Environment Agency getting the mix right for a more diverse environment

The Environment Agency stands out as an organisation making real and measurable progress in diversity. Its achievements in creating a more inclusive culture have won recognition from Race for Opportunity, the CIPD, and the Civil Service. Behind its successful strategy is a close working relationship with Pearn Kandola.

When Rob Sutton joined as the Environment Agency’s Diversity Manager in 2003, senior management signalled increasing the number of black and minority ethnic staff as a top priority.

“In the early days of setting out a strategy, having support from a credible, external source like Pearn Kandola was extremely valuable. Their input reassured our CEO and also gave us more confidence about some of the diversity initiatives we already had in place,” said Rob.

Pearn Kandola recommended – and then helped – the Environment Agency re-think its approach to recruitment, when feedback from its target audience showed it was seen as ‘stuffy and boring’. The new recruitment branding specifically used words and images that appealed to a more diverse applicant population. Pearn Kandola also designed a more inclusive recruitment process and helped regional teams to introduce it.

The new approach has had a big impact, said Rob Sutton: “We’ve doubled the number of employees from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to close to 3 per cent of the workforce. We’ve also seen a welcome increase in the number of applications from black and minority ethnic candidates, rising from just 2 per cent to around 9 per cent of total applications.”

To keep the strategy fresh and engage the hearts and minds of managers Pearn Kandola provides ongoing practical support. A Pearn Kandola psychologist works in partnership with the Environment Agency’s diversity team to develop new initiatives. Diversity Week, for example, gets all staff involved in quizzes and competitions, community visits, theatre, food and art shows. A thought-provoking e-campaign called ‘Think Again’, developed with HR and Communications staff, aims to get people talking about emotive and legally complex topics. A ‘Think Again’ highlight on the Environment Agency’s web site attracted five times as many ‘hits’ as a normal weekly highlight – proof that the message is getting through.

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