Introducing APR LGBTQ+
Fifteen years since APR was founded, we now have a team of over 60 actuarial staff. This summer, our continuing growth is on our minds as we look forward to welcoming our biggest ever intake of new starters in September.
As we have grown, we have given more careful thought to diversity and inclusion, with senior associate Sammy Ford taking a lead in this area: how can we make sure that we attract the best applicants, treat them fairly through the recruitment process, and provide a welcoming work environment after they have joined us?
As discussions have been going on around this, one key idea was that of employee networks, as often seen in larger companies. On my client projects, I’ve seen groups focussed on LGBTQ+ people, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, women, early careers support, people with caring responsibilities, parents and more.
These can play a number of important roles:
- Helping people with shared characteristics to meet and get to know each other at work.
- Raising awareness of relevant issues across the wider company.
- Making sure the voice of each community can be clearly heard by the company, where policies or decisions will have an impact on them.
- Signalling to new staff that they can feel comfortable and safe in the workplace.
The co-chairs of the CBI’s Women’s Network summarised these goals neatly when they wrote on International Women’s Day last year that:
“Employee networks have the capacity to forge real change both from an internal policy perspective and from an outward inclusion perspective.” [link]
APR’s LGBTQ+ Network
For all these reasons, we were keen to set up a network for LGBTQ+ staff at APR, and the group came into being earlier this year, with – as is only appropriate after the last year and a half of home working – the creation of a Team on Microsoft Teams.
APR’s size presented some immediate questions: what’s the right mix of events and focuses for a group which, for now, is inevitably going to be quite small in membership? And how can we engage staff to run this group alongside their client work and other responsibilities for APR? We don’t have all the answers yet, but we know that many employee networks, even in much bigger companies, are very much a work in progress when they start off. And after all, a work in progress can achieve much more than having nothing at all.
We are also keenly aware that as APR continues to grow, we will be hiring staff from a generation which will expect their workplace not just to be a safe place for LGBTQ+ people, but to be an actively welcoming one. Building an infrastructure to boost the visibility of diversity and inclusion in our company lays important groundwork for our future growth.
For many, perhaps most, of APR’s new starters, they are doing their first professional job. That can come with a lot of pressure, and it can be tempting to try to fit in better by not mentioning things that make you different. Maybe your boyfriend or girlfriend becomes your “partner”, or you don’t mention the date you went on when a colleague asks if you had a good weekend. By creating visibility for LGBTQ+ role models in our company, and providing a safe space for discussion and support, we hope to make it easier for everyone at APR to bring their whole selves to work, and benefit everyone by doing so.
What have we done, and what’s next?
So, what came after creating that Teams page earlier this year, and what do we want to do next?
- We’ve advertised the network to our staff, and succeeded in getting a good proportion of staff to join. (The network is open to anyone who is interested, whether they identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community or as an ally.)
- APR launched a series of online coffee mornings during lockdown, to encourage staff to take a short break to relax and get to know each other better. These have provided a great format for awareness-raising in a relaxed setting. To mark Pride Month, we ran a coffee morning with an LGBTQ+-themed quiz, to give an appropriately competitive opportunity for staff to show off their knowledge (and learn at the same time). APR Partner Tim Nash and our diversity and inclusion lead Sammy Ford came out as joint winners!
- We’ve started to hold social events for members of the group, including an in-person event in London as lockdown eased. We’re keen to hold more in-person events, as we emerge further from Covid restrictions. We’re also planning an online event for group members across all our locations to come together, play some games, get to know each other better, and talk about what we want to see from the network.
- We are open to all suggestions from our members, so our next great idea might not even have happened yet!