What does inclusion mean to you?

By Tara Williams, HR Manager

This week marks National Inclusion Week created to “celebrate inclusion in all its forms”. And it’s a great idea to highlight the subject and to explore it on a national level. When I sat down to write this blog I wondered what the best way was to approach it. Then I realised that for us as a business, it’s about more than this week. Or the next. Inclusion must be ingrained in our culture.

Let me explain. Like other organisations committed to diversity and inclusion, we have firm policies in place. Which is as it should be. For us, inclusion is about creating working environments that encourage, value and thrive on difference and where everyone’s contribution is encouraged and recognised.

But practically speaking what does this actually mean? It can’t simply be a check box we have in the back of our mind; it must be inherent in the way we operate.

That’s a bold statement to make. But if you consider that our corporate values include integrity and teamwork, and our behaviours include straightforward, committed and supportive, you’ll see that you can’t live and breathe those elements without inclusion.

And that’s what the team here at Whiteoaks does. From our interactions with each other, clients and suppliers, to the way we deliver projects and approach new business.

For me, inclusion is making sure everyone feels welcome, everyone feels like they contribute, everyone is part of the team. Whether that’s accommodating our working parents who fit their schedules around childcare, or supporting a college graduate who’s never worked in an office, or helping someone born outside the UK come to grips with our unique sense of dry humour. Importantly, it’s also about giving all our staff a voice and a forum to be heard, regardless of the role within the business.

Part of my role as HR manager is to help staff build and sustain a culture that supports this vision, establishing behaviours and attitudes that make all people feel welcome. Not only is this beneficial for our staff, feeling valued and confident to voice their opinions, but it’s good for the business too, creating stronger teams.

That’s my take on inclusion.

But to truly understand our views, here is a snapshot of what our staff have to say about it.

“Inclusion is the feeling that people are being listened to and valued regardless of their differences. Not just being part of a team but feeling like they are part of it and are making worthy contributions.”

Tom Addison – Senior Marketing Exec

“It’s so important that we encourage diversity by acknowledging and welcoming the fact that everyone is different, with their own strengths, flaws and backgrounds. We need strive for inclusion by celebrating diversity and supporting each other regardless of how different or similar people are to us as individuals.”

Bekki Bushnell – Head of Business Development

“In our marketing world it’s easy to categorise people by label or persona as a means to understand them better. But in reality even someone who shares the same culture, religion, gender, colour with you is still different. The more we understand that, the more we’ll feel accepted for who we actually are. Different should be celebrated. And for me, inclusion is accepting the differences and making everyone feel valued.”

Mark Wilson – Creative Director

For me, inclusion is about making our physical and virtual environment welcoming for all. We aim to embrace differences and encourage inclusive groups which are diverse, as well as diverse groups which are inclusive.”

Suzanne Griffiths – MD