Kirsty Lynagh, Member of Salvesen Mindroom Centre Board of Trustees and Chief People and Performance Officer at Seccl gives us the roadmap to a high-performance, happy workplace.

I’ve always had an affinity for getting the best out of people. Growing up in the highlands of Scotland with successful entrepreneurs as parents means that from a young age, I learnt what makes a company a great place to work and invest. Transformation is a concept that resonates with me in a big way. Seeing potential in something (or someone), having a creative vision and realising that potential through to a valuable end result comes naturally to me and is what I was born to do.

I wholeheartedly believe that organisations that will sustain high performance and outperform their competitors will cultivate a culture not just of inclusion but of belonging too.

An evolution of the famous Verna Myers quote ‘Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance’ could be seen as ‘belonging is choosing the music’.

In my current role at Seccl, (a UK-based fintech company) our diversity and inclusion agenda centres around belonging. I want Seccl to be a place where people from different backgrounds and experiences can join us, thrive and feel they belong – not only for the benefit of our team but for our customers too.

Give everyone a seat at the table 

I also sit on the board of trustees at Mindroom. Neurodiversity is something I care deeply about, both from a personal and professional perspective. I see immense value in the team’s work in both our schools and workplaces, and it’s inspiring to see first-hand the impact that the charity has.

Mindroom has some ambitious goals for the year ahead which send a clear message to all. Their vision to reach one million workers by 2026 with practical tools and advice to effect change in the workplace and as well as supporting 3,000 parents, carers, children and young people through their Direct Help & Support service, are admirable and very relevant.

At Seccl, we employ just over 100 people across Bath, London, and Edinburgh in 67 different roles, many of those roles are technology related.  Our industry is on the cusp of transformation, and we intend to lead it. We believe intentional inclusion and belonging is the key to ensuring the wholehearted commitment and discretionary effort of our team to deliver it.

How can we create this?

Our people strategy is centred around the concepts of human centricity, adult to adult and high performance. We design and sustain our culture with our people (not top-down, rules-based, like some more traditional organisations) and the heart of this is avoiding treating our team like one homogenous group.

Creating a space for psychological safety is non-negotiable.  By that, I mean creating a workplace where our people are able to be themselves at work and share (as long as they feel comfortable) their differences with their colleagues.

If you think about it… it makes perfect commercial sense. If your people are afraid of being different and are potentially hiding themselves at work, this will stifle their talent and contribution which means we get less than the full participation of people on our payroll. This costs us money but, more crucially, it costs us innovation, avoidance of group thinking and a better representation of customer groups.

Positive change backed by positive results

A survey by Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers consider diversity and inclusion an important factor when evaluating potential employers. Inclusive cultures also contribute to higher team engagement and retention rates.

Endless studies have proved the link between greater diversity and business performance, so we’ve truly moved away from this as just the ‘right thing to do’ to ‘it’s a commercial imperative’ (and also the right thing to do).

So, how do we create a culture of belonging at work?

  1. Ensure leadership buy-in and sponsorship. Truly understand the commercial relevance to your business. There is lots of relevant research on this from credible sources such as McKinsey and Deloitte.
  2. Transparently share progress underpinned by data. At Seccl we have created an inclusion index which measures our team’s view of how well we are doing on subjects like ‘I feel I belong at Seccl’ or ‘Perspectives like mine are included in the decision-making process’. It gives us a baseline measure of how people are (anonymously) feeling and keeps us transparent and accountable for our actions. Creating an inclusive culture requires open communication channels where employees feel safe to express their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. Actively listening to feedback and taking appropriate action reinforces trust and fosters a culture of belonging. We also collect and share our diversity census which helps us set targets and track progress.
  3. Weave throughout every aspect of people’s life cycle e.g. hiring, learning, development, promotions. Technology can support this. For example, our hiring software at Seccl scans our job ads for inclusive language and our performance software incorporates inclusion nudges when completing performance reviews or 360 feedback.
  4. Education and awareness e.g. sharing stories from underrepresented groups. We’ve had some real success on this in the past few months where team members have voluntarily shared stories on topics such as Ramadan, neurodiversity, or International Women’s Day. These sessions provide opportunities for our team to learn about different cultures, traditions, and perspectives – fostering a sense of belonging and promoting cultural understanding. Recognising and valuing diverse holidays (for example) can contribute to a workplace where everyone feels seen and respected.
  5. Showcase your relevant accreditations. Quality needs to be seen. Your internal and external accreditations (the likes of B Corp Accreditations) are a benchmark of your values too.

What does it mean to me?

Very few people on their deathbed wish they’d spent more time at work. Yet most of us spend more waking time with colleagues than with our families, so it’s sad to think that our colleagues (and, if we are lucky, some will become friends) might feel the need to hide part of themselves. This means we are missing out on their full potential and their full participation.

When thinking of these topics I frequently sit to consider what I think every human would want from their workplace, and I believe the answer is a place to belong, a place to be ourselves, a place to do our best work. A place where we feel we have been fully empowered in order to make a difference.

So, whilst there is absolutely a commercial argument, my personal hook to this conversation is to bring more humanity to our workplaces.

Mind the Inclusion Gap

Suzy Levy, author of ‘Mind the Inclusion Gap’ aptly suggests that although most of us are curious about diversity, and some would go so far as to call ourselves allies, very few of us are skilled in inclusion and belonging. In the absence of knowing what to do, we double down on being nice and hope that will be enough. Unfortunately, this optimistic attitude may harm as much as help.

We all have a choice on how we engage in this area – who will you be? A bystander? An advocate? An activist? We all are part of the problem, which means we all get to be part of the human-shaped solution. The commercial results will follow.

About Salvesen Mindroom

Salvesen Mindroom Centre is a charity that champions all forms of neurodiversity and supports all kinds of minds. Their mission is to be a leading centre for change, in how we live, work, and learn. They will achieve this through support, education, advocacy, and research.