Creating an inclusive culture at Thames Water

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​The UK’s National Inclusion Week has seen over 3,000 participants promote inclusive practices both in and outside the workplace.

Given the current climate and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event has been particularly pertinent, working with the theme of Each One, Reach One which focuses on peoples’ ability to connect and unite to make society more inclusive.

At Thames Water, the week has included a schedule of online events including an ally workshop and talks on dementia awareness, faith and race.

Speaking to HR magazine Sarah Gosiewska, Thames Water’s culture, inclusion and engagement manager, shared more about how the events this week play into the company’s wider HR strategy.

Gosiewska said she had noticed a shift in the past few years in the way people interact with diversity and inclusion at the company.

Employee feedback helped managers to not only recognise potential challenges, but also ask what they can do to help more people feel included in the workplace and bring their whole self to their job.

She said: “For me, it's just amazing to see everyone owning it themselves. Now, inclusivity is not a HR thing and that's really important because I think it should be led by the business for the business.”

One example she gave was the organisation’s uncertainty around how employees would respond to joining Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.

Proceeds from the sale of these laces go towards supporting LGBT people in sport and now Thames Water staff are not just buying the laces but also holding events to raise money for different LGBT charities.

This external charity support sits alongside the launch of the company's Inclusion Commitment for the utilities sector that seeks to tackle under representation of BAME, disabled, female and young talent.

Following the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the company board’s senior sponsor for diversity and inclusion David Waboso used his platform to reinforce the fact that the company has zero tolerance for any form for bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination.

As explored by the July/August cover story of HR magazine, speaking up about the issue of racial discrimination is something that was important to Thames Water in terms of the culture it is trying to create for employees.

Gosiewska added: “We’ve got a saying as part of our Speak Up campaign which is never be a bystander – if you see or hear something call it out, because if you don't do something you can potentially be complicit in your silence too.”

Inclusive Employers' National Inclusion Week will be running this year from the 28 September through 4 October.

Further reading:

Pushing for progress: the workplace's role in political and social movements

Open culture key to transgender inclusivity

Most LGBT-friendly places to work announced by Stonewall

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