The important links between wellbeing, diversity and inclusion By Dr Alison Wakefield FSyI

As employers become more conscious of the value of promoting employee wellbeing inside and outside the workplace, as a means of getting the best out of their staff, more and more organisations are creating positions and programmes that collectively address the areas of employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion.

What are wellbeing, diversity and inclusion?

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, workplace wellbeing relates to all aspects of working life, from the quality and safety of the physical environment, to how workers feel about their work, their working environment, the climate at work and work organization. Employer wellbeing measures are seen by the ILO to complement occupational health and safety measures to make sure workers are safe, healthy, satisfied and engaged at work. Worker wellbeing is presented as a key factor in an organisation’s long-term effectiveness, with the more progressive organisations recognising that their most important resources are their human resources.

The many definitions of diversity and inclusion in a workplace context include those used by The Co-operative Group (better known as the Co-op), which actively presents itself as a responsible and ethical business. The Co-op defines diversity as relating to acceptance and respect, understanding that everyone is unique and recognising our individual differences, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity, race/ ethnicity, religion/ religious belief, culture, marital/civil partnership status, age, educational background, physical and mental ability, caring responsibilities, political opinion or physical appearance. It defines inclusion in the workplace as being about engaging the uniqueness, talents, beliefs, backgrounds, abilities and ways of working of all colleagues, and working together to create a culture where colleagues feel they belong and are valued and respected. It is not difficult to imagine the impact of a genuinely inclusive environment on the feelings of workplace wellbeing among employees, and indeed research by the University of Hertfordshire as part of their Do Something Different programme identified a strong relationship between diverse/inclusive behaviours by employees and their individual wellbeing.

In what ways are the concepts linked?

The Sydney-based consultancy Include-Empower.Com argues on its website that there are four main ways in which the concepts of wellbeing, diversity and inclusion are linked:

  • Workplaces that are inclusive foster enhanced employee well-being;
  • Employees with high levels of well-being are more inclusive;
  • Effective well-being initiatives accommodate the unique needs of different employees; and
  • Best-practice diversity and inclusion programs recognise mental health and well-being as a diversity issue.

Factors behind this are seen to include positive effects on employee self-esteem, career achievements and progression, work-life balance, feelings of connectedness and belonging and pro-social behaviour, and reduced discrimination, prejudice and harassment. This is supported by research by the Diversity Council Australia suggesting that Australians working in inclusive teams are:

  • Nineteen times more likely to be very satisfied with their job than workers in non-inclusive teams;
  • Four times more likely to stay with their current employer;
  • Two times more likely to receive regular career development opportunities; and
  • Almost seven times less likely than workers in non-inclusive teams to have personally experienced harassment and/or discrimination in the past year

How well is the security sector doing?

  • The Australian industries seen to be taking the lead in implementing measures to establish inclusive teams are financial and insurance services, and education and training. Those seen to be lagging are manufacturing, and information, media and telecommunications. I doubt many would argue that the security sector is a trailblazing industry in these respects, but there is room to be optimistic as more and more organisations recognise that actively addressing these areas makes good business sense and provides strong opportunities for competitive advantage. There is a growing number of examples of security-related organisations setting out policy statements or showing leadership in these areas:
  • G4S proudly states that its UK businesses are some of the few in the security sector to have been awarded Disability Confident level 2 status (a government scheme for employers led by the Department for Work and Pensions) recognising its efforts to identify and remove barriers which impact on the employment of people with disabilities
  • Shield Security Service declares on its website that, among a series of commitments regarding recruitment, training, retention, consultation and disability awareness, where applicants have a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, they will be guaranteed an interview subject to meeting the essential criteria for the job (SIA licence)
  • Knights Group Security publishes its policies and procedures on a range of topics related to wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, including policies on career development, disability, equal opportunities, equality and diversity, sexual orientation and violence at work
  • CIS Security won the Inspiration in HR Security and Fire Excellence Award in 2016 for their 20:20 Vision initiative, launched in 2015 to increase the percentage of women security personnel they employ to 20 per cent by the Year 2020
  • Mitie, the facilities management contractor, won the Diversity Award at the British Insurance Awards 2015, having featured in the Times’ Top 50 Employers for women for five consecutive years, and having signed a formal partnership with Remploy in March 2014, resulting in 80 new disabled recruits and a series of disability awareness sessions
  • In 2018, facilities management contractor Sodexo also reported that it had been recognised in the Times’ Top 50 Employers for women for the fifth year running

Other bodies are using their platforms to promote key messages within the security profession about employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. In September, the Security Awareness Special Interest Group (SASIG) professional development and networking forum ran its third workshop on ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Security Profession’, in which I had the privilege of participating. A memorable quote from the day was that a non-diverse workforce “is like a team of only quarterbacks” (although “strikers” would be a more apt analogy outside the United States). In October, the intelligence, investigations and security consultancy Risk Advisor Group launched a ‘Diversity and inclusion in Security Network’, with the aim of promoting diversity in the security intelligence, analysis and consultancy sector through, mutual support and networking.

In November, ‘neurodiversity’ (recognising and respecting neurological differences like autism, dyslexia and ADHD) was one of the themes of a panel discussion to which I contributed at the International Security Expo. In the same month, City Security Magazine published an article titled ‘Diversity and inclusion in the security sector: the key is treating people as individuals’, based on an interview with Asif Sadiq MBE, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for the Daily Telegraph newspaper. In the interview, Mr Sadiq commented that diversity and inclusion are particularly important within the security sector, as finding creative ways to better protect individuals and companies are of the utmost importance; that some changes are small but still significant, “like adjustments to a security officer’s uniform that make it comfortable for everyone”; and that diversity within the security industry helps support efforts to tackle the varied security challenges organisations face, including opportunities to challenge norms that have established over time within security, which might not be the best way to tackle emerging challenges and threats.

How can individuals help to make a workplace inclusive?

In achieving such gains, leadership from the top of the organisation is essential, but all employees play a part in establishing an inclusive workplace. Co-op staff members are actively encouraged to contribute to these objectives in the following ways, which should be important rules of thumb for all of us:

  • Try to understand other peoples’ points of view and help them understand yours;
  • If you ever see inappropriate behaviour, challenge or report it;
  • If you challenge others, do so in a respectful way;
  • Be aware of different cultures and customs, and respect the benefits that diversity can bring;
  • Respect the confidentiality of colleagues and customers;
  • Deal with customers, colleagues and suppliers in an ethical and lawful way and with respect at all times;
  • Take responsibility for your own actions; and
  • Look for solutions to problems and try to resolve issues constructively.

Among these, I am particularly heartened to see the Co-op encouraging direct intervention by employees to challenge poor behaviour. The ‘bystander effect’ is a well-known phenomenon that I am sure most of us have witnessed or experienced, whereby the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. Many anti-bullying initiatives today include support and training of individuals to become defenders or ‘upstanders’ in bullying situations.

Why are trans issues now getting so much attention?

An aspect of wellbeing, diversity and inclusion that is currently receiving much long overdue attention relates to trans people. The results of the government’s National LGBT Survey, published early last year, included the concerning finding that one in five LGBT employees in the UK are not ‘out’ at work. This suggests that employers have much work to do in listening to the needs of their lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees and addressing the challenges they face. Guidance that is available to employers includes the “Transgender Policy Guide for Employers”, published by GIRES, and a government guide to “Recruiting and Retaining Transgender Staff ”.

In an article in Personnel Today magazine (15/3/16), a quote from Paul Deemer, Head of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights at NHS Employers notes that: “Although trans has received a lot of publicity recently, it’s both poorly understood and highly complex and can manifest itself in many different ways depending on the individual concerned”. In his organisation, physical protection needs to be a core aspect of the response, as he explains: “When it comes to a Saturday night in casualty and the potential for abuse from the public, you have to offer strong leadership and … visible protection to trans staff ”. The article also quotes Hayley Parker, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at ASDA, where around 1,690 employees (roughly 1%) identify themselves as transgender, and notes that this means the retailer occasionally needs to deal with transphobic abuse by customers. It is reported that the store has a “zero tolerance” policy to any hint of harassment towards trans staff, including pointing or whispering behind a hand, which can be enforced by anything from “an uncomfortable conversation” with security staff or the police, to the ultimate sanction of being blacklisted from all stores.

With more people now coming out as transgender as understanding and acceptance of trans people grows, employers need to make their policies on gender identity and expression clear, and train their staff accordingly. Rachel Reese, a co-director of trans inclusion consultancy Global Butterflies quoted in a recent article in People Management magazine (2/10/18), stresses the importance of informing security staff, receptionists or others outside the immediate team about a trans employee: “A security guard often sees a visibly trans person and asks about their pronouns [how they prefer to be addressed] at the top of their voice, causing a meltdown in reception”. Security checks at airports and other transportation terminals can also present problems if clear and effective policies and procedures have not been put in place, allowing for individuals’ preferences for being searched by a male or a female, while also being sensitive to individual officers’ readiness to search a person living in the same gender but not sharing their physical attributes. In an article in The Guardian newspaper (11/9/17), a quote from Zhan Chiam, gender identity and expression programme officer at ILGA, a federation of international organisations that campaign on LGBT rights, highlights the challenges across international transportation systems: “We receive many complaints from people who have experienced harassment and discrimination because their presenting gender doesn’t correspond with their passport details”. These issues bring into sharp focus how an absence of procedures can have the unintended consequence of creating an environment that is actively hostile and humiliating for a particular group of people.

How can I learn more?

In summary, employer wellbeing, inclusion and diversity strategies should benefit all of us, but are a responsibility of all of us as well. If you would like to learn more, an award-winning initiative by PricewaterhouseCoopers is a good place to start, with some short but powerful videos. These can be seen at In my organisation, the Security Institute, we are now working on our own strategy, with the aim of communicating key messages and commitments tailored not only to our employees and nearly 3,000 members, but the wider security community. If you would like to share any observations with me, or offers of help, I would be very pleased to hear from you, at

Dr Alison Wakefield FSyI

Dr Alison Wakefield FSyI

……is Chairman of the Security Institute, and an academic criminologist at the University of Portsmouth, where she runs the Professional Doctorate programme in Security Risk Management. She represents the Security Institute on the board of the Chartered Security Professionals Registration Authority, and serves on the Advisory Councils for the International Security Expo and the International Disaster Response Expo run annually at Olympia. Alison is also an Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute. Alison is a regular author and public speaker on security topics, and her contributions include the books Selling Security: The Private Policing of Public Space (Willan Publishing, 2003), The Sage Dictionary of Policing (Sage, 2009, edited with Jenny Fleming), and Ethical and Social Perspectives on Situational Crime Prevention (Hart Publishing, 2000, edited with Andrew von Hirsch and David Garland).