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Building Inclusive Growth at Artex

Artex Ltd is a leading distributor of some of the UK’s must have construction brands. The business has been supplying customers of all shapes and sizes since 1935 and now tailors its offering to match the needs of independent merchants, national retailers and online stockists.

Artex Ltd is a leading distributor of some of the UK’s must have construction brands. The business has been supplying customers of all shapes and sizes since 1935 and now tailors its offering to match the needs of independent merchants, national retailers and online stockists.

Jason Smith, Managing Director at Artex, has been the instigator of the company’s strategic diversity and inclusion (D&I) drive, a journey that is being taken in partnership with Mildon. The relationship between the two businesses began post-lockdown after Jason was spurred into action by reading Toby Mildon’s book ‘Inclusive Growth’.

Jason comments: “Toby’s book was recommended to me and it really struck a chord. It was easy to follow and made me want to do more. Previously, I didn’t really know how or where to start, but Toby’s book gave clear direction. Quite simply, I didn’t want the business to simply be an observer when it came to D&I. Instead, I wanted Artex to be proactive, to embed a culture of positive change.”

Car-park conversations

The first meeting between Mildon and Artex took place in Nottingham, with Artex’s leadership team taking time out of their schedules to take part in Mildon’s half-day Discover Diversity workshop. Getting the leadership team fully on board was critical to forward progress.

“The first half-day session was a real eye-opener,” states Jason “we didn’t fully realise how much we weren’t doing as a business, despite good intentions. When the session finished the leadership team all chatted in the car-park for a while and it was clear that enthusiasm for the programme was shared by everybody.

“As a group, it was interesting to see how we were all in a really similar place – wanting to change but not necessarily knowing the steps to progress. Working with Toby – somebody who has lived with challenges all his life – really made the session real for us and solidified our understanding.”

Change in culture

Following the half-day workshop, the Artex leadership team created a D&I vision statement for the business and invited feedback. This immediately involved colleagues in the programme rather than passing on the forward responsibility to HR. An over-reliance on HR teams can be a common pitfall, preventing businesses from truly embedding D&I throughout the organisation.

Jason comments: “When the leadership team started talking to colleagues it quickly became clear to everyone that this was a shared passion amongst the leadership team rather than a gimmick or ‘nice to have’. Handing the challenge across to HR was not in our thinking at all. We wanted this to become a critical and vital subject for everyone, with the focus on re-shaping the company culture rather than simply on changing policies.

“Initial feedback from within the business was mixed. Lots of people were really positive and grateful that we had started the process to drive clarity around D&I issues.  Others questioned the need for such formality, arguing that D&I attitudes were already in place. Our explanation was that we weren’t questioning previous behaviours and processes - we simply wanted to formalise our stance as a business, draw a line in the sand, and give us a place to build from. It was about being active rather than being observers.”

Understanding attitudes 

To help shape forward strategy the Mildon team suggested surveying the entire Artex workforce. The questions were devised with expert input from Mildon and the anonymised survey generated a very healthy response rate. The Mildon team then distilled the responses into a detailed report, highlighting any process and operational gaps and identifying strategic measures that could deliver both immediate and long-term improvements. The report provided some real insight for Jason and his leadership team.

“The report helped us to uncover so much – particularly around areas such as mental health and neurodiversity,” states Jason. “We were able to implement beneficial changes straight away, whilst also planning ahead for long-term inclusive growth.”

Immediate changes include the addition of equipment to make workspaces more suitable for neurodivergent colleagues. One example is the installation of calming Nook pod seating, which enables Artex staff to work in relaxing, quiet spaces without being isolated from colleagues.

Artex has also assessed and changed its recruitment processes, adapting wording and imagery and reviewing how and where roles are advertised.

The strategic input from Mildon has now been folded into a larger ‘People Plan’ by Artex, which encompasses D&I amongst topics such as career progression, learning and development, company culture, policy and more.

Jason concludes: “Ultimately, it’s about trying to stay true to our identity as an organisation whilst simultaneously demonstrating how inclusive the business is. We want D&I to be normalised within the business – the more normal it feels, the greater likelihood that everybody will participate and drive inclusion forward. Our first steps have been hugely rewarding. We look forward to continuing the journey with Mildon.”

So… Are You Ready To Create a Culture of Inclusive Growth, Build a More Diverse Workplace & Boost Business Performance?

If you want to get a clear plan of action for diversity and inclusion, have greater clarity around employee
experiences and put the right strategies in place to improve retention, innovation, productivity,
profitability and so much more – now’s the perfect time to do it!

Get in touch today and take the first step on your journey to a better business…


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