Building an inclusive culture in all we do

The Sanger Institute, Connecting Science and teams across the Wellcome Genome Campus have recently launched a Behavioural Competency Framework (BCF), which provides tangible examples and measures for how people are expected to behave towards each other.

Charles Weatherhogg, the Human Resources Director at the Sanger has led this programme, working closely with staff and leadership. Over a third of the workforce have directly fed into the design of the framework over a four month consultation period. Here, he reflects on what it means for the Institute.

By Charles Weatherhogg, Human Resources Director at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

How we work

The ‘what’ people deliver is always assessed by organisations when conducting performance review, but ‘how’ work is delivered is also a key component for success. We seek to ensure that the BCF is weaved into our everyday working life and that the highest standards of professional conduct are followed throughout the workforce.

The new Behavioural Competency Framework (BCF) measures align to six core behaviours – namely communication, collaboration, leadership, innovation, results driven, and integrity. They are not listed in order of importance, I would say that prioritising one is akin to nominating a favourite child… each is important and valued.

The expectations get progressively more challenging as you apply them through the various grades of seniority – so for example, in an entry level role an individual might be expected to ‘actively listen and allow others to speak’ when demonstrating an element of communications competency. Our most senior scientists however, would need show how they ‘create an inspirational work environment which is intellectually stimulating and empowers staff’.

Defining behavioural expectations in this way is new to us and, in part, is recognition that across the scientific and academic community there have been instances of poor behaviour, which have sometimes been tolerated rather than confronted and addressed.

Introducing a behavioural framework is part of a broader culture programme that launched a year ago. It intends to elevate a positive, supportive and inclusive environment, underpinned by high levels of transparency with what’s required to succeed here.

Alongside broader consultation, our Director, Mike Stratton and Chief Operating Officer, Martin Dougherty have been closely involved with the development of the culture programme. It’s of critical importance that the programme is supported from the very top of the organisation, not least so that the activity is not dismissed as part of routine HR work.

Change in all areas

The BCF follows a new Code of Conduct, the recent Silver accreditation of Athena Swan, and an inclusive leadership training programme for our Board of Management and non-executive Board. We are introducing a mandatory training programme to ensure all staff are familiar with what is expected of them – our core policies and practices.

We will roll-out Active Bystander Training, which will give people the tools to stop or defuse a situation where someone is at the receiving end of ineffective behaviour. Different strategies work best in different situations and staff will be given these ‘tools’ to help. 

It is essential that people feel empowered and supported to speak up and ensure the individual concerned understands the impact of their actions. As such, we will also have a new ‘Speak Up’ independent reporting phone line to encourage and support staff when they have concerns and feel unable to speak to their line manager, HR or employee representatives.

Good Research Practice will also be a focus for development later this year, focused primarily on our scientific community, but important more widely, as it captures the absolute integrity against which we hold ourselves to account.

Making the BCF a document that is used widely has required a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure it’s adopted. The detail of the BCF is being integrated into all people processes, so that there is continual assessment of all staff – when they are recruited, during induction, at probation, succession planning and promotions, performance and appraisal reviews, recognition and rewards (pay and ad-hoc awards).

It’s early in our journey, but behavioural frameworks are something I have delivered several times in my career, often across international locations. It’s a significant advantage that we are single site within the UK, as the complexity of nuances to definitions can be better managed, with all staff experiencing the same local culture. We are using the behaviour framework informally in our performance review process this year, so all staff will have time to grow knowledge and familiarity of what is sought. There is a lot being developed and delivered this year, so it’s important staff have reasonable time to engage and become confident with expectations.

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