Serving up a bowl of employee inclusion
In this myGrapevine magazine exclusive interview, Stuart Branch, Chief People & Digital Officer at Weetabix talks about the cereal brand’s ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ programme and how its ‘Breakfast With...’ sessions can help to promote employee inclusion...
Employee inclusion is an important part of any workplace. Enabling employees to bring their whole selves to work and encouraging and empowering individuality is key. A CIPD blog post explained that inclusion at work occurs “when people feel valued and accepted in their team and in the wider organisation, without having to conform.” The post went on to explain that “inclusive organisations support employees, regardless of their background or circumstance, to thrive at work.”
Being able to thrive in an inclusive organisation that celebrates individuality is something that today’s candidate-led market (whether internal or external) is increasingly on the look-out for. And rightly so. A survey from The Manifest found that most jobseekers (70%) want to work for an organisation that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion, while Deloitte stats – cited by Built In – found that 80% of workers said that inclusion efforts were an important factor when choosing a company.
"'Inclusion Without Exception' is the branding that we’ve given to D&I"
From the above data, it is clear that workplaces that promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion are important to current and prospective talent but, in addition to this, having a genuinely inclusive workplace environment can also bring about a range of benefits for both HR and employers. Take staff retention for example.
At a time where employers are grappling to keep hold of top talent amid the ‘Great Resignation’, having an inclusive culture can help with retention. For example, 2019 data from Limeade Institute found that, when employees feel included at work, they are 28% more engaged and three times more likely to stay. Additionally, with the above data from The Manifest highlighting that most jobseekers are looking to join diverse and inclusive companies, this could help with HR’s talent attraction strategy too. But this is not all.
Separate data has highlighted that inclusive cultures can boost employee happiness, morale and overall business performance. A Boston Consulting Group survey found a correlation between inclusiveness and happiness on the job; of the employees who reported that they work in an inclusive working environment, 81% also said that they are happy in their jobs – three times more than those who don’t feel included. Additionally, a Deloitte study found that diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee, while Gartner stats found that inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30% in high-diversity environments, as cited by an Achievers article. Given the plethora of benefits that diverse and inclusive workplaces can have both for staff and the business, employers and HR would be wise to prioritise this agenda at work.
One company that appears to have a strong focus on employee inclusion is the Weetabix Food Company. The popular cereal maker – which has cereals including Weetabix, Alpen and Oatibix within its portfolio – has around 1,100 employees, with its headquarters based in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire. According to Stuart Branch, Chief People & Digital Officer at Weetabix, D&I is about “making a great place to work”. In a recent interview with myGrapevine magazine, he explains: “We believe at Weetabix that better days start with better breakfasts and we believe that Weetabix is a great way to start your day. It’s fabulous [that], at Weetabix, we have an exec team that believes that, to make better breakfasts, you need brilliant people.” He continues: “Our ‘brilliant people’ strategy is about making sure that we attract the best possible talent. And therefore, in order to do that, we need to appeal to everybody and we need to make sure that everybody has their chance of being their best when they’re at work.” As such, an acute focus on inclusion is key.
Chief People &
This is where Weetabix’s ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ strategy comes in. “‘Inclusion Without Exception’ is the branding that we’ve given to D&I,” Stuart explains. “We have a people strategy [at] Weetabix, obviously we have an organisational strategy, we then have elements of that organisational strategy that kind of break down into certain teams and certain functions. And within the people strategy we have an element which is D&I.” He says that after various considerations, the firm then hooked onto the concept that, “if you have inclusion, you will attract diversity.” He continues: “If you chase diversity, you can have diversity, without inclusion” - the thinking being that, just because a company has good workforce diversity, it doesn’t mean that employees will feel included and like their voices are heard. Additionally, a famous quote from the diversity advocate, Vernā Meyers, sums this notion up too. She says: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”, as was cited in an article from The Muse. “So, we deliberately branded our work at Weetabix ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ and that is really focusing on inclusion,” Stuart continues.
"If you have inclusion, you will attract diversity"
Branch’s thinking – about the importance of focussing on employee inclusion from an organisational standpoint – aligns with a wealth of data on the subject. According to research by Josh Bersin, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in the market, and 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready. In addition, a white paper from Cloverpop – cited by Edume – found that inclusive teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time, and make those decisions twice as fast within half as many meetings.
As is clear, there are many benefits to having an inclusive working environment. So, to regularly ensure that employees feel included at work, the firm runs an employee inclusion survey where workers are asked whether they believe that they have experienced or seen any biases at Weetabix. The most recent ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ survey found that 79% believe that ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ is a priority for Weetabix, while 72% of respondents believe that Weetabix is an inclusive place to work (up from 67% the year prior). In addition, 77% of staff said that they are proud to be working for an organisation that champions inclusion and equal opportunity (up from 70% in the previous year), while 82% up from (65%) believe they have an opportunity to learn more about D&I at Weetabix. So, based on the above data, it appears that the firm is progressing its results year-on-year – something which will benefit both staff and the business.
About the cereal brand
While there were many positive takings from the study, the data also shed light on two areas where staff believe that they may have witnessed bias. For example, ‘age’ (36%) followed by ‘education’ (24%) were the two areas where employees believed that they have witnessed bias from within the organisation. Yet, as with any results, Stuart alludes that this can help the firm to reflect and consider as an organisation the activities and training that are needed to help managers and employees around that.
"We saw the attendance rate go up quite dramatically, we encouraged people to sit at home with their bowl of Weetabix or Alpen or cup of coffee and we continued to run the ‘Breakfasts With…’"
Aside from utilising employee surveys to get feedback from staff, Weetabix also has initiatives in place to help employees share various inclusion stories. One of the initiatives that Weetabix runs, which helps to promote inclusion and raise awareness of mental wellbeing within the workplace, is its ‘Breakfast With...’ sessions. Essentially, these are interactive Q&A-style sessions – that started off pre-Covid-19 in the on-site restaurant – which are led by someone different each week, whether it is ‘Breakfast With… Sally Abbott, the Managing Director’ or ‘Breakfast With… Stuart Branch’ talking about the people strategy. However, as with many organisations, inclusion-related initiatives like these were quickly moved online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – a move which Stuart says saw an uptick in the number of people joining the sessions.
He explains: “We saw the attendance rate go up quite dramatically, we encouraged people to sit at home with their bowl of Weetabix or Alpen or cup of coffee and we continued to run the ‘Breakfasts With…’ around all sorts of subject matters, [for example] managing your time, [separating] between home and work time, mental wellbeing, right the way through to understanding Covid-19 and return to office. We have, though, over the last three years, run sessions which are ‘Breakfast with… the Diversity and Inclusion forum’, and ‘Breakfast With… the ‘Inclusion without Exception’ champions.”
Additionally, Weetabix has also run ‘Breakfast With…’ sessions with colleagues who have been able to talk about their journey at Weetabix or experiences that they may have had throughout their life. One example Stuart shares is employees who have talked about their dyslexia. He says: “They have talked about how they use certain aspects of Microsoft tools and fonts to enable them to be effective in their work.” Other stories to have been shared were around employees who had been bullied at school, how this has given them the determination in life to succeed and how it has affected their career at Weetabix. Additionally, at the time of the interview, Stuart adds that one live session (at the time of the interview) was about Ramadan. He continues: “So, we have been talking about employees that are practising Ramadan and how that affects them at work and, again, telling these stories creates a curiosity for people to learn more about that Muslim faith.”
Pride Month is celebrated every June and is a month dedicated to celebrating LGBT+ communities around the world, both in wider society and in the workplace. June is the chosen month to celebrate Pride as it marks the month of the Stonewall riots.
In line with Pride Month, the cereal brand outlines its plans for the month, from communication on inclusion stories to Pride-related quizzes via the company’s intranet:
Wear your colours with Pride event throughout the month. This will focus on what each of the colours of the flag means, alongside encouragement for the month for people to wear Pride colours in their work day
Company-wide communications throughout the month on Inclusion stories and Pride history
Communication to feature our gender transition support guide and signpost to its availability
Pride quiz with prizes available through company intranet Intrabix
Some Pride materials available in the canteen or put onto desks, e.g. lanyards and postcards
Stand at the town hall to advertise our plans as part of our Inclusion work
This is in addition to smaller pieces of supporting activity such as changing all laptop wallpapers / Intrabix interface to Pride colours for the month of June.
Encouraging employees to share their own experiences, as Stuart says, carves out a “curiosity” for people to learn more about each other. This in turn can promote a culture of inclusion that values unique contributions and experiences and encourages people to bring their whole selves to work. According to a Reba Global blog post, “true inclusion means allowing, hearing and responding to each employee’s story”, therefore Weetabix’s ‘Breakfast With...’ sessions could help staff to feel more included. When asked how these ‘Breakfast With...’ sessions can help to promote inclusion, Stuart says: “The sessions are hosted by one of the ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ champions and, therefore, we are promoting within every one of the sessions that we are doing what [our] strategy is, [and] where [that] session fits within the strategy. We talk about the connection of the results of the last survey and therefore [these sessions] should improve and promote inclusion and diversity within the organisation by us talking about this,” he adds.
It appears that Weetabix’s approach to employee inclusion – underpinned by its ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ strategy – is strong. But it is apparent that the firm is not resting on its laurels and is looking to the results of its annual employee inclusion survey to help identify areas that could need more work. Within this acute focus on employee inclusion, initiatives such as the ‘Breakfast With...’ sessions really help encourage staff to speak up and value the individual contributions of employees – a move which is inclusive. As he said at the beginning of the interview: “If you get your inclusion right, you will get that diversity. If you get that diversity right, you will create a greater place to work and greater levels of engagement in the organisation.”*Kantar, 52 we 31.10.21