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Serco Embrace – raising the bar for race and ethnicity at Serco

In recent years we have poured new energy into diversity and inclusion at Serco, raising strong colleague community networks who are helping us draw on specialist partnerships and lived colleague experience to guide our actions and ambitions.

In January 2021, Serco signed the UK Race at Work Charter, publicly formalising our commitment to racial equality and inclusion in the workplace and creating a stronger platform for future progress atop all we have achieved to date.

We already have in place certain key requirements of Charter signatories. For example, Mark Irwin, Chief Executive for Serco UK & Europe, is our Group Executive Sponsor for race and ethnicity. Also, our zero-tolerance commitment on harassment and bullying is owned by the Corporate Responsibility Committee of the Serco Group plc Board.

Our journey to this milestone has been made possible by the determination of our colleagues leading and participating in the Serco network for race and ethnicity, Serco Embrace.

Richard Kuti, Chair of Serco Embrace 2018–2020, is now leading on our UK implementation of the Charter.

“I’m delighted to be doing this,” says Richard. “Our signing of the Charter is well-deserved recognition for the network team and a game-changing opportunity for Serco to advance in this space.”

The Serco Embrace network was founded in late 2017. What began as a small, informal group of volunteers has grown into a tightly knit team of more than 15 business professionals, assembled from across Serco UK & Europe. Together, they consistently go above and beyond, providing strategic challenge and insight to the business and giving their all for their colleagues and community.

See end for a full list of current team members.

Tasneem Said is the new Chair of Serco Embrace, having served as Deputy Chair since 2018. In that role, she oversees the running of the network, planning annual objectives and providing guidance to the team.

“Our vision is to make Serco an employer of choice for people from all ethnic backgrounds,” says Tasneem, “achieving equal and proportionate representation at all levels within the organisation and reflecting the diverse communities we serve. All of this in turn helps Serco to become a more effective partner in the delivery of public services for our government customers.”

Being a member of the network team can be tough and demanding:

“The tide is definitely heading in the right direction at Serco, but these are still deep and difficult waters in which we immerse ourselves daily. We are all working hard to challenge thinking, change perceptions, raise awareness, open dialogue, create new understanding and overcome barriers. Regardless of our own challenges, we dig deep and get stuck in – it wouldn’t work otherwise.”

For Tasneem, it is not a question of whether change will happen, but when:

“I cannot influence and shape society, but I can influence and shape Serco. I know this because we have the full support of Company leadership. If you have that, you will create cultural change. It won’t happen overnight – it will take time, effort and persistence – but it will be worth it.”

Niharika Khanna is the new Deputy Chair for Serco Embrace. As Communications and Events Lead since 2018, Niharika has striven not only to raise cultural awareness and celebrate diversity through the network’s annual schedule, but to help empower the community and secure them on the management radar.

“We aim to harness all the energy and emotion of our network members,” says Niharika, “and channel it into clear, constructive and engaging communications that help to deliver sustainable change.”

Born in India and raised in Oman and Dubai before living in Singapore and then making the UK her home, Niharika is keen to help Serco become a thriving multicultural environment:

“I am very proud to be a part of this Diversity & Inclusion movement. As a ‘third-culture kid’, I have always recognised the intricacies and value of cultural diversity and worked to enable others to navigate the nuances and harness it. I have seen phenomenal change in Serco over the last nine years. We have broken barriers and are now having conversations in the workplace that would once have been unimaginable.”

2020 was a year defined by formidable challenges, which the team fought hard to overcome. At the same time, they focused on ensuring that the impact of events on the community were not overlooked, prioritising the needs of their colleagues ahead of their own.

Antonia Tony-Fadipe has been instrumental in building the membership of the network, not only encouraging community representatives to come forward and get involved, but also a growing body of allies.

“2020 was a raw and difficult year for us all,” says Antonia, “not just because we were living through a pandemic, but because it was a time of pronounced collective grief and trauma in response to systemic racism around the world. Our challenge was to educate and guide the business regarding current affairs and the implications for our people.”

In her ‘day job’, helping ex-offenders find sustainable employment, Antonia is no stranger to breaking down employment barriers:

“Serco Embrace is about giving a voice to the people of diverse ethnic and multi-cultural backgrounds and inspiring the next generation of Serco talent to progress their careers. By deciphering and dismantling the barriers to representation at all levels, we want to help Serco and those we serve gain full benefit from the wealth of untapped talent in our diverse workforce.”

Testament to their drive and determination, the Embrace team led the network from strength to strength in 2020, gaining greater momentum and raising the bar for employee-led change in Serco.

In addition to facilitating Serco’s signing of the Race at Work Charter, their recent achievements include:

  • hosting more than 50 Inclusion Workshops for more than 1,000 colleagues in total, including senior leaders and Board members;

  • engagement in key business forums and collaboration in key business activities, including Covid-19 response, UK REACH study, Cabinet Office reporting, recruitment processes, leadership development programmes and new Contract bids and transitions;

  • implementing a Lived Experience Survey to capture and share lived experience feedback from colleagues across Serco;

  • delivering a comprehensive schedule of milestone events and cultural celebrations, including National Inclusion Week, Black History Month, Diwali, Ramadan and Eid, Windrush Day, World Harmony Day and World Cultural Day; and

  • introducing and hosting Safe Space Sessions as a platform for colleagues to freely share opinions, ask questions, address concerns and engage in debate that they might otherwise have felt uncomfortable raising.

“Diversity through inclusion is key to everything we do,” says Mark Irwin. “I am deeply committed to achieving the goals we have set and proud to be the Global Executive Sponsor for Serco Embrace. 2021 represents a step change in our approach as we seek to capitalise on a year where our Embrace network has worked hard to shift the dial. We welcome the support and participation of colleagues from across our business as we work toward making Serco a truly inclusive workplace we can all be proud of.”

Serco Embrace network team members

  • Tasneem Said, Network Chair; Legal & Contracts Manager, UK & Europe

  • Niharika Khanna, Deputy Network Chair and Events & Communications Lead; Manager, Group Operations

  • Muhammad Qureshi, Community Co-Lead; HR Business Partner, Health

  • Nadia Khalaf, Community Co-Lead; Head of Services, Micromobility, Leisure

  • Shazad Hussain, Data, Policy and Procedures Lead; Senior HR Business Partner, Justice and Immigration

  • Tajinder Sian, Stakeholder Lead; HR Transitions and Project Lead

  • Chirag Chavda, Project Management Office (PMO) Lead; Delivery Support Office Analyst

  • Antonia Tony-Fadipe, Community Team Member; Resettlement & Families Manager, Justice and Immigration

  • Amrit Saggu, Community Team Member; HR Business Partner, Justice and Immigration

  • Misbah Gulzar, Community Team Member; Equalities & Chaplaincy Manager, Justice and Immigration

  • Katherine Corneilson, Community Team Member; ExperienceLab Consultant

  • Rob Ryan, Events and Communications Team Member; Recruitment Marketing Specialist

  • Harveer Rehal, Events and Communications Team Member; Graduate Management Trainee

  • Eve Oliver, Events and Communications Team Member; Operational Excellence BA Apprentice

  • Hema Chhaniyara, Events and Communications Team Member; Marketing Manager, Leisure

  • Georgina Cadogan, PMO Team Member; HR Transition Project Advisor

  • Richard Kuti, Community Team Member; Race at Work Charter Programme Manager