Tess Parker, in conversation with Sarah Mumford, reports on the impact of Diversity and Inclusion training on organisation change. The subject of how we best achieve diversity and inclusion has been testing sectors for decades. Even in the most switched-on organisations bias and discrimination can creep in. Therefore, IVE have been prioritising their Diversity and Inclusion Lab programme. Working with leading companies from across the region they have been exploring how to embed inclusion within cultures, values and practice. Read here about three unique organisations who are on their own inclusion journeys.
Key project success factors
Whilst Refinitiv’s global top 100 diversity and inclusion corporates toast their success and the Arts Council rallies cultural organisations to get behind ‘the cause,’ societal change is painfully slow. 2020’s global race protests, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, tell us that inequality and injustice abound.
Things need to change – we all need to change (even though we might not realise it). But changing and tackling issues of diversity and inclusion is not easy. It often takes an organisational and individual commitment to face some uncomfortable truths. This is not a box that can simply be ticked – it is a new way of being that takes consistency and care.
Knowing where to start with diversity and inclusion and how to effect lasting change can even fox the most pioneering managers. IVE’s Diversity and Inclusion Labs were created to demystify this complex subject.
As a company committed to building creative and inclusive workplaces and developing the potential of diverse groups of young people, IVE are well placed to stimulate and share best practice in this area.
The following case study highlights the approach and impact of the Lab programme on three very different organisations: Phoenix Dance Theatre, Yorkshire Sport Foundation and Brass Bands England. As distinguished leaders in their field they embody unique histories and missions.
Phoenix Dance Theatre Founded in 1981 it is one of the UK’s leading contemporary dance companies and the longest standing one outside of London. It creates dynamic and diverse work that embodies the Company’s rich Caribbean history and shines a light on cultural narratives.
Yorkshire Sport Foundation This Lottery funded charity supports organisations across the nine districts of South and West Yorkshire. They believe in the power of sport and physical activity to change people’s lives. They seek to create a vibrant, healthy and prosperous Yorkshire through cross-sector working.
Brass Bands England This organisation promotes, represents, and supports brass bands countrywide. They are a voice for bands and players and the life-enhancing benefits of band culture. They promote excellence in music-making, participation and community connection.
As a common link, these three organisations share a desire to become more inclusive inside and out. This is a prerequisite of joining IVE’s Diversity and Inclusion Lab programme; true cultural change requires a cross-company commitment.
Historically, IVE’s Diversity and Inclusion Labs have been delivered in person. They embrace an engaging, interactive style that encourages innovative thinking and strategic development.
However, in the storm of COVID-19 facilitators were tasked with crafting an online version that delivered no less impact. Whilst this would test their creative thinking and delivery skills this work was too important to postpone.
The resulting, online programme embodied the same dynamic blend of theory, reflection, and follow-up work. Participant organisations were encouraged to explore different approaches and ideas to enhance their understanding and practice.
Taking stock – Each organisation completed a baseline SWOT analysis to examine their strengths and weaknesses in relation to their capacity to embed diversity and inclusion. This would form a key step in clarifying their change focus.
Inclusion know-how – Participants explored diversity concepts and measures including types of bias (conscious and unconscious), different types of discrimination, The Equality Act 2010, intersectionality, micro aggressions and micro affirmations.
Reflective thinking – Videos and theoretical models such as divergent thinking and Stephen Covey’s ‘circles of influence’ were used to animate the content.
Time to apply – Across three, 2-hour sessions (with several weeks break in-between) companies started to shape a shared vision of inclusion to inform an action plan.
The Diversity and Inclusion Lab model is designed to empower companies wherever they are on their inclusion journey.
Typically, in this case, each participant organisation was at a unique point in their development. This required IVE facilitators to be both responsive and flexible whilst keeping an eye on sustainable company change.
Phoenix Danne Theatre
“Prior to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement Phoenix Dance Theatre were embarking on a transition period, where there was a restructure to our team. This presented a timely opportunity for company members to embark on various training. Moving forward in response to the BLM movement, IVE proposed the richer programme to support our existing ‘Culture and Values’ training and our internal racial inequality sub-group. Across the team there were varying degrees of understanding of unconscious bias and of the topic ‘Inclusion and Diversity’ overall. It was incredibly beneficial for the company to begin on the same page, prior to embarking on conversations around instigating wider positive change.”
Sport Yorkshire Foundation
“We were probably a step or two ahead already, but it was good to check and challenge what we were doing. I think looking at other organisations visions of inclusion did help us write our own and we should take some time to reflect on the tasks we did and implement some of the suggestions we made. I think it would be really good for any organisation that is looking to develop a Diversity & Inclusion strategy.”
Brass Bands England
“We previously IVE lead a breakout session at our Brass Bands England conference. When we set up our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) group we felt that we needed some training and came back to IVE. The training showed that everyone has unconscious bias and underlined the importance of promoting ED&I issues and supporting people within brass banding.”
Diversity and inclusion that takes thinking outside the box
The delivery content of the Diversity and Inclusion Labs is designed in partnership with and in consideration of stakeholder needs and priorities.
The learning sessions deliver fresh perspectives and stimulate discussion about change foci. Whilst IVE is an able facilitator of change – the critical, ongoing work must sit with the organisation.
“The programme ran alongside our internal ‘Culture and Values’ training, adding further integrity to the conclusions we (the company) were drawing regarding proactive change. As well as reiterating the need for the company’s Racial Inequality Sub-Group, the training provided additional content material and topics to consider and discuss (challenging the recognised list of 9 ‘protected characteristics’ within the Equality Act).”
Yorkshire Sport Foundation
“The sessions provided a few good models to consider in future work. I liked the concern, influence, control approach; one to use later. The sessions have also led to us considering and signing up for the Inclusive Sport programme for this year to make sure we continue to progress and are able to share the learning more widely across the organisation.”
Brass Bands England
“Most of our staff and trustees undertook the training so it really brought our Equality Diversity & Inclusion into focus within the organisation in terms of how we encourage bands to change and be more diverse in what is a very traditional, white-dominated culture.”
Although IVE’s Diversity and Inclusion Lab programme should be viewed as one step in an organisation’s change journey early impacts are impressive. In each participant organisation there was an increase in knowledge and a newfound confidence to plot a way forward.
“The conversations from the IVE session were referred to and revisited in a wider company’s Strategic Planning Day, which focused on the company vision moving forwards – which will feed into future business plans. The training labs that IVE have delivered have been vastly educational for us, individually and collectively. The sessions have allowed us to reflect, challenge and revise how our company operates, ensuring that we can continue to adapt and grow.”
“I thought the training was interesting and informative, and particularly enjoyed the first session. I perhaps had wished the content and discussions had continued from the first session, delving into ways in which we can manage our unconscious bias and how we can refrain from letting it affect our work. The focus in the second and third sessions appeared to be more D&I strategy minded- which we were already well on track with. Despite this, the discussions were useful, and helped us feel comfortable that we are on the right track.”
Brass Bands England
“I feel that the training will have a huge impact. Our Equality Diversity & Inclusion group has been in place for over a year and has identified 3 key areas on which to focus to meet our Challenge 2030 vision (see website). I am gathering personal/organisation actions from those who attended the course to monitor. Positive feedback includes: “I will take away that knowledge to help address any unconscious bias.” “I continue to think about this a lot particularly in my work but also in my role as a parent.” “How worthwhile it can be to change mindset – but how difficult it can be; it starts with me.”
The crucial change factor rests on how each company chooses to build on their Lab programme experience. The hard work has just begun – the critical step is how they embed inclusion in their culture and practices.
Following participant feedback IVE look to make adaptations to the programme. This has resulted in more bespoke elements within sessions, greater case study sharing about other inclusion journeys, plus more time for reflection and follow-up support.
As we move out of the COVID-19 lockdown we are all facing uncertain times. Therefore, it is important that the Diversity and Inclusion Lab programme evolves to support organisations adjusting to this new normal.
As leaders and colleagues adapt to changed routines the need for diversity and inclusion training shall hold firm. Transition can surface stress and with stress – frustration and bias can emerge.
Some diversity and inclusion providers can boast: “train your workforce once and you will never have to worry about bias again.” But IVE knows that tick-box courses do not deliver real change.
In this case study we have heard how organisations have benefitted from their Lab experience. The programme’s holistic approach honours CIPD’s 2019 Diversity Management that Works report. This report underlines the importance of building awareness and skills whilst providing space to apply them; it is about a commitment to ongoing learning and legacy.
As we have explored here, for organisations to truly embrace inclusion there needs to be a companywide commitment to it. By working with a dynamic learning partner like IVE companies are better placed to become more inclusive and diverse – making a lasting difference inside and out.
Written by Tess Parker, Story Tiller Communications
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