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Social mobility “instinctively important” says Environment Agency’s diversity champion

Category: diversity, Social Mobility

The Environment Agency’s (EA) executive leadership team is pushing the government body to be the country’s best employer for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) says the chief of staff, John Leyland.

The former retail manager has spent two years in his current role working, “in areas that benefit our people.” He’s in charge of making sure the business has good corporate governance and is fit for purpose. And that the EA has the right relationships with partners to deliver on its responsibilities. Today we’re talking social mobility.

Social mobility in the public sector

I’m talking to him because he’s the Executive Champion for the EA EDI plan. He explains, “One of the slight advantages we have a non-departmental government body is that we’re locally based, so we’re in your community. Our people are the people in your street, in your watercourse and responding to incidents.”

That means, “It’s really important for communities to recognise the people that they’re talking to - from all parts of the community. And in that environment, for them to be able to come from the same shared experience,” he tells me. He adds, “We’re really right at the early stages of understanding social mobility but we instinctively understand that it’s important.Your workforce needs to be representative of the people that they serve.”

Workplace social mobility

The next step for is to talk to EA staff about what social mobility means to them, he explains. This is important, because, “What we’ve learned is that to make a difference to any characteristic (like identifying with social mobility) you need good base data.” That requires staff disclosing the characteristic. And Leyland says, “You only do that once you build confidence in staff that there is a real point to us asking the question. I do expect some of those conversations to be awkward – but it’s important.”

Leyland and his colleagues will be going out on roadshows across the country in 2019 and talking to EA staff about their personal stories. Leyland explains “If you look at the indicators then I trigger quite a few of them. I identify with a low socioeconomic background and my parents weren’t around when I was younger. I’ve taken an unusual route to my current job.”

“Primarily during consultations I’m keen to talk to staff about what matters to them. This time I’m excited to talk about something that really matters to me,” he says. “We’ll be in small groups, so safe environments, and I expect to hear a range of emotions.”


Working for the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency came 18th in the Stonewall Index of employers in 2018 and have topped the similarMIND Index for the last two years. Also this year they are winners of the enei pay gap award and the IChemE Diversity & Inclusion Award.They have a guiding idea that working for the agency should always be life-enhancing. That an employee’s life should be better for working there than not.

Part of this, Leyland says, is about helping you understand who you are. And then encouraging you to bring that whole you to your job, whilst embracing difference and including everyone. Sound interesting? Search available vacancies with the Environment Agency here.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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