The National Audit Office (NAO) supports Parliament to hold government to account and to improve public services. With government facing an unprecedented period of change, the NAO must be on top of its game in order to fulfil its role and add value to the public sector. This relies heavily on our people. I strongly believe that we can only do this by continuing to show respect for each and every member of staff, and an appreciation of the differences they bring, and by building on our inclusive and collaborative working culture.
In 2015, we launched a three year strategy to embed diversity and inclusion across the NAO. The strategy is centred around three pillars: to build a diverse pipeline of talent; to create an inclusive work environment; and to reflect diversity in our work. This report focuses on our achievements in the second year of the strategy, 2016-17.
One of our key areas of focus during 2016-17 was unconscious bias, which can undermine our success as an inclusive culture. Building on awareness training we provided for staff, we brought in experts in the field of unconscious bias to help us better understand where we were at risk of displaying unconscious bias as an organisation, and to help raise awareness of those biases in order to minimise their impact on the decisions we make. We have taken on board a range of recommendations and are now implementing those across our talent programmes, internal processes, and recruitment and promotion selection processes.
Our record of recruiting a diverse mix of graduates to our accountancy training programme is strong, but we want to maintain this trend and increase our intake of candidates from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. We have, therefore, developed our graduate selection processes to help make them fairer, and continue to focus on the social mobility agenda through the expansion of our internship and work experience programmes.
We are certainly not at the end of our diversity journey, and we still have a lot of work to do – ensuring fair and consistent treatment of our people when it comes to performance management being one of our priorities. However, it is important to recognise how far we have travelled since we launched our strategy, and I am proud that our organisation is a more diverse and inclusive place to work.
Building and valuing a diverse and inclusive workforce takes purpose and dedicated action, but the benefits are substantial, both to ourselves and those we serve. I look forward to what we can achieve in the final year of our current diversity and inclusion strategy.
Report published 23 June 2017