Data-Driven DEI™ Case Study: Royal British Legion
Royal British Legion (RBL), the United Kingdom’s largest Armed Forces charity, offers a variety of support options and resources to both current and former members of the UK’s Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force, along with their families and dependents. With over 200,000 members residing around the world, their mission since 1921, has been to honor and recognize their selfless contributions to UK’s sovereignty, and to honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the country.
However, one of the biggest challenges RBL faced in 2021 was the homogeny of its membership that was 80% white, male and over 60. And until 2021, diversity and inclusion (D&I) were discussion topics, but not high priorities. As RBL continued to see a consistent decline in membership each year and an increase in diverse military enlistees, they realized sustaining the organization’s existence required deliberate intention to attract and welcome younger, diverse members.
Jennifer “Jenni” Dyer, the Head of Diversity & Inclusion at RBL was hired in 2021 to develop and implement the organization’s first D&I vision and strategy in its 100-year history. Prior to her starting, RBL had commissioned a diversity and inclusion audit and were assessed against the Global Diversity Equity and Inclusion Benchmark (GDEIB), which provided insight into the priorities that RBL needed to adopt to become a more inclusive organization. Dyer, who came to the role with over 20 years of experience in DEI, immediately noticed that RBL’s public image in promotional materials and advertising was extremely exclusive and likely contributed to the perception that it wasn’t an organization for all members of the military.
Dyer used the audit, the GDEIB assessment and conferred with colleagues in the UK’s Global Diversity Index group and RBL leadership to gather data on national D&I practices to assist with crafting a D&I mission and values statement that would set the tone for their intentions. Five focus areas were identified with KPIs (key performance indicators) to establish a baseline for the following incoming data:
Foster a positive and inclusive culture
Ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed
Engage with, and involve members to progress D&I
Encourage everyone to be inclusive every day
Celebrate and champion diversity and difference
Additionally, visuals representing the military’s new demographics replaced outdated images and messaging. However, Dyer understood that pictures and taglines were not enough to make a difference without real action towards change.
Once focus areas were in place to create the framework for their strategic plan, they conducted D&I training, specifically in cultural sensitivity and unconscious bias, for RBL’s 2,000 staff members starting with executive leadership. It was important to get buy-in from the top, so the organization’s workforce also embraced D&I as a business imperative.
Since they were at the very beginning of their D&I journey, diversifying recruitment for both members and staff was a top priority. In the past, Dyer noted, they had great difficulty attracting diverse candidates for open opportunities, and the few who did apply were rarely hired. So, they decided on a different approach to find candidates using employee resource groups (ERGs). The problem was that no ERGs existed within the organization, so they would have to be created and supported by leadership. Using focus groups to identify populations most likely to benefit from supportive professional networks, four groups were selected to represent:
Women, who comprise over 70% of the workforce, but held few senior leadership roles
BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) staff.
The secondary function for these ERGs would be to provide a source for identifying diverse candidates via employee referrals and bolster post hire retention.
According to Dyer, “While we really are at the onset of our D&I integration, and obviously not yet ready to focus on equity, the feedback we’ve received thus far from our employees and leadership team is encouraging and indicates we are moving in the right direction. The strategic plan along with clearly defined focus areas and KPIs will help us collect data that will drive our actions moving forward. We have a way to go to catch up with our more advanced peers, but I’m pleased with the incremental gains made one year in.”
Charles Byrne, Director General of RBL, adds, “We believe that the compassion, understanding, and service we show each and every individual should be reflected in the way we all support, respect, and include every individual who works with us. We want everyone involved in our work or receiving our services, to feel proud to contribute to or be part of a diverse and inclusive organization. We recognize that we still have a long way to go to ensure that we make the RBL a truly great and inclusive organization to work for and be part of, so we have set our commitments to provide a clear path to deliver this ambition. We will keep listening, learning, and sharing our progress and impact” he concluded.