women in health and safety
Compassionate leadership at Public Health England
“The biggest regret in my career wasn’t failing to meet a financial target but in fact exceeding it, at the expense of making people redundant.”
Tony Vickers‐Byrne, Chief Adviser for HR Practice at the CIPD and previously Chief Adviser for Diversity and Inclusion and Staff Wellbeing at Public Health England, was addressing a Women in Health and Safety ‘Inclusion at Work’ event in November 2018, hosted by Mace and supported by Pinsent Masons in London.
- His work at Public Health England has contributed to the widespread recognition the organisation has received for its diversity, inclusion and wellbeing initiatives, including:
- Top 30 Employer for Working Families in 2017 and 2018
- Top Employers ‐ Business in the Community Race Equality Awards – in 2017 and 2018
- An increase of 67 places in Stonewall Workplace Equality Index in 2018 to 115th
- Two shortlistees in Civil Service 2018 Diversity and Inclusivity Awards
- Silver rating in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Awards in 2018
From targets-driven director to inclusivity champion
A passionate inclusivity champion, Tony told the Women in Health and Safety audience how his outlook has developed over the course of his 25 years as a director.
“When I was a Facilities and HR Director in a large NHS hospital over 20 years ago, I was given a target of making a 20% saving by outsourcing services. Not only did I do it, I went one step further and made savings of 26%. I was lauded for it at the time. But I never thought about what made up that extra 6%. That 6% was probably equivalent to 15 redundancies with the inevitable impact upon the staff and their families. And at the time, that thought never crossed my mind.
“And now I spend most of my time working on diversity. If somebody with my experience and background can learn to always put human beings before systems and process, then everyone can.
“A lot of HR people from my generation were trained to be cynical, to try to catch out the small percentage of staff who broke the rules. I was asked by another Chief Executive to be the organisation’s policeman, to make sure everyone followed the rules. I left the organisation soon after.
“Nowadays I spend a lot of time encouraging people to collaborate and to work closer together.”
“It’s easier to be intelligent than kind.”
“Kindness is hard. Looking out for yourself is instinctive. We’re wired by evolution to surround ourselves with people similar to ourselves. But anyone can be open‐minded and kind at work, if their leadership say that’s how it should be.
“At Public Health England we have a vision: ‘Working in an environment where you can bring all of yourself, every day, to a workplace which is fair, inclusive, safe and supportive’.
“To support that vision, we set up a range of staff networks. They include: BAME; Christian; Disability; EU exit; Gender balance; LGBT; Muslim; Older; Social mobility; Younger; Business managers; and Personal assistants.
“Any network we’ve been asked to set up, we’ve said yes to. And my job wasn’t to lead them, it was to enable them. They’re all led by passionate staff and they have helped develop our policies and action plan for diversity & inclusion. Here are some examples of the initiatives in the action plan:
- Quarterly gender pay‐gap reporting ‐ people at the top of scales were primarily male.
- Monitoring of diverse recruiting process and panels with Diversity and Inclusion Forum members as assessors.
- Focussed positive action and talent management initiatives to ensure diversity and reduce the gender pay gap
- Race at Work Charter signatory ‐ following BITC’s five action 5 suggestions
- Workplace adjustment passport – every time you move role you don’t have to rereport your disabilities.
- Work shadowing schemes and mentoring programmes.
- Ongoing campaigns to increase staff declaration rates for disability, ethnicity, faith and sexual orientation.
- Nomination of colleagues in Civil Service and NHS England diversity and inclusion awards and PHE People Charter awards.
- Benchmarking with Civil Service and private sector organisations.
- Continued champion membership of Stonewall and Race for Opportunity and participation in national surveys – content led by staff networks.
- Compassion at Work kit produced as a guide for line management
“The networks came up with big push to make sure every manager had diversity and inclusion in their targets, including medical and dental consultants. Nobody challenged it, how can you say you shouldn’t be reducing the gender pay gap, or ensuring all staff respect each other?
“I don’t talk about the business case anymore, because it’s just the right thing to do. People are sick and tired of tough management. The most important thing is being human. Everything has got to be underpinned by effective leadership and a compassionate mindset.”
Words of wisdom
Tony left us with a quote from Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, two weeks before he was shot dead.
“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.
It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.
It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.
It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
About Women in Health and Safety
Women in Health and Safety is a UK-based network of health and safety professionals. We run free-to-attend events throughout the year, all over the country. The Women in Health and Safety hub page on SHP has more information and upcoming events.
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