Janice Henson has recently joined Equal Approach as Director of Embedding Inclusion. With a wealth of experience in and great passion for advancing workplace diversity and inclusion, she will be building on the company’s already successful global inclusion programmes. Here she discusses her plan of action for the coming year...
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Can you tell us a bit about your previous experience? Why and how did you become involved with working in the diversity and inclusion arena?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: I have been in the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years, having started my early career as a recruitment consultant and progressing to a regional manager in a UK top 5 high street agency. Over the last 10 years I’ve had a specific focus on diversity and inclusion as part of the roles I’ve held and I’m really passionate about this area.
My journey in the diversity and inclusion arena began with my role as Head of Skills and Talent, where I was responsible for encouraging and supporting large corporate organisations to both attract and retain disabled talent and those who had faced long-term unemployment. My team and I were responsible for creating a desire with the employer and a structured programme of support for individuals to provide them with a level playing field and give them the best possible opportunity to succeed.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What attracted you to your new role?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: Having worked within the inclusion space, I’ve been very aware of Equal Approach for some time. They are a thought leader in this space and have changed the perception of inclusion from being just a ‘nice to have’, to a business imperative that will reap bottom line benefits for any organisation. As a result of that the business is growing and I wanted to be part of supporting them to grow to the next level.
Additionally, the consultative approach of the company really suits my style, and they really practice what they preach in terms of inclusion, which is great for me as a working parent. I am both proud and excited to have joined Equal Approach's committed and successful team.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What key priorities will you be focusing on in the coming year?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: Having established myself in my role, my key focus in the short term is showcasing our new Return on Inclusion tool, which is revolutionary way to measure and show the bottom line impact of inclusion. It has already gained the interest of the marketplace, so I’m really excited to be involved.
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The business is growing and as a team we are really ambitious to drive this growth to the next level. I will be looking to develop my own portfolio of clients within a number of focused sectors that I will be working in.
Another one of the areas I’m really interested in exploring is using my background in apprenticeships and linking it with our work on inclusion. I think there’s definitely something we can develop in that area. Watch this space.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: When it comes to diversity and inclusion, you are passionate about making change and breaking down barriers. How will you go about doing this at Equal Approach?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: The great thing about Equal Approach is that everyone is passionate about diversity and inclusion and what we do – it’s built into the foundations.
The breadth of solutions Equal Approach offers is unrivalled, which allows us to support organisations to embed inclusion in many different ways. In my role I will be supporting organisations with a wide range of projects, including measuring their Return on Inclusion with our recently launched ROI tool, conducting Inclusive Recruitment Audits, and delivering elements of our Inclusion Consultancy services.
To create a truly inclusive culture, organisations must embed inclusion as a fundamental aspect of their day-to-day operations, and address the challenges affecting all diverse groups.
I will also be delivering a number of diversity and inclusion training programmes and events, as well as management and leadership development programmes, including a really exciting CPD-accredited Growth Mindset programme.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Equal Approach is already a global leader in the delivery of cutting-edge inclusion programmes. In what ways do you plan to not only maintain but drive forward this leading position?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: We develop partnerships with our clients and operate in a consultative way, so we can really understand the challenges that they face and are then able to develop solutions to support them to overcome them. One of our core beliefs is around continuous improvement. As a business we are constantly innovating the next solution and adapting our existing range of services.
Our latest solution, our Return on Inclusion tool, has really sparked the interest of the marketplace. The case study that SSE has produced following the pilot shows how much of a game changer this tool is in redefining the way inclusion is measured, by showing the impact on the bottom line.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges to achieving workplace diversity and inclusion? How are you and Equal Approach striving to tackle these difficulties?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: One of the biggest challenges to achieving workplace diversity and inclusion is a lack of senior level buy in. If you take a look at the organisations across all industries that are at the forefront in this area, one thing that they share is that they all have senior leaders driving this agenda forwards.
At Equal Approach we are working with our clients at board and senior levels to ensure that inclusion programmes are driven from the top down, and provide tangible results.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Are there specific ‘diverse’ groups of people that employers need to pay greater attention to in terms of workplace inclusivity?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: Historically, organisations have often focused on particular groups and developed a range of diversity initiatives in order to remove barriers and increase representation, box ticking against specific characteristics. While this has created some short-term results, to create a truly inclusive culture, organisations must embed inclusion as a fundamental aspect of their day-to-day operations, and address the challenges affecting all diverse groups.
Take ownership of the inclusion agenda, but don’t treat it as a standalone HR initiative. It should be embedded throughout the entire organisation.
While there is still a place for segmented activity focused on particular diverse groups, it should be part of a wider holistic inclusion strategy.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Finally, can you highlight three things that HR professionals can start doing today to make the company they work for more inclusive?
Janice Henson, Director of Embedding Inclusion, Equal Approach: First, own it and get others on board: Ownership is key to driving change, and inclusion can often be seen as an additional responsibility for HR. Take ownership of the inclusion agenda, but don’t treat it as a standalone HR initiative. It should be embedded throughout the entire organisation. Leading from the top and developing inclusion champions is key to gaining traction and beginning to create an inclusive culture.
Second, measure your return on inclusion: Measure the impact of inclusion rather than just focusing on representation of diversity strands. Inclusion is proven to deliver a significant return on investment, and the better you are able to show this to your senior leaders, the more they will buy into it and support you to embed change.
Finally, give me a call: I love speaking with different organisations and understanding the challenges they face. I am more than happy to have a brief informal discussion with organisations that want to embed inclusion, but don’t know where to start, and I can signpost them to any quick wins or resources that will help them on their journey.
About Janice Henson
Janice joins Equal Approach with a wealth of experience within the recruitment industry and the inclusion arena, having enjoyed a commercially diverse career spanning over two decades. Her mantra seeks to embed inclusion and equality throughout organisations, and she is passionate about creating change and breaking down the various barriers usually associated with each of the different strands of diversity.
Janice has spent the last 18 months as the Head of Skills and Talent at Guidant Group, where she was instrumental in the organisation securing Disability Confident Leader (Level 3) Status. Prior to joining Guidant Group, Janice progressed through various roles at de Poel Group, including working as Managing Director of de Poel Community (previously called Placeability - a sister company to de Poel), Placeability Director, and Head of Placeability. While at de Poel Group Janice was recognised as a Regional Finalist for the Woman in Business Awards 2015 and she was highly commended for the Business Disability Forum’s Executive Disability Champion Award in 2015.
Janice’s background is in recruitment, having started her early career as a Recruitment Consultant in a UK top 5 High Street Agency, where she progressed to a Regional Manager role as a result of her hard work, dedication and commitment to getting people into work.