Royal Academy of Engineering Launches Culture+ to Boost EDI in Engineering startups

In an effort to promote diversity and inclusion within the engineering sector, the Royal Academy of Engineering unveiled Culture+, an interactive online platform designed for small and medium-sized engineering firms.

This tool aims to assist growing companies in incorporating equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) into their workplace culture. By doing so, it seeks to enhance talent attraction and retention, contributing to long-term business success.

For smaller engineering firms, the recruitment and retention of employees with the necessary skills and capabilities can be a daunting and resource-intensive task. Culture+ addresses these challenges, emphasising the importance of EDI principles, often sidelined due to time and resource constraints. Research indicates that robust EDI practices are intrinsically linked to commercial success, fostering effective talent acquisition, employee wellbeing, team problem-solving abilities, and producing more inclusive outcomes.

Culture+ offers a range of practical tools, resources, and expert advice to aid engineering startups and scaleups in implementing and monitoring EDI best practices while maintaining accountability. The platform not only offers guidance to employers but also provides resources for individual employees to assess their behaviours and offer feedback. This approach is aimed at cultivating daily habits essential for fostering inclusive work environments.

The genesis of Culture+ was in 2019 following Academy research that highlighted various obstacles to implementing inclusive hiring practices in engineering startups and scaleups. These challenges included limited understanding of EDI's commercial value, implementation difficulties, and a shortage of dedicated time or personnel. Previously, no EDI resources were specifically tailored to meet the needs of startup leaders and employees to overcome these obstacles.

The Academy financed The Honeycomb Works, a small business, to develop Culture+. The platform, which was trialled with 14 companies, aims to eliminate these barriers and plans to expand its services as more companies join as long-term partners. The Academy is facilitating this expansion by covering the first year's licence fee for any of its Enterprise Hub Members who join the Culture+ platform.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, stated: “The Academy is committed to supporting engineering organisations in fostering the inclusive cultures that evidence shows can enable business success.

“Startups, scaleups and SMEs play a vital role in the UK economy. Research has shown that existing EDI tools have a mixed record of impact and are not adequately tailored to these small and micro businesses, and we know that there is demand for better practical support from this under-served community.

“With evidence-based initiatives such as Culture+ we hope to contribute to a future in which startups and scaleups can drive progress towards an inclusive economy that works for everyone.”

The official launch of Culture+ coincides with the Academy-hosted conference 'Pathways to inclusive innovation: Building cultures and practice', which aims to unite small- and medium-sized organisations in exploring avenues to inclusive innovation.

Why is this so important?

Encouraging and incorporating equality, diversity, and inclusion is vital for a number of reasons, moral, and otherwise:

  • Enhanced Innovation and Creativity: Diverse teams bring a range of perspectives, experiences, and problem-solving approaches. This diversity in thought and approach can lead to more innovative solutions and creative ideas, which are essential in the engineering field where new challenges and technologies are constantly emerging.
  • Improved Employee Performance and Satisfaction: When employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. This can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction. Additionally, an inclusive environment reduces the likelihood of workplace conflicts and improves team dynamics.
  • Better Decision-Making: Research shows that diverse groups are often better at decision-making than homogenous ones. This is because they consider a wider range of perspectives and are more likely to identify and address potential pitfalls.
  • Market Competitiveness: Companies that embrace EDI are better positioned to understand and meet the needs of a diverse customer base. In a global market, understanding different cultures and needs is a significant competitive advantage.
  • Talent Attraction and Retention: A commitment to EDI can make a company more attractive to a broader range of job candidates. In industries like engineering, where there is often a talent shortage, being able to attract and retain skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds is crucial.
  • Reflecting Societal Values: As society becomes increasingly aware of the importance of EDI, companies that embody these values are seen as more ethical and socially responsible. This can enhance their reputation and brand value.
  • Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Many countries have laws and regulations promoting workplace equality. Companies that proactively incorporate EDI principles are better positioned to comply with these legal requirements, reducing the risk of legal disputes and penalties.
  • Economic Benefits: There is growing evidence that companies with strong EDI policies tend to have better financial performance. This is likely due to a combination of the factors mentioned above, such as improved innovation, employee performance, and market competitiveness.