Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in Heritage: Toolkit

19th January, 2022 by EMBED

 Bird Study by Annonymous (c) Van Ham Kunstauktionen

This article on Equality Diversity and Inclusion in heritage organisations is paired with – Inclusive Communications, The Workplace Passport, and our three part EDI Podcast Series.


There is compelling evidence showing that organisations, including those in the heritage sector, who embrace Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are more successful creatively, by recognising the rich artistic and creative opportunities that diversity and inclusion offers.  They are also more economically viable and sustainable. It makes good business sense to diversify audiences and reflect the changing population of the UK today. And, of course, there is also a legislative duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

What is an ‘EDI Toolkit’?

A robust toolkit helps embed Equality Diversity and Inclusion in heritage organisations and can simplify the process of understanding what your employees, volunteers, stakeholders and audiences are really thinking about your business. The information gathered using the Toolkit will be vital in putting a successful EDI Strategy and Action Plan in place.

The elements of the EDI toolkit can be used individually or in conjunction with the others. It depends on what you want to understand about your business.

The individual elements are:

Employee Survey

Focus Groups

1-2-1 Interviews

EDI Audit

Accessibility Audit

Digital Audit

Information gathered from each of these workstreams will allow you to understand at a granular level what is working around EDI and where there are opportunities for change. Equally, you can use each of the elements as stand-alone tools to help your research.

Why do Employee Surveys Work?

The employee, volunteer or stakeholder survey is a tried and tested method of really understanding what it feels like to work within an organisation. We do this by asking a set of questions in such a way that we can test the participants’ perspectives and realities, their lived experiences.  There are many benefits from using such a tool which are laid out below.

Get a real view of how staff and volunteers are feeling

When you survey your workforce, you can quickly identify how your employees are feeling about their jobs, their managers, the organisation – what works well and what does not work so well.

Build trust in your organisation as an employer of choice

It is one thing to tell your employees and volunteers that you care about how they are doing.  It is quite another thing to proactively seek their feedback and contribution, and to then act as a result.

You give your employees a voice when you regularly seek their feedback, particularly when you demonstrate action on the back of that feedback. In turn, your employees take comfort in the fact that you care about their concerns and ideas. Trust is established, and it continues to develop over time.

When your employees trust you, they are more likely to follow you because they will believe in where you are going.

Survey results help to grow and develop your business

With the results of employee engagement surveys to hand, the organisation, its leaders, and managers can make decisions and changes that lead to growth. They can also decide to change the way things are done altogether, which could create a stronger, more inclusive culture underpinned by engaged employees.

Effective and quick tool for gathering data

There is no sense in trying to figure out how engaged your employees and volunteers are by asking everyone individually. This would be pretty time consuming if we had to set up a call with everyone in an organisation.

By making use of the latest employee engagement surveys for your entire staff and volunteer community, you create an effective and optimal process of gathering feedback. It is a definite time saver that proves invaluable.

Track data over time

Great leaders and managers develop positive action plans to resolve any issues and of course to replicate good practice. They can then track their progress through future surveys. Gathering diversity data allows organisations to be able to demonstrate progress on embedding Equality Diversity and Inclusion in heritage. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.  If you’re not tracking employee engagement in the first place, then you can’t improve it. Looking at diversity across an organisation and then tracking it year on year allows you to call out patterns for protected characteristics.

Hopefully, the data shows that you are heading in the right direction. If not, it is time to try something different; it’s time to course correct.

Public Catalogue Foundation, Wikimedia Commons

Understanding relationships with your teams

Employee survey results spotlight how your employees and volunteers are getting along with their managers and colleagues. This is important when we consider that our immediate flavour of experience will determine if we want to stay at the organisation or not. And that experience will include our managers and our colleagues, and how included, valued and respected we feel. It’s the most effective way to measure Employee Engagement.

Regularly surveying the workforce, and demonstrating that you are acting on the results, is the easiest way to improve engagement and a sense of inclusion. You will be leveraging the voice of the lived experience: your people. Even if the feedback from your people is not entirely positive, taking the time to survey them and ask their opinion will show you want to work collaboratively with them and get the organisation back on track.

Ten Objectives for Putting in Place a Best Practice Survey

When putting your survey together, it is really important to make sure you have a few key things in place to get the most out of the questions you are asking your people. Here are ten objectives to help you:

1. Define a clear, attainable goal for your survey

2. Keep the more personal questions to the end

3. Don’t let your survey get too long

4. Focus on using close-ended questions

5. Consider including an incentive to completing the survey

6. Don’t ask leading questions

7. Keep your answer choices balanced

8. Don’t always use Yes/No answers for your questions

9. Make sure you only ask one question at a time

10. Test your survey on colleagues before you send it out to participants

Public Catalogue Foundation, Wikimedia Commons

Why Use Focus Groups?

Once you have analysed the output from the survey, focus groups allow you to get an even better understanding of the lived experience in your organisation. These facilitated sessions can drill down into particular areas either of opportunity or concern and discover what people are really thinking.


How to Convene a Focus Group

There is no better substitute for understanding how an organisation operates than speaking to the stakeholders of that organisation. This can be employees, volunteers, senior leaders, trustees or external suppliers – anyone who has an interest in the organisation and who could affect or be affected by the organisational practices and culture. The lived experience of these groups of people is vital to understanding how the organisation works in practice and is an effective partner in reviewing policies and procedures. They offer the context and backdrop to how these that are influencing the workplace.

Hearing from the voice of lived experience is a powerful and valuable addition to the toolkit for change.

1. Once you’ve decided you want to have a Focus Group, you need to make sure you get a cross-organisational view of feedback on your subject. For participants to feel they can speak freely, participants come from the same level in the organisation – one for managers and one for staff. Equally, if you want to use the opportunity of a focus group for one of these groups to hear directly from the other, you can mix them up.

2. It is quite common, when conducting focus groups and interviews for an EDI Review, for people to be keen to share their experiences of what has not worked well rather than highlighting positive examples. This is not a bad thing. If you allow time for the negative experiences to be aired, you will get a lot richer positive feedback. Progress is never made unless people first feel heard.

3. Think about the objective of the Focus Group. For example, do you want to understand how a new policy or procedure has been embedded; perhaps you want to know more about how your staff or volunteers feel about EDI. Make sure you are clear about the objective before you get the group together.

4. Keep the length of the Focus Group to about 90 minutes. Experience has shown this allows sufficient time for people to have a good conversation about the subject matter. And Focus Groups don’t need to be face-to-face. They can be just as successful if they are held via Zoom or MS Teams.

5. Make sure all participants feel comfortable that the Focus Groups are confidential, and comments will not be attributed to a particular person. This will encourage open and honest discussion and enable you to get a good level of granularity of feedback.

6. To help structure the sessions without restricting conversation, offer some questions to the participants of the focus group ahead of meeting with them to help them start thinking about their own experiences. In this example, we are asking questions about EDI:

What have been your good EDI experiences of working/volunteering at [name of organisation]? Can you give some examples?

What have been the challenging EDI experiences that you have faced? Can you give some examples?

What are the key barriers to an inclusive culture? These could be physical, policy or procedures or about the culture of [name of organisation].

Name one thing you would like to change around EDI at [name of organisation].

Fine Arts in Hungary, Wikimedia Commons

Why are 1-2-1 Interviews Helpful?

You may think, having asked your people via focus groups and surveys about the challenges and opportunities they experience at work, that you have all the information you need to start putting together an EDI strategy. However, holding 1-2-1 interviews with key stakeholders allows you to ask detailed questions, especially of senior people, and understand their perspective on a particular situation or process.

Whereas focus groups tend to be used to gather the views of middle managers and staff, 1-2-1 interviews are a great way to get this senior level perspective. Senior leaders are the ones who set the tone and direction of an organisation’s culture. They will have signed off on policies and processes and communicated to their team about key decisions that have been made. But they are rarely the ones that implement these decisions. Spending time with them and sense checking where they think the organisation is on its journey to embracing EDI and comparing that with what you’ve heard via the focus groups and the survey, allow you to provide a granular level of detail about what is actually happening across the business.

EDI Audit

The intent and purpose of EDI policies, processes and procedures has changed over time; as has the language we use when talking about EDI. It is good business practice to regularly conduct an audit of these policies to make sure they are up to date. As a rule, policies, procedures and processes should be reviewed by HR at least once a year.  But sometimes other work can take priority and suddenly more time has gone by than we would have liked.

Conducting an EDI audit of a small number of policies can highlight current good practice as well as areas that need more focus. Trends in language and tone used, consideration given to accessibility as well as the commitment to accessibility, the future proofing of policies and how they support the Lived Experience for people who use them are all key indicators to look for. Historically we have tended to use more formal, legal language when writing policies.  However, policies are increasingly being written in plain English to make them easier to understand by everyone.  More information can be found at www.plainenglish.co.uk/

Accessibility Audit and Digital Audit

An accessibility audit is a combination of automated and manual testing done by accessibility experts using assistive technologies in various testing states. A detailed, physical audit is a thorough review of accessibility providing full coverage, that automated testing alone cannot provide.

While it may seem relatively easy to conduct a Digital or a Physical Audit of your websites or buildings, unless you are accredited to do this or have a specialist in your organisation, we would recommend you ask an organisation such as EMBED to support you. There are several standards and regulations you need to be aware of to ensure you are meeting the requirements of these audits such as the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 and experience of evaluating services against WCAG 2.1.

EDI Strategy and EDI Action Plan

Now you have gathered all the information together to understand where your organisation is on your EDI journey, you are now ready to start creating your new EDI Strategy and Action Plan. Remember that the EDI Strategy states the EDI objectives for your core business whereas the EDI Action Plan is an expanded version of the EDI Strategy with actions related to delivering the strategy. If there is no clear line of sight between the two, the EDI Action Plan will fail.

It is also helpful to remember that less is more. The Strategy will have more chance of succeeding if there are, say, three main objectives to deliver over a year, rather than 10 or 20. Make sure you have the resources to deliver your objectives; it is not the job of HR to deliver a successful EDI Strategy, everyone across the organisation has a part to play in embedding EDI into the culture of the business.

Your EDI Action Plan should begin with a statement about your organisation’s vision for the future within an EDI context. It should have a narrative which explains to the reader what you believe in and introduce the Plan to them so that it is clear what you are doing, why you are doing it and what you expect to change within the timescale of the Plan. The next step is to identify and describe what your EDI Objectives are.

Helpful EDI Information

Below is a summary of EDI legislation that you may find helpful.

The Equality Act 2010

The current Equality Act came into force on 1st October 2010. It brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. This Act provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for everyone. It protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

The nine main pieces of legislation that were merged are:

The Equal Pay Act 1970

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975

The Race Relations Act 1976

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2003

The Equality Act 2006 Part 2

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

More information can be found at: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/equality-act-guidance

Wikimedia Commons

Definitions of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

EQUALITY in the workplace means equal job opportunities and fairness for all employees and job applicants. You must not treat people unfairly because of protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act, such as a person’s sex, age or race. These characteristics are protected specifically from discrimination, harassment and victimisation when people access facilities and employment and consume products and services.

DIVERSITY is the rich mix of human difference in your workforce and your audiences. For example, this might mean people with different ages, religions, ethnicities, disabled people, and all genders. Diversity should be recognised and it means valuing those differences.

INCLUSION is about creating an inclusive environment, workplace, visitor space or experience. If it is inclusive, then everyone feels seen, heard and valued. It lets everyone feel safe to raise issues, share different opinions or ideas and to be empowered to try to do things differently. This also means it doesn’t matter where you are working or how you are communicating with colleagues: everyone should feel valued.

Protected Characteristics

Under the Equality Act 2010, there are nine protected characteristics that form the core of the Act. These are:



Gender Reassignment

Marriage or Civil Partnership

Pregnancy and Maternity



Sex (Gender)

Sexual Orientation

Public Sector Equality Duty

The broad purpose of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) is to make sure public authorities give consideration to equality and good relations in their day-to-day business activities. If you don’t consider how a function can affect groups in different ways, it is unlikely to have the intended effect. This can lead to greater inequality and poor outcomes.

There are three main aims of the PSED:

Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics;

Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people;

Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

The general equality duty requires public sector organisations to think how they could positively contribute to the improvement of equality in their business. This includes the design of policies and processes, the delivery of services and for these to be kept under regular review.

The specific duty assists organisations to comply with the general duty and improve an organisation’s focus and transparency in relation to equality. Organisations are required to publish sufficient information to demonstrate their compliance with the general equality duty across all their functions.

This article was created for Rebuilding Heritage by EMBED.

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