Tips to create an inclusive workplace culture

An inclusive culture is where all people can feel comfortable to discuss issues outside of the work context should they choose to. In my department, I previously worked with Staff Networks and HR to come up with a set of ‘top tips’ to help foster an inclusive workplace culture, here are some of the highlights:

  1. Set out a team code of conduct which demonstrates a common level of respect for all individuals, no matter their background.
  2. Role model positive behaviour and openness to discussions about backgrounds – it makes conversations much easier if leaders and managers are open about their own background before asking about it from their employees; moreover, it can help disarm the more threatening elements of questions (‘where are you from’?)
  3. Create safe spaces to discuss backgrounds and open up the conversations. For example, some teams hold lunch’n’learns where individuals can talk about their backgrounds in an open, curious and non-judgemental manner.
  4. Create an environment where employees with disabilities and long term health conditions feel able to come forward and discuss their disability, and any reasonable adjustments that they might need. Avoid making assumptions about their condition and ask them to explain how they experience it and what support, or reasonable adjustments they need.
  5. Ensure that conversations and social activities are inclusive as far as reasonably possible. E.g. holding ‘breakfasts’ as well as the usual pub gathering to capture parents. Ensure you include everyone as much as possible in work related discussions and avoid ‘water-cooler’ decision making.
  6. Create clear mechanisms to deal with discrimination, and/or Bullying and Harassment within your team. Ensure that such mechanisms are used properly and aren’t simply viewed as a ‘tick-box’ exercise. This can be through effective use of countersigning mechanisms or an anonymous ‘agony aunt’ style point of contact to raise issues within the team.

How do you foster a warm, inclusive workplace environment within your team?

How to get ahead of your peers? Read!

Have you been looking for the next course, Forbes article or nugget of info to improve yourself and get that extra 5 percent out of yourself at your job? You’re probably not the only one, and learning and development is being valued now more than ever within organisations. However, an easy way to improve yourself substantially is to read. And when I say read, I mean read books!

Books are fantastic avenues for information and guidance when you are facing a problem. Now I realise that sounds quite obvious, but in the modern day we often talk about ‘not having time’ to read books because they are quite lengthy. The idea of reading may harbour images of having to gruel your way through a 600 page academic text book and send shivers down your spine. (For me it reminds me of my history undergrad reading Annales history where they wrote about everything that happened, including detailing the adjacent trees…!)

Fortunately, lots of excellent, valuable and easy-to-read books are available at a click of a button. Better yet, they can be an extremely cost-effective way of learning, and in the long run will save you time by teaching you before you make those mistakes! Plenty of books written by subject matter experts such as in psychology and business now realise that the key to their book sales is not to build more jargon and awkward unintelligible theoretical concepts, but rather make it reader-friendly and useful for the general-interest reader.

When looking at your personal development you may have eyed up some great sounding courses, only to note the eye-watering costs that are four and even five digit figures, particularly from renowned figures. However, those figures often release their own books which detail the same information (and often more!) which can be accessed for £10-20. Granted, workshops are a great experience and there are things you will gain from them that you won’t get from a book, but often the main crux or learning point will be the same. And often, the workshop will point you towards the book as additional learning anyway.

Better yet, in the era of e-books and self publishing it is easier than ever to find a book that can greatly help you with issues you are facing. For example, are you a new manager? There are hundreds of great, short e-books that give you a fantastic crash-course on good management and bad management (that’s how I certainly learnt my chops!) More recently, I’ve wanted to learn a bit about website design and digital marketing. Rather than spending countless hours or so in trial and error to figure this out, I bought a few easy to read e-books to quickly understand the main things I needed to. Whilst the £20 or so was a bit of an investment, the accumulative knowledge I gained probably saved me 50+hours of time!

So what are you going to go read? It would be great to know about some of the books you have read that have helped drive forward your career!

What Makes a Good Public Speaker? My top tips

Public speaking is regularly highlighted as a key skill in the modern workplace. However, many people naturally find the whole prospect scary: what if you embarrass yourself in front of everyone including your boss in the front row!?

Throughout my university years I spent a long time practising public speaking through Model United Nations debates. This really helped with my own public speaking as it allowed me to practice and understand my own style. I remember when I first started, nervous to speak in front of a handful of people (I must confess I resorted to fairly cookie-cutter jokes with mediocre results!), though in the last few years I’ve been more than happy to crack jokes in front of a crowd of more than 1000. So how do you get from being worried to speak in front of a few to being the charming whizz at your all staff meeting?

Follow the basics

There are some basics that any good public speaker does need to adhere to no matter what their style. Rhythm is important, speaking fast can mean people can’t follow, speaking too slow can make people lose interest. Think about what the audience is interested in hearing and build your content from there. Also, keep an eye on the time, you’re probably not the only one speaking and going twenty minutes over is usually not looked upon too fondly! This may feel like quite a few things to keep in mind, but remember that you do all these things when you chat with anyone outside of a public-speaking context!

Public Speaking is a skill, and like any skill you will get better with practice

No one was born able to ride a bicycle perfectly, and likewise no one learnt to speak publicly instantly either. Public speaking is a skill, and like most skills you only get good at them if you practice. So take the opportunity to practice where you can, even by starting small. Here are some simple ways you can practice speaking before jumping into the real thing:

 • Practice in front of a mirror, or in front of close friends

 • Imitate standing at the front of a room with your notes the day before and visualise how you will be speaking to the audience in front of you

 • Start small, e.g. presenting at your mini team meeting or huddle.

 • Attend public speaking workshops to practice

Starting small can allow you to improve bit by bit. Remember, those people giving Ted Talks weren’t magically born with the gift of public speaking, rather they got their by practice.  

Bring your own personality and style into what you do, rather than looking for a template to imitate.

Whilst there are many useful tips that can be learnt by watching others, remember it’s you speaking not them. in a world where expressing yourself and your own individuality is being valued more than ever, you will get limited value emulating the first video you find of a tall guy with glasses and a neutral accent if that doesn’t really fit your description.

Instead, look at what your strengths are when speaking more broadly – are you quick on your feet and good at moving around the conversation or are you more thoughtful and deliberate when you speak? Use these strengths and build on them. To me, public speaking is about taking what you normally do, and refine it for a crowd. It is not about suddenly speaking the Queen’s English and waving your hands around because that’s what other people do. Understand your own way of speaking and make small tweaks. Don’t start from scratch.

Public speaking as a chance to express yourself and give your opinion

The idea that the spotlight is on you can be daunting. Instead, think of this being the chance for you to express yourself, and give your own opinion on the matter. In my mind, public speaking is responding to ‘what do you think?’, so take the opportunity to give your thoughts!

People don’t remember so much as what you said, rather they remember how you made them feel. This is your opportunity to give your own point of view based upon your own feeling and emotions, and by doing so making your audience feel something: are you looking to inspire, excite, sadden, shock? Emotions are more memorable than a long list of bullet points.  

These are my top tips, do you agree with them?

Remote management during COVID: what are the main principles?

Shifting to remote working has been a real change in the way a lot of us work. For me as a manager, it made me worry about whether I was managing effectively – was I meant to be doing something totally different?

So, what does the era of remote working during COVID (and perhaps beyond) mean for your management responsibilities? Here are my reflections from being thrusted into remote management since lockdown:

1. Remote management is not that different to normal management

Shifting to remote working made me concerned about whether I should be re-evaluating my wider ‘how’ when it comes to management. Fortunately it became obvious quite quickly that just because we were distant, this didn’t actually change the fundamentals – indeed a whole lot of the same practices still worked. As long as my staff had clear objectives and expectations, none of this was seemed that big of an issue. 

If anything, wider anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the management basics are more important during remote working. Simple things like catch-ups, setting clear instructions and giving clear roles and responsibilities are now probably more vital than ever. If your management relies on telling people who happen to be right in front of you what to do, or that you need to physically check up upon them, this will likely cause some bumps on the road. However, if that is the case, it’s probably your management style that’s the issue!  Technological advances have demonstrated that one-to-one meetings and performance reviews can easily be replicated online, and there is no real reason for anyone to be skimping out on managerial responsibilities or feeling the need to enforce ‘oversight’ based on the idea that management equates to control.

2. connections that would have happened in the office need to be made more deliberately

Remote working does shift the dynamic between how you interact with one another. Unlike when everyone is in the office, people cannot simply get together to chat, or have a quick catch up via the water cooler. As such, having things like informal online chats and where appropriate, more team check-in via web calls may be a useful way to ensure people are working with one another across the whole team. Similarly in larger organisations it becomes trickier to highlight who does what in outside teams, so it is worth making extra efforts to invite other colleagues into your team meetings or encouraging internal coffee connects to build connections outside of your immediate team.

3. Remote working is one thing, remote working during covid is another

Whilst working remotely has worked better than probably many of us expected, there are still additional issues we should consider in the wider context of COVID-19. I particularly relate this to the additional element of your pastoral care of your staff . The additional stress on parents having to home school their children has already been visible, and weighing this up with work responsibilities has personally been a challenge when managing my staff.

However, you should also take the time to speak with your staff on how they are feeling even if they aren’t parents. In particular, carers and BAME staff are likely to feel additional strain due to the higher vulnerability rate they have. It can also be tricky for each of us as individuals in different ways (e.g. someone religious who enjoys going to church may have found it difficult to no longer be able to do so) so it is important to ensure wellbeing of your staff (and yourself!) is a regular topic of conversation. So do remember to be compassionate with your staff, and continue to do so even as the lockdown continues!

If you are someone who has been shifted into managing remotely, how have you found it, and what are the tips you would share?

Three tips on how to influence seniors

Have you wanted to press ahead on a certain project or direction? In the modern workplace, you often don’t get very far unless you get agreement from your seniors. We have all experienced the disappointment of having that ‘great idea’ only to not get it passed our seniors. So how can we learn from this experience to get a more optimal outcome? As a D&I lead I regularly work with senior leaders to positively influence change, however I don’t get very far unless I make my work relevant to them! Here are some of my top tips:

1. Understand what your senior leadership priorities are, and learn to fit your projects within them.

You work within a team where your manager, or manager’s manager has wider oversight. That means they should have an understanding of what you do and how it ties into the wider picture, right?

Unfortunately it’s not quite so simple. Senior leaders have to balance different priorities, so whilst something may seem very important to you, this might be far lower down in the priority list for them. For example, you may want to get a quick HR decision agreed to set how you or your team is organised, however they may be in the midst of agreeing the details of a key priority project whilst balancing this with wider team expectations. As such, your request will probably not be the most urgent.

So rather than going all guns blazing when they have plenty on their plate, consider waiting for an optimal time to pose the question, or better yet, frame this in terms of their wider priorities – have they previously committed to inclusive practices? Set out your ask within the wider decisions that they have previously made to make the decision far easier for them and more relevant to their wider decision making.

2. Demonstrate your competence and establish trust in your ability to deliver

The higher you go up the leadership chain, the higher importance on your senior leaders ability to successfully delegate. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to agree with your recommendations that they can be confident are well-judged.

So how do you get to the point where you are trusted by your seniors? By demonstrating your value. Ensure you are doing work to a good quality and showing your positive impact where possible. Better yet, demonstrate that you have done the hard graft and used evidence to come to a proposed solution (showing numbers always helps convince people!). Doing this makes a big difference compared to coming to your senior leaders asking what to do. This will set a positive dynamic where they can take your advice rather than feeling they need to direct you.

3. Remember that senior leaders are humans too!

We often exalt senior leaders as mythical beings that are beyond us mere mortals. In reality, seniors live and breath just as we do. It’s important to remember that, particularly if you feel a bit nervous pitching something to them! As such, wider communication and influencing basics like establishing rapport still apply. Like any human, seniors respond positively to someone who is pleasant – there is no harm and saying hello and asking how they are to establish rapport.

Don’t forget, your senior leader will have their own individual interests that you can use to tie into and build a connection. For example, does your boss have a technology background and is enthused by innovation? Try tying in these elements when speaking with them to get yourself some additional brownie points. Like any human being, building a connection with your seniors will make them more favourable to your views.

These are the three points I abide by when working with senior stakeholders. What are yours?