Creating an inclusive workplace: best practice for AOs / EPAOs

3 minutes
Rachel Ridout

By Rachel Ridout

Why is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?  

Well, for starters, if you're looking to grow your team, as stated in TPP’s Non-Profit Salary, Rewards & Retention Survey 2023, 78% of job seekers are more likely to apply to a role in an organisation that can demonstrate their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), not just talk about it. For Awarding and End Point Awarding Organisations (AOs / EPAOs), nurturing diversity and inclusion undoubtedly leads to greater innovation, improved decision-making, and increased employee satisfaction. This blog aims to explore practical strategies you can implement in your organisation that promote a diverse and inclusive work environment, with a particular focus on recruitment, retention, and workplace culture.

EDI - the importance for AOs and EPAOs

Diverse teams are, by their nature, more innovative, as they bring different perspectives and ideas. Inclusion ensures that all employees feel valued and engaged, which in turn increases job satisfaction and retention rates. AOs and EPAOs that prioritise diversity and inclusion can better represent and understand their stakeholders and communities, enhancing their credibility, reputation, and impact - reducing bias, ensuring balanced representation and developing qualifications and assessments that are relevant to and reflective of society.

How to plan and prepare to ensure inclusive recruitment processes are followed

Effective recruitment is the foundation of an inclusive workplace. A good starting point in ensuring your recruitment processes are inclusive from start to finish, is to ensure all staff receive regular EDI training and that hiring managers are fully aware of unconscious bias. Ensuring your interview panels are diverse not only helps your organisation feel welcoming to a diverse pool of candidates, but also brings varied perspectives to the hiring process. Other techniques to consider are standardising interview questions to ensure all candidates are evaluated fairly and using tools like anonymising CVs to focus on candidates' skills experience and potential, rather than personal characteristics.

Questions to ask hiring managers / senior leaders before embarking on a recruitment campaign

To ensure inclusivity in recruitment, ask critical questions such as:

  • How are we ensuring our recruitment process is free from bias?
  • What measures are in place to attract a diverse range of candidates?
  • How will we support new hires?

Accountability and continuous improvement are essential. Regularly review and refine recruitment practices to enhance inclusivity.

How to make your organisation and vacancies appeal to a diverse pool of candidates

Your employer branding should reflect your genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. Some good ways of achieving this are:

  • Highlight your inclusive policies, diverse team, and supportive workplace culture on your website and job adverts.
  • Ensure job descriptions are inclusive by using gender-neutral language and avoiding a long list of desirable criteria that could put candidates off applying, should they not feel they meet all these.
  • Reaching out to diverse communities and professional networks by way of specific jobs boards can also help attract a broader range of candidates.

Role design through an inclusive recruitment lens

Inclusive role design is essential for attracting and retaining diverse talent. Things to bear in mind:

  • Flexible working patterns e.g. part-time, compressed hours
  • Accessible workplace environments
  • Clear career progression paths

Retention of staff

Retaining a diverse workforce requires ongoing effort and commitment. To show your commitment to a diverse workforce, consider the following strategies:

  • Implement mentorship programs and employee resource groups to provide support and development opportunities.
  • Offer continuous learning and professional development to help employees grow within the organisation and gain new skills. 
  • Support systems such as mental health resources and family-friendly policies. 
  • Provide regular opportunities for employees to provide feedback, to help ensure that employees feel valued, heard and a strong sense of belonging.

Workplace culture strategies

Building an inclusive workplace culture involves celebrating diversity through events and initiatives that highlight different cultures and perspectives. Additionally, ongoing training and professional development on diversity and inclusion topics help maintain an inclusive environment. Most importantly, the commitment to diversity and inclusion from the leadership team is crucial - leaders should model inclusive behaviours and demonstrate their dedication to creating a welcoming and supportive workplace for all employees.

Creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing journey that requires dedication and proactivity. By implementing the practical advice outlined in this blog, AOs and EPAOs can promote a diverse and inclusive environment that benefits everyone who works in and with your organisation, as well as learners and other stakeholders beyond. 

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