Purpose: The initiative is focused on staff diversity within the administration. It responds to an ambition of the administration to be an exemplar in its approach to equality and openness to diversity, and seeks to develop an organisational culture that encompasses inclusion and diversity and enables necessary structural changes.
Foundation: This initiative is rooted in the “Roadmap for an Administration that is Open to Diversity and Egalitarian” approved by the Canton (state) of Neuchâtel in 2018. A Working Group to progress an action plan for this roadmap is made up of representatives of state services, including: human resources department; statistics department; communications department; Office for Family Policy and Equality; and multicultural cohesion service. The full Council of State supports this work.
Staff survey: A survey questionnaire was developed and applied among staff, with the involvement of Université de Neuchâtel, in order to capture the diversity of staff within the administration. The university was involved to ensure staff confidence in, and participation in, the initiative. The questionnaire encompassed three axes: profile of employees; work-life balance for employees; and experiences of racism and/or other forms of discrimination. The staff profile encompassed place of birth, nationality, country of origin of parents, language, age, gender (including non-binary), and childcare responsibilities. Sexual orientation was not listed in the questionnaire but will be a focus for action.
There was a 46% response rate from an overall staff of 5,314. There was diversity found among employees, but a large majority were Swiss citizens. A significant level of discrimination was noted on the basis of gender, age, origin, and physical appearance. The Université de Neuchâtel prepared a report on the findings, while respecting confidentiality of respondents. This was communicated both internally and externally.
Taking action: The survey informs an action plan to be approved by the Canton (state) of Neuchâtel. The actions in this plan are to be prioritised and their implementation monitored.
In terms of change of a systemic nature, there is a commitment to review internal policies and documents and the manner in which they reference and respond to diversity and inclusion objectives. An ethics/diversity charter is to be prepared. Recruitment processes are to be a particular focus, including training for personnel involved. Staff induction is to include a focus on the administration’s commitment to diversity and its zero tolerance for discrimination.
There is a challenge to engage in communication of the report among staff to create the conditions for implementing the action plan. Staff need to buy into the change required and planned and should be enabled to be active participants in this change. The report was communicated by email to all state employees, communicating the ambition being pursued to be an exemplar and to improve the representativeness of diversity among staff.
The Working Group is considering which elements of the report are to be included as indicators in the monitoring of the overall Roadmap. This first survey is to serve as a baseline with the exercise repeated every four years, to coincide with the term of office of the legislature.
Key reference document: Ruedin D. & Fehlmann J., Panorama de la diversité au sein du personnel de l’administration du Canton de Neuchâtel, SFM Studies # 79, Université de Neuchâtel & République et Canton de Neuchâtel, 2022. (French)