Race Equality Awards 2017- Mott MacDonald: Culture Change Through Tackling Unconscious Bias

Employee engagement surveys and Focus Five Forums on age, disability, gender race and sexual orientation & transgender highlighted that Mott MacDonald had a collegiate and respectful culture. However, this did not always translate as being consistently inclusive. For example, half of UK staff responding to the Investors in Diversity survey recognised that they may have an unconscious bias, but less than half said they do anything to overcome it, with many being unsure what to do. 28% of staff also said they would like more information and training on tackling unconscious biases. The Focus Five Forum on Race also highlighted that employees from all ethnic backgrounds found it particularly difficult to talk about race at work. These findings drove further investment in unconscious bias training and learning.

To secure senior engagement and endorsement, Mott MacDonald executives were engaged and provided with live training from Pearn Kandola, a business psychology consultancy. 30 executive board members and senior directors attended two half-day sessions, which were followed up with unconscious bias training with Mott MacDonald’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Manager. These one-to-one coaching sessions included completion of the Implicit Associations Test and unconscious bias action planning. Feedback from the senior leader coaching sessions has led to the development of the Advance Reverse Mentoring Initiative, pairing leaders with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff at junior grades to provide them with role models and an opportunity to actively learn from colleagues’ diverse experiences and insights.

Live unconscious bias training has been delivered across the UK and global business through ‘Lunch and Learns’, which are open to all employees or included in Senior Management Team meetings. The opening activity of the training focuses on ethnicity and provides a safe platform to talk about racial bias and inclusion. Unconscious bias training has also been embedded in Mott MacDonald’s Graduate Development Program, with sessions delivered by the People Development Team. Additionally, a new unconscious bias e-learning tool has been designed and will be a core component of the global induction program, on request of the CEO.

Mott MacDonald’s EDI Manager has delivered unconscious bias training to key internal and external stakeholders including Divisional Management Teams, HR Managers and Recruiters. Sessions have also been provided to Highways England’s Supplier Diversity Forum and the Institute of Civil Engineers’ South East England Diversity Committee, sharing good practice across the sector.

By taking these steps, Mott MacDonald has built on its existing culture of respect to ensure this applies consistently for an inclusive workplace experience for everyone. The organisation’s culture has been positively influenced by an openness to exploring and tackling unconscious (and even conscious) bias. Interviewers now question themselves and check their decisions for bias and the concept and language of unconscious bias is used when reviewing shortlists or data trends in recruitment statistics. Unconscious bias has also provided a way for employees to effectively and positively challenge colleagues at the level of micro-inequalities, with EDI and HR policies clearly signposted if issues are beyond bias. Additionally, the 2018 EDI Survey will include specific questions on an unconscious bias to measure the impact of these efforts in more detail.

In the most recent Investors in Diversity survey, 93% of BAME colleagues said they felt respected by colleagues, which compares statistically with the average of 95%. The 2016 EDI Survey found that 90% of BAME respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they felt respected by colleagues, compared to 91% of all respondents. This data helps inform Mott MacDonald’s EDI Action Plan. It is also embedded into the Advancing Race Action Plan, which includes taking part in the Race at Work Mentoring Circles, continued support for the Advance Reverse Mentoring initiative and exploration of BAME student outreach programs.