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I read recently that a level of D&I competence will be a key factor in the future, both in the way people view organisations as preferred places to work and, probably more importantly, as a consideration when deciding whether to stay with an employer.

In the age of unprecedented career mobility, overlaid with the impact of hybrid working, anything that can improve your attractiveness as an employer or improve retention is a must. So why wouldn’t you do it? Frequently, efforts are hampered by a lack of clarity on what D&I competence could, or should look like.

D&I is nuanced. It’s embedded in the operational norms of an organisation’s culture. It can often be hostage to the demands and priorities of a challenging economic environment, but of course it shouldn’t be.

The challenge (and opportunity) for all organisations is to elevate the narrative. Because a mature D&I programme, embedded in BAU ways of working, will support commercial performance, cost effectiveness and colleague engagement.

Co-op’s future D&I vision

It’s clear to me that at Co-op, hearts and minds are in the right place. D&I work over the past few years has been conducted in a progressive manner, and an understanding of the importance and challenges of achieving D&I competence is there. It’s evident in our published plans, anti-racism pledges and the ethnicity pay gap report.

We’re now at a turning point as an organisation. Our aim is to introduce lasting change that progressively improves organisational performance. To achieve this change, we know diversity and inclusion must run parallel to each other. Diversity without inclusion is not sustainable, and inclusion without diversity is unattainable.

Our Co-op vision is to Co-operate for a Fairer World. And National Inclusion Week presents an opportunity for us to put those words in to practice. The 2022 theme is ‘Time to Act: The Power of Now’, and this speaks to the need for us to move beyond awareness towards action. Some of the actions we’ll focus on in the delivery of our new D&I vision include:

  • Creating leadership accountability – all leaders will have tailored inclusion objectives with tangible actions that are linked to their performance reviews
  • Building an inclusive culture – we’re rolling out our Colleague Code: a set of behaviours which outline what’s expected of colleagues, along with clear accountability for non-inclusive behaviour
  • Supporting minority representation – we’re delivering inclusive hiring training to leaders across the organisation in areas where we see the lowest minority representation
  • Introducing a social mobility programme – we’re focusing on supporting some of the most disadvantaged people in society by helping them build skills and secure employment through coaching and work placements

We have ambitions to deliver real change. And for one of those rare moments in my career it feels like I’m in the right place at the right time to make a difference.

Zahoor Ahmad

Head of Social Mobility, Inclusion and Belonging