As part of the Proud to Champion theme, we speak to Lionel Mason, HR Director about where Next currently stands, and it's future commitment to Diversity & Inclusion. We ask 6 questions to give you an insight into the work that is going on in the background at Next. 

Do you have ideas and opinoins on what you want Unity to champion within the business? Let us know by sending an email to unity@next.co.uk or messaging us on Yapster.

Date: 15.10.21

Yes, most certainly. We have recently drafted a statement where we articulate our commitment to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at Next. This is due to be published shortly and so this can be shared with Unity and will be published on the site.

Next does strive to be diverse and inclusive. Our current HR system has limitations around  data reporting, and therefore collecting diversity data has been a challenge in being able to measure the effectiveness of the picture of diversity & inclusion across the business.   Next will launch its new People system in January 2022 and as part of the launch we will be encouraging all our employees to update their diversity data, including ethnicity. 


The recent engagement survey had a 56% participation rate and has proved quite successful in providing that data to us. Only about 5% of those who responded chose to not disclose that information relating to ethnicity  which shows a good degree of trust in the organisation with the majority of people choosing to share that information.


A further action for us as HR is to look at people from various minority groups and see what they are saying about their experiences at Next and compare that to the other overall message to understand if their experiences are different.

In addition, also looking at representation across the business and how this can be improved based on the information from the survey.  


We will share this information with the Unity@Next  group at our next meeting  to help shape our joint priorities for 2022.

We believe that the new Next People system will give us a real opportunity to make progress in this area. The objective here is to make all our recruitment processes as pure as they can be so that there is a totally level playing field for all candidates.


We plan to roll out  training on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Training next year, which includes  specific examples within a recruitment setting.

This is extremely important to us. We have joined the 10,000 Black interns initiative which is due to launch in 2022. This seeks to transform the prospects of young black people in the UK by offering paid work experience across a number of industries as well as training and development.


Reverse Mentoring - We’ve not currently got a specific programme for this and will see how other companies are running these.  On a wider point, we're open to exploring any initiatives, however we all have to be confident that they are going to be effective for us. Whilst all might have benefits we’re intent that they should make a difference otherwise it just becomes window dressing. 


Barclays example: 4 - 6 sessions with the Chairman and they would talk and she would lead the mentoring sessions. He wrote an article that went to the press, and spoke about his experience on reverse mentoring and reconnected him to when he was younger and that it was a good exercise. 

Unity@Next provides a forum where we are able to listen, celebrate and support our employees from all backgrounds. Next strives to create an environment where we encourage everyone to be themselves at work, so everyone is able to do their very best work for the benefit of themselves and for the business. Our partnership with Unity@Next helps the business achieve this.

The Race at Work Charter has calls to action for organisations committed to improving equality of opportunity in the workplace 


Currently Lionel Mason, Group HR Director is the Senior sponsor for Unity. Exciting news that Kash Mahmood, Group E-commerce Director will be taking on this role moving forward.

a) As mentioned before the roll out of our new HR system will put us in a better place to formally report on ethnicity in the business.

b) In particular on the ethnicity pay  we’re waiting for the government to share guidance on the parameters for this.


We will be making it  clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers.


The training we have planned for next year will explain our expectations for Managers  around supporting equality in the workplace and will also provide them with practical tools to take their learnings back to their Teams. The pilot sessions we’ve held this year have provided some very useful feedback.

The next activity will be to launch a online training session for all employees around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We are fortunate at Next that in  some parts of the business our employees have access to great training resources, especially when it is to help individuals progress their career with us in operational areas. We know we need to do more at head office to support Managers to coach and develop their teams. This combined with better diversity data will help us understand what's working for us and where we may need to think about things differently. This is something we will focus on in 2022.