Guest Blog: Akeesh Khokhar - It takes more than one person to make an inclusive organisation...
I am delighted this week to be taking over Bev’s CEO blog… what an opportunity to share my thoughts with you, my colleagues, and our connections. So, you may be wondering who I am so let me start by telling you a little about myself before I go on to tell you why I am writing this… and bear with me, this week is a long post as I have a lot to share!
I joined the Harvey Nash Financial Services team in London, UK five years ago and as an experienced recruiter. I was very lucky to join a thriving, successful and collaborative team who embodied inclusion and diversity and, more importantly, embraced feedback. In 2020 I reached out to Melanie Hayes who had recently joined as our Chief People Officer. I felt and do feel passionate about D,E&I and wanted to share my thoughts with her. She welcomed my feedback which focused on our lack of internal infrastructure, albeit we had many people who wanted to be a part of how we change things. What made things easier was there was a real passion from her and our CEO Bev White to make diversity, equality and inclusion an integral part of our culture.
If I reflect on what has happened since the beginning of 2020, we have dealt with a pandemic, we’ve seen the Global impact of some events which has led to individuals and organisations rethinking how they do things. The death of George Floyd was one such event which reverberated around the world and was not just a wake-up call for countries, organisations, institutions, governments, and people on the subject of discrimination, it was a wake up call for me personally in how to make an active difference.
You may be thinking well what does this mean? Following my conversations with our CPO I was appointed the Co-Chair of our newly formed Global D&I Council and I’ve worked closely with Melanie over the last two years to build on our plans. Along with other key people we have:
• Designed, presented to our Executive Committee and launched our three-year D&I Strategy
• We set up three Employee Resource Groups - NASHpride, Wo+men@NASH and EthNASHity: which are in place to develop, promote, change and transform our business supporting women, LGBTQIA+ and Ethnic minority colleagues, supported by allies, across the globe. And we won’t stop there!
• Delivered educational webinars, training, run events and raised awareness across our organisation
• Supported our People Team to design the People Communications plan
We have 13 members in the council, Melanie is our Co-Chair, we have the support of Bev White our CEO, and we have two Executive Sponsors - Rob Mallaband for D&I and Occo Lijding who is the Ally sponsor for Wo+men@NASH. We truly feel supported from the very top.
What has been amazing is that after two long years we all finally met this week in our London HQ. We have a number of UK members and some European, it was lovely to see Brenna from our USA team and Lalitha from our team in India along with all the Executive team I mentioned earlier. They say that nothing beats the innovation, creativity and collaboration you get when people are in a room together and this week, I saw that.
Over the last few years, you will have seen changes in our policies, partnerships announced with Workplace Pride, an International Women’s Day conference, Black history month celebrations to name a few and these have been the hard work, effort and voluntary sacrifices of time that the D&I Council, the ERG Committee members and colleagues across our organisation personally make that really help to deliver the change we want to see.
The D&I Council discussed our plans for the upcoming year, we had honest conversations on where we can improve, what we have achieved and how to be even better next year. We have some amazing things planned and we are so excited to share this with you.
As someone who had a passion to be part of the change, is lucky to be the Co-Chair playing a key role, who is lucky to have allies who share the same sentiment, I would like to ask, if not urge that we all try to do more and get involved. Involvement can be as small as liking or sharing a post to being an active organiser for events and occasions. This is NOT an HR role or initiative; this is not a tick-box exercise; this is our role and I believe that.
We are on a trajectory with the D&I Council where we have the blessings and encouragement of our CEO, our ExCo and our Global Leadership Team. We are lucky to be in a business where we can see that we belong and that the business will help us achieve our goals as a council.
Lastly, I would like to thank those who came to our meeting, Melanie for her leadership, Bev for her encouragement and all of those that are part of the ERG networks that give up their time, efforts and are so committed to doing their bit for the business and the council. Lets not forget that these volunteering efforts are in addition to the day job… and this does not go unnoticed.
An example this week was Nicola, a member of the NASHPride Committee who travelled on a 5am train this week to come to our London HQ to prepare for a Pride event we were running. This is not her job, she does this because she cares, and we value her commitment along with all of our other amazing colleagues who have given up their time over the last two years. You too can get involved by joining one of our networks in our LinkedIn groups, reaching out to the D&I Council or the HR teams or simply by dropping a message to me or Melanie.
My last words are - DIVERSITY & INCLUSION is cool. We need your help too!