From education to employment

Fostering a diverse and inclusive culture at Southern New Hampshire University

Rick Kershaw, Chief People Officer, Peakon

Organisations increasingly understand the value of having a diverse workforce – something that research has proven time and time again. Just last year McKinsey found that the businesses in the top-quartile for diversity outperformed their competitors by 36%. Findings like these make the strategic benefits of diversity difficult to dispute.

In few places is diversity more valuable than in further education facilities. Not least of all because employing people from all backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities engenders understanding in the next generation.

But attempts at building a diverse faculty will fall flat unless you also nurture an inclusive workplace. Employees need to feel like they are accepted and their opinions appreciated – otherwise they simply won’t stay. If a university is able to create a culture of inclusivity, not only will it attract better candidates, but its employees will be more engaged, more loyal and deliver better results.

How can universities achieve this? At Peakon, we’ve been working closely with the leadership team at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to do exactly that. By collecting real time insights on their employees’ wellbeing and sentiment, they’ve managed to create an enviable employee experience, and maintain recognition as a Great College To Work For 12 years in a row.

Building a strategy that promotes both diversity and inclusion

The student population at SNHU includes people from many underrepresented groups: Refugees, opportunity youth, single parents, people of colour, service members and more. From a talent perspective, SNHU wanted to attract a workforce that reflected the broad diversity of its learners. Doing so relied on existing employees promoting the university’s job opportunities. This would only be possible and effective if current staff members felt heard, supported and included in the workplace.

Gauging how your employees really feel about work can be difficult. Many employees find providing direct feedback to an employer extremely daunting, for fear that their honesty – no matter how constructive – may be career limiting. As a result, many employees in organisations worldwide still hold back from voicing grievances, and choose instead to suffer in silence.

But SNHU wanted to know what its employees really thought, so sought a way to help them communicate more openly and honestly. This is when it turned to Peakon.

Peakon’s platform democratises the employee engagement process. Our digital, regular and anonymous surveys give each individual a voice, and the power to drive change, by enabling everyone in an organisation to leave honest feedback. This in turn empowers organisations and its leaders to take decisive action, equipped with insights they may otherwise have been without.

Understanding experiences through data

For SNHU, the employee data generated through Peakon surveys has proven instrumental in quickly addressing any inclusion concerns, and ensuring that all employees are granted equal access to opportunities. Using our platform, the business was able to slice data by different strands of diversity – such as gender, generation, race and location – to see what employees in these groups really think. This helped SNHU to recognise and understand how decisions impact groups differently, and respond to any concerns, so that no one felt excluded by leadership decisions.

The results speak for themselves. Between 2018 and 2020, the business increased its Net Promoter Score (NPS) in overall engagement by 33 points, its NPS score in Freedom of Opinions by an impressive 62 points, and its Growth driver score by 40 points. Engaging with the platform has become second-nature to its 3,400 employees, who have left more than 185,000 comments since implementation.

Creating a culture of belonging

Improved diversity doesn’t end with hiring diverse talent. It is just the beginning. Making sure that all employees feel included once at the organisation is the key to engaging and retaining them – and unlocking the huge benefits that having a diverse workforce brings.

SNHU is a fantastic example of an organisation that has prioritised diversity and inclusion, and taken proactive steps to reach its goals. Now, by facilitating that all-important two-way dialogue with employees, SNHU will continue to benefit from having real-time, honest insights at its fingertips – enabling its people to drive the change they want to see, and the university’s continued success.

Rick Kershaw, Chief People Officer, Peakon

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