Inclusion on an accelerator

24 November 2022

The shift to new patterns of work coming out of the pandemic is helping to spur a new generation of progressive employment practices. In time, I believe, these will come to define the workplace of the future.

Young black girl with the words Future Leader on her t-shirt


In our new research, Give your culture a workout, for example, we have found that workers want their employers to embrace a ‘workout culture’ that allows them to engage with and learn from charities and causes in society. Around six million people (21% of the workforce) are putting their work skills into use on a voluntary basis. A further 50% would like to do so.

Staff who engage in pro bono action, such as through Pilotlight, bring the outside world into their roles and offer new perspectives and experiences that can both inject a dose of community and purpose into teams that are physically dispersed, but also build their capabilities and skills into the process.

This idea of opening up to the world around is also another way of understanding the welcome movement towards and set of tools around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). 

When the Chief Executive and Artistic Director of South Asian Arts UK, Keranjeet Kaur Virdee came to Pilotlight this year, for example, she was looking for an opportunity to create a strategic vision for the organisation, which had developed organically and needed a shift to develop and grow.

We were able to support her through our programme Inclusive Leadership which we run with staff from Barclays, five of whom joined as Pilotlighters through this to support the charity over 12 weeks. The result was, Keranjeet says “an incredible, highly memorable experience” that helped her to focus on the future.

The project was also invaluable to the Pilotlighters, giving space to learn from lived experience that was outside of their spheres of knowledge. I am pleased to say that one of the Pilotlighters, Flora Yang, joined the SAA-UK Board of Trustees afterwards.

We have integrated the same approach within Pilotlight, again as part of our own focus on DEI

We have a four-fold approach to training on DEI:

  1. Formal, mandatory:  using training delivered by The Other Box
  2. Informal, mandatory:  such as a staff development day scheduled for the New Year with the charity Clear Vision where we will be guided through the process of making tactile books for donating to Clear Vision’s library for visually impaired children
  3. Optional learning sessions: talks through the year from Partner Charities, such as Ashalam Qureshi from Deaf World, often coinciding with calendar days such as Black History Month and the International Day of Disabled Persons. We also offer more active learning such as British Sign Language training and a visual awareness workshop with Croydon Vision.
  4. Independent learning: Access to online training such as LinkedIn Learning or through our membership of Inclusive Employers.

Working with an active staff team in the form of our DEI Committee, chaired by Reena Pastakia and our trustee champions on DEI, Katherine Mathieson and Gerry Anyanwu, we recently reviewed our overall work and progress.

Our independent staff survey, run by Cornish + Grey, suggests a high level of support for what we are growing. 22 out of 24 staff agree that Pilotlight values diversity and is open to new ideas. Similarly, 23 out of 24 staff agree that ‘they felt appreciated’ and ‘I am treated with fairness and respect’.

I have written before on our evolving work on race and DEI (including for simplicity: here, here and here). We haven’t achieved all that we had hoped to – we are working on ethnicity pay gap reporting for example which has taken us longer than expected to complete. But there are steps forward.

This is the first time that I can share how we are progressing against the targets that we have set ourselves. As with others, the language has evolved, with some limits on comparative counting as a result (so Black and Minority Ethnic - BAME - has become People of Colour – POC - and we are weighing up the order of D, E and I):

  • For charity leaders, our baseline in 2020 was 7% BAME (compared to 6% nationally) and our target was 8% by now and 10% end of 2023. Our results for 2022 are 22.5% POC.
  • We have not had targets on gender for charity leaders, but we have moved from 70% female (compared to 63% nationally) to 53% in 2022
  • For new Pilotlighters, our baseline in 2020 was 10% BAME (compared to 14% nationally) with targets to meet 14% BAME by now and 17% by the end of 2023. Our actual results for 2022 are 16% POC.
  • On gender, we started with a baseline of 48% female, aiming to maintain balance with 40% male, 40% female and 20% either. Our results for 2022 are 54% female.

Having a greater focus on DEI in turn helps us to support charities that we partner with

In our work under the Weston Charity Awards with the charity Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales, a lack of diversity of the board was an issue that was picked up by the Pilotlighters very quickly. During the course of the project, several new trustees were recruited to reflect the diversity of the service users, in particular around youth and gender.

We have been pleased just in the last few weeks to announce a second cohort of Pilotlighters joining us through the Ignite Initiative, launched to widen access to leadership development.

Looking forward, we will want to set targets for our staff team too, with a closer focus on recruitment. Current statistics suggest in brief that our team is 25% People of Colour and 65% female.

For 2023, we will renew and republish our DEI Action Plan, including the key themes we are using for engaging our community, which for next year will be a headline theme of Sex, Sexual Orientation & Gender.

We hope to raise our sights too from being open to learning from others. We are testing ourselves through accreditation to the Inclusive Employers Standards, an excellent quality standard for the workplace, and we are participating with other charities in a shared initiative run through the Civil Society Group, under the title of Dismantling Racism.

Work is changing and if employers change too, as rapidly as we are seeing changes in society, then the case for and the cause of inclusion will only grow in urgency and in sophistication.

It will be inclusion on an accelerator.

Written by
Profile picture for user Ed Mayo
Ed Mayo
Chief Executive - Pilotlight