Diversity and Inclusion in SMEs: A Case Study (Imrandd)

The OGUK Diversity and Inclusion Survey report was released earlier in 2021, not only providing the industry with a snapshot into its current D&I performance but also providing it with an invaluable baseline from which all future D&I improvements can be made. One key finding from the report highlighted the need for improved diversity and inclusion in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It said that SMEs are less likely than operators and larger supply chain companies to have a strong D&I culture, a fundamental aspect to the success of D&I initiatives. 

As such we were delighted to catch up with AFBE-UK ‘Company of the Year’ award winners, Imrandd. Gael Cordiner spoke to us about their award winning work, how the team are promoting D&I and how life there has changed during the pandemic.

Imrandd

Gael explained that Imrandd’s CEO Innes and COO Paddy are very much the driving force behind Imrandd’s D&I culture and initiatives. They are both passionate champions of D&I because of their own lived experiences and the opportunities borne from working within diverse teams.

“From the very beginning, Imrandd was built on a foundation of D&I. Having a diverse team that looks at customer challenges from different viewpoints and learned experiences has resulted in innovation and ideas that have developed into smart technology and analytics solutions that are now applied across oil and gas and heavy industry assets, globally.”

Imrandd has a flexible workforce of around 60 full and part-time people, which has increased from around 40 before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The gender split is now 60/40 men to women within the company, and although not a conscious decision as such, Gael explained that by having greater balance within engineering and R&D Imrandd has found that there’s been an increase in ideas, refinement in approach and more diversity in perspective and problem-solving.

She said, “The same decision might be reached in the end, but with a more diverse team it enables us to further consider our approach, which in turn helps rule things out quickly and address problems in a more efficient way”.

Gael explained that as an SME, there are many additional challenges to deal with when it comes to D&I but this has not stopped Imrandd from making progress. For example, when it comes to recruitment, they have put a lot of work into training managers on topics like Unconscious Bias, looking at how they write their job descriptions/adverts to remove unintended barriers and analysing where they advertise to ensure they are not always ‘fishing in the same pool’.

Employee involvement and participation is also key.  Alongside a monthly town hall, Imrandd holds a fortnightly Corporate Value and Purpose meeting. This lasts half an hour and various aspects of the business are discussed. There may be presentations around a new product or service, sharing a success story, a strategic direction or perhaps explaining why a certain decision has been made. Gael explained that involvement and participation from staff is heartily encouraged and as true entrepreneurs, Paddy and Innes thrive on a good debate. The meetings are a ‘safe space’ to disagree and challenge, and feedback and issues are followed up upon which engenders trust. Gael recognises that this type of approach may not be as easy to adopt in a much larger organisation, however, the principles behind the sharing of information, explanation of decisions and openness are strong roots for the development of an open, trusting culture.

During the pandemic, Imrandd’s commitment to D&I went a step further. 

Gael explained that at the beginning of 2021, Innes and Paddy took decisive action as there was a real feeling that people were struggling, particularly with homeschooling re-starting. Between them, they phoned everyone to see how they were doing and checked up on any support they needed. Following this, both felt that something else was needed to keep informal communication lines open, so a weekly call was introduced for an initial period of 6 weeks as a mental health check-in. This grew and has now become a weekly team call where someone is nominated to talk to the group about anything they’d feel comfortable sharing – this could be anything from why they chose their career path, why they came to the UK, even something personal such as health and experiences during lockdown. It has been a great way to get to know people informally and has helped the team understand more about each other and perhaps any struggles they have had. It is extremely relaxed. Some people show slides or share a short video or just talk. The meetings are well attended, and everyone looks forward to them.  People show up as they are genuinely interested. Gael believes that it is a great sign that Imrandd has created such an open space to communicate and a culture of trust and believes that this type of initiative can really encourage people to have challenging conversations but in a trusting and transparent environment.

In terms of moving forward, Imrandd’s leadership is keen to look at how the company formalises and ‘really nails’ its D&I processes. The team have set their own criteria to ‘check in’ on themselves and review process and continue to improve in this area.

She said, “When we looked at how we could review our approach we were keen to ensure it wasn’t an onerous process with great ‘screeds of data’ – just simply a check-in of where we are and where we want to be. To have a benchmark is important and helps us understand what’s working, what needs refinement and what actually doesn’t fit with Imrandd – and most importantly it helps us be prepared to have some difficult discussions if we need to. Communication is our most powerful tool, we keep talking, keep challenging and keep asking questions”.

As the company continues to grow, everyone at Imrandd is determined to keep D&I at the core of the business. This may present different challenges as time goes on, but the team is keen to face this together and is interested in learning from other organisations and groups that can offer support and opportunities to understand and improve.

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