Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director at BAE Systems, talks exclusively to thebigidea.co.uk on why they are proud to be a diverse and inclusive organisation.
1. If you were stuck in a lift and asked the question by a colleague at BAE Systems, why is Diversity and Inclusion important to our organisation, what would you say?
Our business relies on innovation and creativity for its success; research and experience tells us that a diverse and engaged workforce is likely to be more effective, deliver high performance and contribute to business success. We rarely deliver programmes alone, and as such our employees need to be able to work alongside partners, suppliers and customers to achieve the desired outcomes, so a diverse mix of skills, experiences and perspectives is a necessity.
2. Research confirms that customers value organisations that understand the diversity of their needs, both from a people and business perspective. How do you see your organisation working towards meeting the diverse needs of your customers?
Our customers in the armed forces have to perform at the highest level whatever the challenges they face. They have to be ready for anything, which means we have to work with them to provide solutions to a hugely diverse range of problems. Partnering with our customers to understand their requirements and deliver effective solutions is our natural way of working and something that we have been doing for a long time; we have a reputation for being able to solve problems that other organisations can’t.
3. You have been members of DiversityJobs.co.uk since February 2012, why do you think it is vital for Employers such as BAE Systems to partner with organisations like ours?
In order to sustain and grow our business we need to recruit individuals with a huge range of skills and capabilities. Using different recruitment channels ensures we can appeal to a broad spectrum of potential employees, as well as debunking any misconceptions that potential employees may have about the industry. DiversityJobs is a great example of this, by focussing on the diverse nature of the company and showing the fantastically wide spectrum of opportunities available.
4. What do you do as an organisation to support the needs of your employees, and why do you feel it is important to that ensure staff feel valued and well looked after?
Employees should feel that they can be themselves when they come to work, so we focus on providing the right kind of environment. It’s important to provide a workplace in which employees can make the maximum contribution by being motivated and empowered to achieve their own personal potential. Over the last few years we have really focussed on the theme of responsible behaviour – one thing we’ve recently done is to provide our executive community with unconscious bias training, to make them conscious of any preconceptions they hold and ensure they don’t allow them to bias any decisions they make.
5. What more do you think can be done to address the issue of diversity in the workplace?
I’m passionate about encouraging talented individuals from all walks of life, whatever their gender, race or ethnicity, into the exciting world of engineering and science. Much of this comes down to challenging stereotypes, whether it’s an outdated view of the sector or the old-fashioned notion that it isn’t a career suitable for women. This really boils down to education and awareness, helping both young people and their parents to understand the opportunities available to them, and working with schools and universities to ensure that career advice reflects the modern world of engineering and science.
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