Putting inclusion into practice

Like many businesses, in recent years we’ve grown in our understanding of diversity and inclusion. Our future as an organisation depends on our people; our people flourish in an environment where everyone is supported in turning aspiration into action.

When different groups with different skills explore different challenges, our team grows and so does our business – which means our clients benefit as well.

Being BKL means being inclusive – and this is our look at what that means in practice.

In our first video, you’ll hear from Managing Partner Lee Brook and People Director Wendy Harpur as they explore what leading an inclusive business means to them. They discuss the steps BKL has taken together and our plans to keep improving.

Bringing your whole self to work

By Leng Montgomery,
Senior DE&I Consultant at
Charlotte Sweeney Associates

At Charlotte Sweeney Associates, we have a decade of experience working collaboratively with forward-thinking organisations like BKL to drive culture change and embed diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). In this article, I’ll be exploring those terms and how to turn approaches into actions that make workplaces better.

What does it all mean?

Diversity in the workplace means employees of all backgrounds who will all think and behave differently. That’s a massive benefit to any company.

Inclusion at work means people feel valued and welcome. In an inclusive workplace, they feel they can belong and succeed with minimal barriers.

Equity in this context may be less familiar to you. It isn’t to be mistaken for equality. Equity means levelling the playing field. This may involve targeted initiatives that will increase opportunity and representation for underrepresented groups of people – leading to a more diverse and inclusive place to work.

Appreciating how we are all different can help a company perform better and be representative of its client and customer base and of society. We’ve seen how employees respond well when their employer acknowledges their individual strengths and the potential they each bring.

We’ve also seen that one of the main reasons people leave an organisation is because of an un-inclusive environment or a culture that doesn’t set them up for success. But by adopting the DE&I practices recommended here, companies perform better, increase profits and are more likely to retain talented people.

“You cannot be what you do not see”

Role models at work are important for representation and to signal that the organisation is one where anyone can succeed. In some instances there aren’t always composite role models or people represented at every single level, but companies that provide an inclusive culture and are engaged in DE&I tend to be more attractive to people from a variety of different backgrounds.

It is critical that everyone feels they have a seat at the table and also feels welcomed when they join. What happens at induction is critical for helping people develop a sense of belonging and that this ‘home’ will be a place that’s safe and will help them succeed.

Can I say that?

It’s important that we ask questions, educate ourselves and understand more about people via our own personal and professional networks. But at times we find ourselves feeling tense; unsure of what we can or can’t say.

Always be professional and respectful. Be mindful of the questions you might be asking, especially if they are of a slightly personal nature. In short, think before you ask! It can also help to have built up a bit of rapport first.

But at the same time, assuming you can’t ask a question is another extreme to avoid. Just always be respectful and mindful of what you are asking. It’s wise to avoid using stereotypes or bias as we are all different and it’s not fair to generalise everyone.

Six top tips for inclusion at work

  • If there’s a topic you are unsure about, look for articles or other resources that have been produced by people from that community. TED Talks are often a good starting point.
  • You might not get everything right first time, but be willing to listen and learn from others.
  • Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We can all adapt and the more familiar we are with why something makes us uncomfortable, the better we can understand the subject.
  • If you hear un-inclusive language, try and disrupt or be an ally. Make an effort to ensure that people are being professional, polite and not using ‘banter’ as an excuse for poor behaviour. A simple “That’s not very funny” can be a good way of disrupting for example.
  • We don’t have to think and act the same to be a great team. See different perspectives as being there to help and not hinder.
  • With DE&I, workplace relationships and life, we never stop learning. Keep an open mind and all of this will feel less daunting.

More about Mosaic

In a truly inclusive culture, initiative comes not just from senior leaders but from anywhere. To help move our firm forward, we want every person to be free to use their voice – and more than that, to be empowered.

You’ve heard from Lee and Wendy about Mosaic: our group of volunteers from across BKL who work together to inform and engage us on inclusion, wellbeing and sustainability. In this video, Bhavik, Lekhrani and Roze (Mosaic’s newest member) give their takes on how Mosaic makes a difference.

As well as learning from each other at BKL, other organisations are with us on our inclusion journey. LTSB, discussed by Lee and Wendy, have been with us the longest.

At the same time as studying for AAT accountancy qualifications, candidates take 18-month paid apprenticeships with employers in the financial services industry. Many of those employers offer them permanent positions and careers.

We’re proud to have been among those employers since LTSB started in 2012. As our rewarding relationship has developed over this period, LTSB have become one of our charity clients too.

Here are the experiences of colleagues who came to BKL through LTSB, and the charity’s CEO.

“I found LTSB on LinkedIn when I was looking for accountancy apprenticeships.

The mentors at LTSB have always supported me in getting the most out of my time. They got to know me on a personal level, giving me opportunities and supporting me in taking my AAT studies at a faster pace.

We all have different experiences to share at BKL. Some trainees join from school like me, some as graduates, but everyone at BKL is happy to give their time to fill in knowledge gaps. I’m encouraged to ask questions to get the best out of everyone around me.”

Mille Everett, AAT Apprentice


“A friend suggested LTSB as a way into a finance career for school leavers.

It’s doubly advantageous being part of LTSB and BKL. Support from LTSB includes practical workshops, a buddy system and a WhatsApp group, with continuing support after I complete my apprenticeship. BKL colleagues are supportive too: they welcome questions and don’t expect you to have all the answers.

All of this means I feel included.”

Ethan Opoku, AAT Apprentice

“BKL’s passion for creating a diverse and inclusive team is inspirational.  We have seen some incredible outcomes from our partnership.  This has included fully qualified accountants along with apprenticeship roles for many young people who would have otherwise fallen victim to underemployment and lack of opportunities.  The positive impact this has had on their families and communities is huge. 

LTSB is in its 10th anniversary year and we are very excited about our future.  With the ongoing support of BKL, our young people’s careers and futures are looking bright and we would like to thank everyone at BKL who has ensured this success.”

Paul Evans, CEO of LTSB

Some of the LTSB apprentices & alumni who work at BKL: Tom Li, Michael Okello, Ethan Opoku, Dylan Shehidoglou, Archie Gilbert

When I finished secondary school, I knew I wanted to be an accountant. I chose the apprenticeship route over university so I could gain practical experience in the accounting industry whilst studying.

After completing AAT Level 2, I joined BKL through LTSB’s programme. Because BKL and LTSB had worked together for several years, I knew they would understand how to help me to make the most of the opportunity.

Winning LTSB’s North London Apprentice of the Year Award in 2019, after working hard, is something I’m really proud of.

Everyone at BKL is part of a calm yet productive work environment which makes it a great place to work. The study leave available means I can focus on preparing properly for my exams. The managers are also very supportive of my development, giving the trainees a variety of different jobs to challenge us and build up our experience.

Secondary school hadn’t really prepared me for how to deal with a nine to five job. However, BKL made the transition to full-time employment very smooth and the world of work became less daunting than before.

The biggest challenge I faced when I started at BKL was getting used to software I’d never used before. Thanks to plenty of training and patience from colleagues, I was able to learn from my mistakes and keep improving.

It’s rewarding to be a trainee and employee at the same time. Sometimes I’m putting knowledge from my studies to practical use. Other times I’m learning things which take me ahead of my studies, like dealing with HMRC and client interaction.

It’s also rewarding to know that my hard work is truly appreciated and that I have opportunities to work towards promotions and develop my career.

At the same time, BKL encourages people to look beyond our work and stay healthy. I enjoy organising regular football training.

Although I’m at an early stage on my path to becoming a chartered accountant and manager, I already feel like I have matured as a person thanks to BKL. I have become more confident in my role and I know how it positively contributes to BKL as a whole.

We’re proud of our inclusive culture, our people’s diversity and the progress we’ve made together. We’re grateful for the wealth of ideas and experiences within BKL, shared through Mosaic and more widely; we also want to thank the people beyond BKL who have given us guidance including LTSB, Charlotte Sweeney Associates, Inclusive Employers and Say It Loud Club.

At the same time, we recognise that there is more we need to do. We’re working to widen the diversity of our partners and more senior levels so that the firm and our culture can benefit from the widest possible range of talent, perspectives and innovation.

We look forward to continuing to explore inclusion: learning, enjoying, being BKL.

Find out more about being at BKL