Cheryl Richardson is Director of People and Culture at Plan International UK, which is part of Plan International, a global development and humanitarian charity, striving to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. Plan International has been around for about 85 years and is active in 77 countries.
Plan International UK leads the work of the charity in the UK by raising funds – through child sponsorship, individual giving and corporate partnerships, institutional and major donors – to deliver programmes overseas, which are then delivered by Plan International through its network of 50 Country Offices. In addition, Plan UK leads campaigns and manages a small portfolio of programmes for girls in the UK. Plan UK employs 220 staff based in London.
Toby and Cheryl first worked together in 2020. At that time, the focus of Plan UK’s diversity and inclusion work was centred on gender equality to align with their organisational purpose. It had what Cheryl described as a ‘limited infrastructure’ for supporting diversity and inclusion work.
Plan UK didn’t have a Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Apart from carrying out gender pay gap reporting and monitoring gender in the organisation, there was no process for consistently collecting and reporting on diversity data.
The workforce was very passionate about diversity and inclusion and there was a lot of frustration from staff about a lack of progress in this area. There was a well-established Gender Champions network that had been in place for several years. When Cheryl joined in 2019, the networks were diversified to include an Equality network and a Well-being network. By 2020 Power, Privilege and Bias training had also been introduced.
Plan UK had also committed to embedding Values and Feminist Leadership Principles and developing an Anti-Racism Action Plan. With a small team, Cheryl recognised she didn’t have the resources or the expertise to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy.
Cheryl said, ‘We had many people with very high expectations of this work – so it was critical to have an external expert to help us manage those expectations and help us put in place a realistic and sustainable plan of action’.
Project procurement, kick-off and process
Cheryl worked closely with the staff networks to finalise the project brief and assemble a list of organisations and consultants to approach before going to tender. The process involved inviting people on the list to put forward a proposal, short-listing and then conducting interviews.
The selection panel were unanimous in the decision to appoint Toby. They were attracted to working with Toby by his clear framework and process for working with the organisation to deliver a strategy and plan. Toby’s approach made the project feel manageable and provided a clear road map for navigating the work.
A crucial element of the whole project was staff engagement and it was important that Toby and his approach was introduced and clearly communicated to staff. This was followed by a data collection phase with a survey combined with a benchmarking exercise to establish the current position.
Toby ran focus groups with staff and held a session with the senior leadership team about their vision for this work. All the data gathered was pulled together. Toby helped to present the data and his conclusion to the organisation. From this an overall framework to guide the work was developed, alongside a more detailed implementation plan.
Before finalising the framework, this went through a few iterations, consulting with relevant stakeholders. Despite this taking a few months longer than was initially planned, this was important to ensure that staff had an opportunity to input and shape the plan.
Outcomes and benefits
Cheryl says a tangible outcome from working with Toby is that Plan UK now has in place a Diversity and Inclusion framework and a three-year implementation plan that provides a clear roadmap for change to help create an inclusive culture at Plan UK and diversify the workforce.
The added value of working with Toby was the support he provided to engage staff in developing the framework. It helped the organisation manage staff expectations giving clarity on what could be achieved, how to go about it and how long it would take.
Working with Toby
The team enjoyed working with Toby and learned a lot from this experience. Cheryl valued his non-judgmental and solution-focused approach. Toby’s was particularly adept at keeping the organisation on track and moving things forward.
Some of the internal dialogues had started to become quite challenging for the leadership team. Toby’s calm and evidence based approach helped to keep the process focused on developing a plan that was ambitious but realistic and achievable. Toby’s approach made what was quite a challenging project a lot of fun too.
The business case for investing in diversity and inclusion
If an organisation doesn’t have deep pockets, it’s easy to overlook having diversity and inclusion on the agenda. But Cheryl feels it’s relevant for all organisations. She explained, ‘It’s the right thing to do morally, but if that isn’t a compelling enough reason for an organisation, it makes absolute sense from a business point of view. If organisations are to be relevant and sustainable in the future, they’ve got to address issues around diversity and inclusion.’
Getting a diversity and inclusion expert in
Cheryl recommends sourcing external advice and support.
‘If you are struggling to get a senior leadership team on board with the changes needed, or if you’ve got people who are not quite there with getting on board, I think an external person can be invaluable. They can help with influencing and persuading people about the need for change. An outside expert voice also brings different perspectives and good practices from other sectors.
This kind of work isn’t easy, and having support from an expert like Toby who has done it before will save a lot of time and give you the confidence that you are on the right track.