HMRC: Inclusive Leadership- Linking Inclusive Leadership to a Range of Development Opportunities

Creating an inclusive leadership vision: The need for sustainable change 


Inclusive Leadership is important to HMRC as it supports the organisation’s culture change programme and enables us to take the next steps on diversity and inclusion (D&I). Our initial aim was to raise engagement levels and address progression issues for minority groups, but as the project progressed it became clear that Inclusive Leadership was better positioned as part of core business rather than as an add-on. Our Building our Future initiative, which sets out our vision for how HMRC will change to benefit customers and our people to 2020 and beyond, also offered an opportunity to position inclusive leadership within wider culture change.

Whilst HMRC has had success with individual programmes aimed at addressing specific diversity issues, real culture change is needed to address the underlying causes of lack of progress on D&I. If the organisation is to be totally diverse, systematic elements such as policies, working practices, culture and behaviours must be altered to make change happen.

HMRC was clear that inclusive leadership should not be a stand-alone piece – it must be built into HMRC’s core business. If Inclusive Leadership was positioned within the Diversity arena, it would probably not receive the attention it deserved. HRMC has also introduced an HR Diversity Partner model, which links Diversity Partners to each part of the business in order to act as enablers for D&I and help the business to respond to particular D&I challenges.

The executive team started the conversation around inclusive leadership with 560 senior leaders and have since rolled it out to all staff. This is the first phase of an ongoing conversation about the Department’s future and the necessary changes.

Creating an Inclusive Leadership Vision

The competency model of Inclusive Leadership has enabled HMRC to define what good leadership looks like and to identify role models and role model behaviours to bring it to life. By embedding these behaviours, HMRC will benefit from a more inclusive culture.

Inclusive Leadership has also given the D&I team, including the D&I business partners, the tools and materials to use with the business to introduce and engage with inclusive leadership. For example, the Engaging & Mobilising Change Agents tool’s four box model, which sets out how to match the change agents to an organisation’s culture, was used to fit with HMRC’s leadership model.

The action learning sets and Masterclasses were also hugely valuable for HMRC. They enabled us to test ideas with other organisations facing the same challenges as us and see what new approaches we could try, as well as giving us examples of what Inclusive Leadership is, how it could help the business and how existing practices can be used to develop more inclusive leadership. The Masterclasses also illustrated the role Inclusive Leadership can have in an organisation and facilitated conversation on our role in making it a reality.

The workshop facilitated by Gillian Shapiro and Opportunity Now also helped determine what an inclusive culture at HMRC looks like. This includes the equal value of all opinions, asking for and acknowledging views, attributing credit to the person/team that did the work, less hierarchy and not letting it get in the way of valuing people, understanding and valuing individuals’ strengths, and being open and transparent about the future while having honest conversations.

All the component parts have allowed HMRC to develop its vision of Inclusive Leadership. Additionally the best practice tools featured in the Resource Kit provided Diversity Partners with materials to use when introducing and engaging with Inclusive Leadership.

Linking Inclusive Leadership to a Range of Development Opportunities 

HMRC recognises that developing Inclusive Leadership capabilities is better achieved through a range of experiences rather than a single training programme. The Inclusive Leadership Excellence Club helped the team realise they were building on existing staff engagement programmes and activities to develop Inclusive Leadership and provide leaders with opportunities to learn from and work with individuals different to themselves. These programmes include unconscious bias training for all managers, mentoring programmes, trust workshops and the ‘Embrace’ BAME development programme, which won the 2014 Race for Opportunity Developing Talent Award – Progression.

HMRC also found the ‘Who is your Inclusive Leader?’ tool particularly useful as it makes the abstract idea of Inclusive Leadership real and personable for the individual.

Two of the existing programmes at HMRC that help to develop inclusive leadership are:

Trust Workshops

As part of its culture change work, HMRC has been running trust workshops with senior managers. These workshops look at what trust means, how to build trust with your team, and how to champion individuals within your team. Trust is an important competency for an inclusive leader and staff involved in the trust workshops were encouraged to gather feedback from their team on how their team view them as a leader. The workshops focused on what the individual needs to do to improve levels of trust within their team, and what the organisation needs to do to improve trust throughout the organisation.


HMRC still has relatively low numbers of BAME staff in middle management and senior leader positions. The Embrace Programme seeks to prepare clerical grade staff for leadership and management roles as well as address the significant under-representation of BAME staff across HMRC. The Programme is now an integrated part of HMRC’s talent and career management strategy.

Manager buy-in was one of the biggest challenges for Embrace. Managers expressed concern that they would struggle to balance their busy workload while supporting their BAME member of staff on the programme. To mitigate this, HMRC changed the Programme Office’s structure so that each region has its own regional lead to ensure managers, leaders and participants get the most out of the Programme.

Change Agents Workshop

HMRC ran a change agents workshop in order to:

  • Build change agents’ understanding of the importance of Inclusive Leadership for HMRC
  • Identify HMRCs current inclusive leadership strengths and challenges going forward
  • Explore how change agents can work together and embed inclusive leadership into their wider work
  • Develop an outline action plan

The change agent group were formed of key individuals from a number of different teams within HMRC linked with leadership and culture change. HMRC worked with Shapiro Consulting and Opportunity Now to design and facilitate the workshop. 

By identifying a number of activities that Inclusive Leadership could be ‘hooked’ into, the workshop was the starting point for HMRC embedding inclusive leadership across the Department.
The activities taken forward from the workshop included:

  • Building Inclusive Leadership – its role and purpose – into internal communications
  • Embedding Inclusive Leadership into management development products and the performance management process
  • Developing HR Business Partners to support inclusive leadership.