What makes an organisation inclusive? (from people trying to do better)
The Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer represented yet another call for injustice to be addressed.
For organisations, it was an invitation to do everything they can to become antiracist, and more inclusive overall. Refreshingly, many are taking up the invite; for example, the NHS dedicated huge focus to belonging and inclusivity in their recent People Plan.
At Lantum, spurred by the protests, we took the opportunity to review what we were doing, as well as what we could be doing: both within the company and within our wider community - the clinicians and practice managers who use our site, even the wider healthcare world.
Full disclosure: we weren’t starting from scratch. For several years, we've had a diversity promise for all staff, as well as explicit policies within our hiring processes to expand the diversity of our team.
Outside of the company, we also aim to have a positive influence: for example, by supporting the BAME community through calls for non-discriminatory risk assessments.
But we felt there was more we could be doing. We wanted to make our existing policies even more robust, and make sure that stakeholders and anyone coming into contact with us would be well aware of how seriously we take this subject. To help us develop, we undertook company-wide diversity and inclusivity training.
Here are five things we learned about what makes a company inclusive.
1) Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
As our trainer EJ Greensted explained, talking about diversity and inclusivity can be a bit like crossing your arms the opposite way to usual. It can feel uncomfortable, and you have to think about what you’re doing, rather than operate on auto-pilot.
But slowing down and thinking is great for becoming a more inclusive company. Instead of continuing on a default track, taking the time to think about your actions is the first step to even being able to consider change, let alone making it happen.
It might feel uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make things better.
2) Educating yourself and building awareness
Taking the time for you and your colleagues to educate yourselves is another huge step towards a more inclusive culture.
To get us all on the same page, it was important to lay down some definitions. As EJ explained, diversity is the mix within the company, while inclusivity is making that mix work.
EJ also shared a few facts with us:
- 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness (NHS)
- There are only 6 female CEOs within the 100 FTSE 100 companies (ICAEW)
- Just 17% of people are born with their disability, with the majority acquiring theirs during their lifetime (Papworth Trust, via Disabled Living Foundation)
- Being gay was only legalised in England in 1967, and not until 1981 in Northern Ireland (British Library)
Lastly, EJ told us about how the UK Equality Act came into force in 2010, bringing together 116 separate pieces of legislation. Yet in 2018, it was estimated that discriminatory pay practices still cost the UK economy £127 million a year.
Understanding the facts behind discrimination and inequality doesn't just outline the significance of the issue. It also gives you the background to suggest viable solutions.
After all, it’s exceptionally difficult to develop an inclusive culture if you don’t know who you’re not including, or what's excluding them.
Sharing learning resources is a simple action people can take to make progress. At Lantum, we’ve developed an internal set of resources around diversity and inclusivity generally, as well as ones specifically around antiracism.
3) Questioning your first impression
Our brains work almost instantly to judge people on first impressions. But if we don’t question them, these impressions can develop into biases that unconsciously inform our decision-making, and not necessarily for the best.
In one exercise of the training, EJ showed us 5 short personal profiles and asked us to consider what other characteristics we might assume each person had. Here are two of them:
They seem different, right? At the end, however, she revealed that all 5 profiles actually described her. As one Lantum employee said, ‘We have many layers!’
Often the way information is presented can cause us to assume certain things. Acknowledging and accepting that we have implicit, unconscious biases that block us from seeing the full picture is vital if we are going to challenge them.
As several members of our EPD team noted, if these biases remain unquestioned, they can make their way into algorithms. In a worst case scenario, some apps, like dating apps, can even amplify racial biases by showing you matches based on people you previously selected.
For us, this underscores the importance of interrogating what we build into our product, so we’re never accidentally perpetuating the issues we set out to address.
4) Talking openly about diversity and inclusivity
Individually, then, there’s plenty that we can do to build a more inclusive culture. But we can hugely boost how effectively we do that when we speak together as a team.
Having thoughtful conversations means you can capture the great ideas that your team will already have about how to progress on diversity and inclusivity.
As part of the session, we explored what we should stop, start and continue doing at Lantum when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. It was a wellspring of excellent ideas, and helped to gauge the company mood of what was or wasn’t working.
Being able to address issues in a safe, open way also means you can nip problems in the bud. If you’re able to explain that a remark upset you and why it did, you can start to improve the way your team works together.
A caveat: this relies on people knowing they will be taken seriously and won’t be punished for speaking up. If teams lack the psychological safety to speak up, not only their happiness, but their success at work will be cut short.
5) Committing to action over the long haul
We didn’t want this training to be a tick-box exercise, or a one-off session before we move on. It’s one of the many things we plan to do at Lantum to become as inclusive as we can, and it's a continuation of the work we’ve already done.
In the past 10 weeks, our grassroots inclusivity taskforce, formed during the Black Lives Matter protests, has met 5 times, with scheduled meetings to push progress forward continuing indefinitely.
We’ve reviewed our hiring policy, our communication policy, and how accessible our product is for different users. We’ll also be using the outcomes of our training to inform what we do next, as part of an overarching strategy.
For us, it’s not just about the short run - we’re committed to the long haul. Creating change that lasts takes time. And ultimately, an inclusive company is one that doesn’t just talk a good game about becoming inclusive - it’s one that commits, for good.
Thanks to EJ for her brilliant session.
Lantum builds software that allows clinicians to find and manage their work, and organisations to find staff, schedule them and automate their admin, all in one place.
If you’re interested in joining us, take a look at our open positions.