell us where we were globally, and no shortage of people telling me that a global D&I strategy wouldn’t work, for a myriad of reasons.

On the other hand – D&I felt like it was losing its way a little, with plenty of ongoing discussion about where it should sit in a business, who should lead it, and whether focussing on differences and establishing (albeit well-meaning) programmes or quotas to help underrepresented groups to succeed, were indeed having the impact required.

Reflecting on this, we spent some time getting to know and listening to our people, and understanding what their needs and wants were. What I found hardly felt surprising, but overwhelmingly, colleagues from around the world told me over and over again that kindness and fairness mattered to them. They wanted to belong to one organisational culture, and they wanted to feel they were truly welcome here.

It sounds really simple, and my feeling is: that’s because it is. People from all walks of life spoke about how they didn’t want to be tokenised, they didn’t want to have to create a sub-culture because they didn’t belong to the main one, and they didn’t want anyone to decide what opportunities they did or didn’t want to be considered for.

So, on the basis that what we were focussing on wasn’t our differences, but our end state of being able to feel that we all belong, we called our work Inclusion & Belonging. We created a global strategy which focussed on our desired end-state of everyone at Kent feeling like they could thrive here. We adopted the Kent “embassy” model, where our values prevail no matter where in the world we operate. And we created our Inclusion Blueprint, a checklist of well-researched actions every one of our 34 countries can drive to advance towards our inclusive future. They’re the same actions for every country, but tackling them country-by-country leaves us the room that’s required for small local adaptations - mainly these relate more to local support than actual cultural difference. As we’re finding, we have more in common than not.

Our Blueprint means that all of our inclusion & belonging activity time is invested driving the things which really matter, for those who work here today, and those who we hope choose to join us – and stay – in the future. The actions progress in level of challenge, and mean challenging – and changing “the way things have always been done”. I’m a firm believer that our beliefs and systems are learned, and that the world of work we’ve inherited today needs a good review to check it’s fit for purpose for us all. An inclusive world means shaping those systems rather than shaping our people to conform to them, so that’s the work we’re doing.

Necessarily, this means that the time invested by our global I&B changemakers group of engineers, HR professionals, and site supervisors is taken up with driving lasting change, and there’s a bit less time for actions that might, in a past life, have passed for D&I. Turns out we’re okay with that.

All this talk of an ideal future, of course, doesn’t negate the very real lived experiences of people who face any kind of prejudism at work. But we are saying that none of us are okay with this. Call it out, and we’ll do something about it. Our work encompasses education too, to help us question our social conditioning.

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