#6: Ira Read, Director of Inclusion & Diversity at pladis
As a HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?There are a lot of conversations about culture transformation in relation to the thinking on inclusion and diversity. In my view, transformation requires everyone to be aligned and to pull together in the same direction. In this context, I believe passionately in the power of the individual to make an impact, no matter how small. With everyday actions we can all ‘do our bit’ incrementally to make the world a better place today and for future generations.
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?
The HR function has the potential to inspire and introduce innovative thinking on the people strategy to organisations. We live in uncertain times, with the impact of the pandemic Covid19, political and social instability and volatile markets. People are tired and worn out from trying to maintain the boundaries between work and home life so we should focus on building inclusion. If we have an ambition to “change the world”, we should start by changing our own world which means paying the same level of attention to our own growth and development needs as we do for stakeholders. I’m an advocate of wellbeing and social initiatives as well as flexible working arrangements for employees, which set an inclusive and diverse standard for the rest of the organisation. These help us to attract qualified diverse talent into the business, bringing intergenerational views and creative thinking.
Which particular areas of social and environmental injustice are you most passionate about, and see that your role gives you the chance to create change?
Social mobility is fundamental in terms of having broader conversations about inclusion in society and to breakdown stereotypes on women and men and the challenges they encounter. In addition, I believe that we should have better access to opportunities for those without privilege and ensure that we address equal pay with more vigour. Human rights violations are very serious issues that remain important to me, in particular the empowerment of women. These are just a few of the reasons that led me to specialise in work on inclusion and diversity - it’s a topic that is affected by many other macro-level factors from a people, community and planet perspective.
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?My aim is to have a constructive approach to conversations on inclusion and diversity, with two-way dialogue and seek out opinions that are different to my own. This is vital in working environments with a fast pace, lots of expectation, multiple stakeholders and competing agendas. I believe that it remains important to have integrity and be true to the values of the organisation so that the inclusion and diversity work is meaningful to all stakeholders and aligns clearly with business goals.
What is the one specific action you would like to see all HR Leaders take to make a positive change for the world?HR leaders can be amazing role models to others and build awareness on the importance of building an inclusive and diverse workplace and society. In my experience, a leader should self-reflect, self-critique and consider what can be done better. What’s also paramount is that we need courage in order to share some vulnerability – and therefore make it easier for others to be themselves and feel included. I say be bold and do things that take you outside of your comfort zone!