The network recognised that DfE would be unlikely to be able to identify the best ways to make improvements – or accurately measure success – without fully understanding the current make-up of the department; this included representation across grades and locations, staff sentiment and any barriers to progression being experienced. We therefore selected ‘Expanding our knowledge through data’ as an early priority work strand.
In Spring 2018, the network asked staff to have their say on social mobility in DfE by undertaking a short survey to support the department’s Social Mobility Employer Index entry – over 1000 staff members participated, sharing their views on culture within DfE. Building on this, the Network was successful in securing buy-in from the DfE People Committee to carry out a further, more detailed survey on the socio-economic background of staff members within the department for the first time. Acknowledging that it would be important to lay the groundwork for this survey, particularly in helping our staff to understand why we wanted to collect this data, we worked with our Internal Communications colleagues to formulate a comprehensive comms plan and develop clear messaging in advance of the launch.
Engagement with our survey campaign far exceeded expectations. The Network’s Chair, Andy Hurdle, wrote a blog that focused on ‘Privilege’ to encourage an open conversation and trail the survey launch – this became the second-most read intranet blog in a 15-month span, receiving 2,334 page views, far outstripping the DfE average. The subsequent intranet article that formally launched the survey received 4,734 page views, putting it in the top 10 most read articles in 2019. The response to the survey itself was overwhelmingly positive, receiving over 3,500 responses and providing a rich source of data, ensuring we can successfully measure our progress on social diversity initiatives over time against a baseline.