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Measuring the ROI of diversity and inclusion initiatives

Jenna Jackson is the ‎Resourcing Pipelines, Projects & Performance Manager at SSE. In her role, she oversees all of SSE’s entry level talent recruitment for apprentices and graduates, across both engineering and IT, supports projects that touch on resourcing, and the supports the performance of the resourcing team as a whole.

SSE recently released a Return on Inclusion report ‘Valuing Difference’, during National Inclusion Week. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here.

This report defines what the return on investment has been for the diversity and inclusion initiatives SSE has ran from 2014-2017. It was written to help steer the direction of its diversity and inclusion strategies for the next few years, and highlight to the board and senior stakeholders within the organisation, the financial benefits of attracting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce. The report highlights the pioneering work SSE is doing, and we feel very privileged Jenna agreed to take time out from her day job, to discuss in detail the report’s findings.

So Jenna, can you start by introducing the report?

The fundamental biproduct of the report is the measurement of the value of SSE’s inclusion and diversity, over the last three years. Our strategy to date has mostly been aligned to breaking down the barriers around gender inclusion, and the report has enabled us to measure the financial ROI on the work we have been doing specifically in this space. We worked collaboratively with a company called Equal Approach. They have been an inclusion specialist for over ten years so were the perfect partner to help us look at the financial return on our own inclusion and diversity strategies, and review the work we’ve been undertaking over the last three years,;as well as the expected ongoing value.

What were some of the key findings of the report, and how will these be used moving forward? How can they be used by SSE and other organisations?

I think for SSE, we’re really lucky we have a really strong leadership team, so for us, it’s not so much about the financial sell, when it comes to inclusion and diversity. For SSE it’s about doing the right thing by our people, by our customers, by our communities. I think we all have a basic understanding of the moral and ethical arguments for inclusion and diversity, but I’m not sure all organisations have got the same buy-in from their senior leadership teams.

At SSE, we’ve got our execs fully onboard and leading from the top, so, it’s an initiative that’s right across our business. Inclusion and diversity plays into everything we do, from my role in recruitment, bringing people in, to how we manage people and the benefits they receive and the policies we have. We’re really lucky to have that support, right from the top and throughout the business. I think for other organisations, sometimes it is the financial benefits of something that might actually give them a bit of impetus to get things done, and I think as well, to get a return on investment… like with any project, whether it’s around sales or performance … it’s always about the return on investment.

What are your ROI figures?

We were able to work out through the model Equal Approach have developed, that for every £1 we invested in our activities over the last three years, our return on investment was just over £4. We then looked at the impact on our ROI over time if we kept our strategy as it was, or if we tweaked our strategy. We learned that by making some small adjustments to the things we are doing now, we could achieve between £7-£15 back for every £1 spent.

Do you think other businesses should be looking into the ROI on their inclusion projects?

I think for us, there’s more than just the financial element. We got some really good data from Equal Approach, from various different parts of the business. They did focus groups, interviews with employees… so we got some good tangible information as well, about how people feel about what we are doing.

One of the biggest benefits was working with Equal Approach to look at our strategy and what we were doing right, and what we could maybe do better. They helped us understand the key things we were doing from an inclusion and diversity perspective that added value. Not just the financial ROI, but also the benefits an inclusive culture can have as part of our wider strategy, regarding being a responsible employer. It helped us harness some of those initiatives, as we were spreading ourselves too thin, trying to do too much. They showed us how we could make a bigger impact, by doing not only less things, but by being more focused on doing them a bit differently. We learnt how to support the diversity and inclusion journey, not just from an SSE perspective, but thinking about our communities, through the education system, building our strategies to support our long term future.

What initiatives does SSE have in place to address gender diversity? Have you undertaken any initiatives that look at diversity and inclusion, outside of gender?

We had a number of initiatives to look at gender diversity specifically, but I think gender was our starting point, and now, we’re looking at becoming a really wholly inclusive organisation. As part of our ‘In, On, Up’ strategy, we’ve got five core areas that we’re focussing on, so things like, attracting talent, but also retaining talent, making sure we’re managing our leavers effectively and understanding the reasons people leave.

A big one for us, is making the values of inclusion and diversity known and celebrated around the organisation, so later on this month, we’re going to be launching an e-learning module that’s going to be mandatory for all staff. This will enable everyone to understand the journey SSE is on, and it will hopefully really get them involved in their responsibility to making sure each and every person has a part to play. At senior level, we’re doing a lot of work with our female network through development and mentoring opportunities as well, to try and drive more women into senior roles.

Engineering companies and the energy industry, are typically very male dominated, and this is a historic thing, so it’s not something we can change overnight. However, we want to make a real conscious effort to try and harness our female talent. We want to make sure we’re giving the right support and the right networks to people so they can develop within the organisation, and start moving the stats in the right direction.

From an external perspective, we’ve got a wide range of partners that we’re involved with, to move the dial for our entry level talent. We’re working with Teach First, an organisation based principally in England and Wales, who work with kids in underprivileged schools, often in disadvantaged areas, and look to provide that link between education and employment. We want to bring career opportunities to young people, encourage them to consider a career with SSE, but also, bring people on with STEM subjects, to try and get young people into the industry as a whole.

We’d like to thank Jenna for agreeing to this interview, and for giving us an insight into the great inclusion and diversity initiatives that are taking place at SSE.

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